Lenten lesson: Living in the present moment

| Deacon Dan Gannon | February 27, 2013 | 0 Comments
St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux

The irony of becoming older is that as we grow in wisdom, we hopefully become wise enough to know that we certainly don’t know everything.

Indeed, the paradox is that as we grow older, we realize we must become more and more childlike in our dependence and abandonment to God’s loving providence. This is what St. Therese of Lisieux called the “Way of Spiritual Childhood” — it is the secret (or perhaps just overlooked) path to holiness, touching God’s heart and love.

This notion is perhaps revealed most beautifully by Our Lord when he says:  “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me” (Matthew 18:2-5).

The truth is that being an older adult affords us new and unique opportunities to grow in holiness. But what is holiness?

St. Thomas Aquinas says holiness consists simply in doing God’s will (simple in concept, but not in execution). St. Therese lived this out in her life, always recalling her complete, childlike dependence on God and doing little things with great love.

As we age, we encounter increasing limitations and even sufferings in mind, body and spirit. Our bodies become less “cooperative.” We are tempted to muse about the past or wring our hands in fear of the future.

A blessing?

Perhaps you have experienced loss of a spouse or other loved ones. Is growing older a blessing? Pope Benedict XVI referred to the growing population of elderly in the world as “a blessing for society.” He added, “One may enjoy good health in old age, but equally Christians should not be afraid to share in the suffering of Christ, if God wills that we struggle with infirmity.”

He spoke of the case of the suffering of Pope John Paul II late in life, saying that it “was clear to all of us that he did so in union with the sufferings of our Savior.” His “cheerfulness and forbearance” in that time was a “remarkable and moving example” to all elderly.

Especially as older adults, our holiness and treasure is to be found in the present moment. God wills, and has permitted us to be here in whatever particular circumstances we find ourselves.

This Lent, let us find God’s grace in the “sacrament of the present moment.” Under every appearance, God’s will and consoling grace can be found, if we have faith. So it is very important for us as we find ourselves getting older to live in the present moment, where the Holy Spirit can act and fill us with his light, joy, peace and happiness, even amidst limitations and sufferings of mind, body or spirit.

The present moment is where children live, isn’t it? They are not worrying about tomorrow or lamenting yesterday. They just “are!” So let us set aside all fear, for as St. John tells us, “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18) and abandon ourselves to God’s loving, providential care, trusting in him as a child does his father or mother.

Deacon Gannon is president and CEO of Catholic Senior Services.

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Category: From Age to Age