God is most present in the present. That may seem like a tautology — a statement that pretends to offer information but really says nothing new. God being here now, however, truly present in our lives, is a very reassuring truth of our faith, especially when we are tempted to think our best days are behind us or the worst is in the future.

Fear of the future is decidedly not a Christian perspective, and the notion that those who lived literally in the shadow of Christ’s physical presence were somehow closer to him than we may be now does no justice to the proclamation of our faith that “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

If there is any “golden age” of God’s presence in our lives, it is now or never!

It should not surprise us that God — whose nature, whose very essence might be described as loving presence or ever-present Love — creates infinitely varied and new ways of being present to all creation, just like people who are really in love find ever new ways of expressing it. 

Some ways in which we express love are ritualistic. Yet even if they are repeated — like kisses, birthday parties and meals — there is always some new presence, some new love that is meant to be communicated, at least implicitly and intuitively, in the simple ritual. The same should be true for the even more intimate and engaging expressions of love in our lives, both emotionally and spiritually. 

Conjugal actions and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself, for example, are — and are meant to be  — intimate expressions of love, imprinted and ensouled with sacramental grace, God’s own stamp of love. All too often, through routine inattentiveness and faithlessness, it happens that people find ways of extracting love from even these celebrations and thus render them boring and routine, something which, by their very nature, they are not.

God is never boring. We may become so to one another, however, when our relationships — with God and others — become so routine that they feel loveless and, therefore, lifeless. We may think God is absent in all of this but it is we who are absent to God and to one another. Isn’t it a wonder how God manages to put up with us? Yet God does. The more we resist, the more God persists. God’s relentlessly loving presence keeps coming after us, saving us from our sheep-like wandering, and pursuing us into the thickets of our worldly entanglements.

The voice of the One crying in the wilderness may be difficult to hear at times, especially when the wilderness has grown dense with the weeds of distraction that muffle the plaintive plea. The noise and traffic surrounding Christmas preparations can drown out the peace that attends the hearts of those who allow the incarnate heart of God, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to draw near.

I once read a short story about a very worrisome and scrupulous man, who had driven to the supermarket with a lot of things on his mind. He wandered the busy store in search of his family’s necessities for the days ahead, carefully checking off his list as he loaded up his cart. After a long and exhausting ordeal in the crowded store, in which he kept obsessing over missing something, he rushed out to load his car, feeling he was behind schedule — very much like he would when leaving church on Sundays. Well, he was halfway home when it dawned on him that, indeed, he had left something behind. What was it now? It took him another minute to realize — it was his wife! He had been so preoccupied with all of his business that he had hardly noticed she was with him.

The recent news of a courier who was transporting the heart of a human donor on a flight and left it on the plane concerned me as much for the reputation of the hapless carrier as for the fate of the organ —which did eventually reach its destination safely and soundly. How easily it is to leave the most important things in our lives behind us, when we live distractedly and inattentively to what is most real and present to us. Does God suffer from that neglect in our lives?

Of all times of the year, Advent and Christmas call us to be most attentive to God’s real presence to us personally, sacramentally and in our communities of faith and family. The heart of Jesus is thirsting to reach our hearts. The Holy Spirit of the Word made flesh speaks to our hearts in word and sacrament and in our day-to-day relationships with friend and stranger alike. The Lord is waiting to be born again in our hearts, waiting for a messenger to bear that presence to a weary and expectant world. Am I listening? Am I ready? Am I willing to do the only thing my Lord asks of me as his disciple: to make his presence known and felt in the world? Not tomorrow, now.

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