I have two primary enemies of faith in my life. One is the past. The other is the future. I tend to obsess about both.
I wonder what I should have done differently for myself, my family and my community. I also easily succumb to fear about the future — what might happen if I don’t remain vigilant and prepared for any and all possible scenarios.
Why do I see these preoccupations as enemies of faith? Well, for one thing, it takes my focus off what God is doing now, in the present. And, this kind of worrying betrays the fact that I really think that I’m in control of my destiny.
Today’s first reading speaks directly to people like me. “Remember not the events of the past,” we’re told. “The things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?”
See? I was right. The past can be an enemy of faith. God tells the Israelites to forget about the past and all the mistakes that they’ve made because God is doing something new. Now. If you focus on the past, you might miss it.
Now, today, is really all we’ve got. I know this in my head, but I find it awfully hard to live this truth. I know I can’t control yesterday or tomorrow, but boy, I sure try.
Each day, we are called to be fully present and attentive to the presence of God in our lives and relationships. The past is gone. The future does not exist yet. Where is God now? How can we connect with God now?
“In the desert I make a way,” the reading continues, “in the wasteland, rivers.” When I look back on my life, if I focus on all the things I’ve done wrong, or didn’t do at all, it can seem like a waste. But God says that something new and wonderful will spring forth from the wasteland. God can make rivers in a desert.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus heals a man who is paralyzed, saying, “Rise, take up your mat, and go home.” This is a perfect picture of the liberation that God promises us — freedom from whatever has impaired us in the past, and freedom to live joyfully in the present.
Faith means believing that God is at work now — not yesterday and not tomorrow. Each day, we are called to be fully present and attentive to the presence of God in our lives and relationships. The past is gone. The future does not exist yet. Where is God now? How can we connect with God now?
This is the good news of the Gospel, of course. Jesus Christ arrived to show us how God is present with us at all times. God is constantly doing something new, whether we notice it or not. Each day, we have the opportunity to rise and move forward in the present, enjoying and sharing God’s healing work.
Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].