Tolstoy once posed the following three questions: 1)When is the most important moment in life? 2) What is the most important task in life? 3)Who is the most important person in the world? How would you answer? Tolstoy’s answers to these questions have much to teach us about being the presence of Christ to others.
When is the most important moment? THE PRESENT MOMENT--NOW. What is the most important task? THE ONE YOU ARE DOING NOW. Who is the most important person? THE ONE IN FRONT OF YOU NOW.
How does this inform our Christian lives? Well, consider the following thoughts: Would the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36ff.) have experienced the love of Christ if he had been talking on a cell phone while she was adoring him? What would the thief on the cross next to Jesus have experienced if Jesus had been thinking about other things at the moment the thief said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”?
The past is gone. We can repent from and be forgiven for sins of the past; We can learn from the past, but the past is the past. Likewise, the future is the future—it is yet to come. Besides praying about the future, there is little that we can do to direct it. Jesus himself said, “which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life” (Mt. 6:27)? The most important thing to do, then, is to greet the present moment and cooperate with God’s grace to transform it into God’s image.
The task I am doing now is the one God is presently working on. It is what he has given me! Concentrate! By God’s grace and to the best of my ability, I am called to “lay aside all earthly cares”. Talk about difficult! I can assure you, though, that the sound-bytes of TV, the quick changing scenes and the short blips of commercials do not help train us to concentrate. Au contraire!
The person whom God has sent you this moment is a gift. If someone calls you on the phone, do you also type an email while chatting or listening? If you are eating with someone, do you answer the phone during the meal? Society today wants us to multi-task. But the Epistle to the Romans calls us to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Part of this non-conformity to the world is being present in this moment with this person—and given the task or the person you full self. This demonstrates God’s personal care for every individual and helps to sanctify every moment.
The devil whispers in our ears, “Ah, yesterday you…” leading to regret and sorrow. He say to us, “tomorrow you will….(or won’t be able to ….)” leading to worry and despair. But God gives us the present moment. And he calls us to use the present moment to show HIM to the world.
How do you answer the three questions? Ask yourself, and pray “Lord, have mercy on me, direct my steps, and help me honor You in this moment!”
Adapted from a talk given by Bishop KALLISTOS of Dioklea