The Eternal Now of Christianity

This is the text of the homily I gave at my Catholic church, Sts. Clare and Francis in St. Louis, MO on January 18th and 19th, 2020.  The readings of the day were:  Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6   ;  1 Corinthians 1: 1-3  ; John 1: 29-34

“The present moment is a timeless moment, and a timeless moment is an eternal one.” –Ken Wilber

Do you remember your baptism?  This moment you were ushered into the so-called “kin-dom of God”?  When you were ‘saved’?  Marked with water and oil and light?   Do you remember?

A lot of us were baptized as babies so we might not have any memories of our own baptism.  But still we might feel like we know it because of stories told in the family or things we’ve since learned about baptism.  My sister Caitlin heard again and again of how she cried through her whole baptism, beginning to end.

I don’t remember or really have a sense at all of my own baptism, but when I was a senior in college I got to witness the baptism of my very best friend, Becca.  We had been roommates for four years, and our senior year she became Catholic, so was baptized, received her first communion and was confirmed all at once.  I see this as one of the mountaintop experiences of my religious journey, when I was baptized into my adult faith.

We were both young adults wrestling with faith and life, asking all the big questions, and we would have these hours and hours long conversations, usually in the Bear’s Den cafeteria at Wash U.  Because I was her closest Catholic friend, she would bombard me with questions and argue with me over a lot of things—why do you believe this, why do Catholics do this, etc.  For so many of her questions, I had no answers, at least not right away.  Being Catholic was just something I had always done, something I just was.  So many things I hadn’t thought about.  But I found myself digging deep into my heart, soul and experience and sharing with her why I believed, why I did what I did, why it mattered to ME.  I would qualify it with… “uh, I don’t know the actual teaching, but…” and proceed to share my heart.

In these intense conversations, it seemed that time disappeared.  Hours would go by and we would hardly notice.  Years later I read about a concept called “The Eternal Now” in a book by Ken Wilber and I realized, ah—that’s what was happening in those intense faith-filled conversations.

Ken Wilber defines the Eternal Now as the “present moment.”  He says, “in this present moment, if we would but examine it, there is no time.  The present moment is a timeless moment, and a timeless moment is an eternal one—a moment which knows neither past nor future, before nor after, yesterday nor tomorrow.  To enter deeply into this present moment is thus to plunge into eternity, to step through the looking glass and into the world of the Unborn and the Undying.”

….What are your ETERNAL NOW moments?  Moments in life when it seems like time stops… … or stills… moments when time doesn’t matter at all because you are so present, so alive, so full of JUST THIS.  This moment.  This now.  You just aren’t worried about the past or the future because you’re here, now.

Often it happens in the gaze and in conversation with a beloved friend or a lover.  Sometimes it’s when you’re doing something really physical— a long run or dancing with joy.  Sometimes it’s doing a puzzle or cleaning the pots and pans.  You’re just IN IT.  All feels right and good.  You’re not thinking about it or analyzing it.  You just trust it.  You lean in.

You can try it and access it in any moment, just by being a human, in a body.  Let’s try it now.  Breathe in deeply.  Really feel your breath in your body.  Feel the breath fill our lungs… maybe you can feel your belly rise and fall… focus totally on your breath in your body…tune in to your heart beating… feel each beat if you can… pulsing blood to your entire body… maybe you can feel the pulse in other places… your fingertips… your toes.  Feel your feet… feel them against the ground.  Wiggle your toes… feel the energy in your feet.  Notice if you feel anything in the rest of your body… any tingling… or presence… breathe in deeply again.

You are right here, right now… your past and your future… all held in this present.

In Catholic speak, it’s like the Glory BE prayer……….. Glory be to the Creator, to the Created and to the Creating…as it was in the beginning, is NOW, and ever shall be.

We live in an ETERNAL NOW faith, a story of salvation where everything is held—the past and the future, in this present now.

BAPTISM is how we are ushered into it as babies… most of us don’t remember it.  We don’t ‘know’ it, but we’re steeped, throughout our Christian Life, in what IT IS.  We live our way into it, each present moment at a time.

Twice in today’s gospel John says of Jesus— “I myself did not know him.”

“I myself did not know him.”

How can you know someone you don’t know?  How can you know something you don’t know?  John said he didn’t know Jesus, yet he proclaimed him.  He preached him.  He led a radical life because of him.  He baptized him.  Somehow he saw and he believed and he trusted that what was coming to be in THIS moment – the person Jesus walking towards him–was something he was waiting for—something that had been spoken of and promised for so long, stretching far back into the story of the Jewish people.  He is able to recognize, in the eternal now, those ancient words of Isaiah we hear about in today’s first reading, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.”  He sees Jesus, knows him without knowing him, and baptizes him.  Jesus goes on to baptize others.  We remain a baptizing people today.

This eternal now, this weaving of time throughout the readings today and our entire history of salvation, really comes to fruition ultimately through all of us, the baptized people of God, sitting right here right now.

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians names the coming to be, reaches into the future, to us, the Christian communities of today.  The eternal now of the Christ became the now of the early days of Christianity becomes the now we are now living.

The second reading is so simple, really just the greeting of one of Paul’s letters and this is my favorite part:  “… from our brother Sosthenes, to the Church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.”

He might as well be saying—“from our brother Mark or Frank or John or sister Judy or Therese or Mary or Jenn… to the Church of God that is Sts. Clare and Francis, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.”

In the ETERNAL NOW of Christianity, this is how we should hear this!  We ARE the ones called, baptized and living in the salvation of God.  Our lives, our work, our mistakes, our hurts, our pain, our joy—it is all sanctified.  The stuff of our present moment empowers us to enter eternity NOW, to create the kin-dom of God right here, right now.  Being called to be a saint is not about doing it perfect or getting it all right.  It’s about showing up in community again and again and again, trusting this Eternal Now of Christian Life, admitting our wrongs, asking for love and loving others in return.

This is the truth that was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.  The salvation that was promised to the Hebrew people, that came in the person of Jesus Christ, and that lives on in us.

This is so important, right now, in the life of this community.  Sts’ Clare and Francis is in an Eternal Now moment—a moment where we are asked to trust all that has been, to stand in all that is, and to lean into all that is coming.  Like in all eternal now moments there is a timelessness, a suspension, where we don’t really know anything.  We don’t know where we are going.  We don’t have to.  We get real about our experience.  We tell the truth.  We speak from our hearts, like Becca and I did all those years ago.  We trust that something has been carrying us all along.  We lean into what is here, fully.

The story of our salvation is the story of the weavings of many now moments, all held in this eternal embrace.  Each step holds all the steps before, as well as a future that has yet to be realized.  We carry the seeds of the story, of this becoming, in each of our hearts, and in the heart of this community.  It is with us.  It has always been with us.  It will be with us every day to come.

Leaning into the present moment, to this now, saying yes to all that is, we enter eternity.   Glory BE to the CREATOR, to the CREATED and to the CREATING, as it was in the beginning, is NOW and ever shall be, world without end, Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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