DID YOU GET YOUR PRESENT?

About this time thirty-five years ago I left home. Thus began an adventure that has taken many twists and turns. I have been a Brother, a teacher, a retreat giver, and now a priest. It has been very exciting and I have really enjoyed it. Of course there have been sad times and even a few dark days. The road has at times been quite rocky. Now and again I hit not only a pot hole but a few craters. In these times the love of family and good friends has been invaluable. That said, I have been wondering about my inner world because whatever about the outer physical journey that has taken me to the United States, Africa, Japan and other places there has of course been another journey evolving all the time. This is the journey of the heart. It includes the myriad of life experiences, and all the different relationships that have shaped me. Some of it is about, what the psychologists refer to as the maturation process: getting older. However there is a faith-filled question that needs to be asked here. In other words when we reflect on our inner journey is it simply about all that has happened to us and the people we meet? Is it not here that we encounter the Spirit within us? God’s Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit within us that makes us restless. It makes us hungry. It nudges us forward towards something more, encourages us to move towards God.

I am smiling as I recall the passage from Cider With Rosie, when the young Laurie Lee comes home from his first day at school and tells his family of his annoyance at not receiving a ‘promised present.’ Here he tells them about his disappointing day:
“They never gave me the present!”
“Present? What present?”
“They said they’d give me a present.”
“Well, now, I’m sure they didn’t.”
“They did! They said: ‘You’re Laurie Lee, ain’t you? Well, just you sit there for the present.’
I sat there all day but I never got it. I ain’t going back there again!”

It strikes me that this is a real danger for all of us. We could be sitting all day waiting on the present. Did you get your present? Or are you still waiting? Have you unwrapped it? What is it? Maybe you are still unpacking it? What is this present, this gift I am speaking of? The young Laurie Lee sat there waiting all day. If you have not yet found it, where might you look? One thing is for sure, and that is that people the world over, from time began, have been looking for it. Many cannot name, or explain the search but still have been driven by it. Sometimes I think of it as life’s riddle, almost a conundrum to be grappled with. It might go something like this:

This ‘present’ we seek is in the past and the future but is most alive in the present. It is often
confused with ‘presents’, and whilst it can be there, it is most essentially found in the Presence.

To many this will appear mumbo-jumbo but in reality it is at the centre of our longing. When we understand this, to the extent that understanding it is possible, it can give us a much clearer sense of life’s meaning. On those occasions when we might find ourselves asking ‘ what is it all about?’ this riddle or conundrum is the key. We will only be able to see how this ‘present’ was in our past, if we reflect and earnestly try to see it. This can be difficult. In terms of the future, and the notion of this ‘present’ or gift being there, when we get there ourselves, is also very difficult, perhaps more so. Yet, if we believed this, it could eradicate worry and anxiety from our lives. The big mistake of course, that we all make, is to think we will find it in ‘presents’. The latest gadget, the new house, or car will all trigger good feelings that will allow us to feel we have got it! We have arrived! However as we know it is not long before we are again looking, looking for something more, the next new thing, the next thrill, the next fix! Perhaps the greatest mistake is to think that the end of the search, the end of the inner hunger can be found in another. When someone says to us ‘ you are everything to me’, or ‘you are my world’, it can be very flattering. It can also be huge pressure, and quite daunting. This is not to deny the great joy of human love, in all it’s forms.

My friends, I am putting before you, that the greatest ‘present’ available to us, is in fact the Presence, the divine Presence. This Presence has been there in our past, and will be in our future but the very exciting truth is that this Presence is present now. This moment, this day is imbued, infused with the divine. Yes it is true that this Presence is in the beautiful dawn, or sunset, or spectacularly in the new born, but another very exciting truth is that this Presence is alive and active in the very centre of your being. It is here at our core, where we are alone with God. It is here that he is uniquely present to us. The most important unwrapping, or unpacking, that we do, is gradually to grow into the beautiful person the Lord dreams us to be. I am happy to give the final word to St. Augustine, ‘You have made us for yourself Lord, and our heart is restless, until it finds rest in you.’

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