We all lead busy Christian lives, at least that is the climate in the United States. Actually, one of our priests put it this way: "The world moves faster and faster. It is speeding up. Even us priests feel it, though we try to resist yielding to it." Many of us, however, especially us laymen, march in lockstep to the speedup phenomenon that is encompassing the whole world. It is as though one were watching a movie of the world, and then slowly the camera speed is accelerated, so that every process is faster and takes less time. And yet it is happening over a period of time so as not to be so noticeable. Dinner takes less time, travel takes less time, prayers take less time, even the masses are sometimes shorter than they used to be. We experience many things, but it is an al la carte experience. There is no time for long, drawn-out processes; everyone is in a hurry, everything must be quick, quick, quick. There is no time to stop and smell the flowers, unless the fragrance is bottled for the Christian "on the go".
It would be good to consider this phenomenon in more detail - but particularly its ramifications. We must ask ourselves why it is happening, who or what is causing it, and what are the consequences. I think it is a basic principle that the way we live our lives in the temporal world will most likely be mirrored in the spiritual world. When we court only the superficial, for example, snap judgements and snap experiences, we can easily become superficial people, a people without root, an aimless people who know not where they or going or where they came from. We forget our culture and heritage and history, we forget our religion except that it is something to do on Sunday in the morning. We become all on the surface; there is nothing deep or well-grounded about what we do and believe. We live for the moment, and think nothing of eternity. It is easy to do this, because the rest of the world is doing it. Fast food becomes the norm, not just temporal food but spiritual food, we want quick answers and solutions to everyday problems in the sermons of our priests, and we think of every more efficient ways to dine rapidly (and this, we speak figuratively as well as literally). We want to sup with Jesus, so long as it doesn't take too much time. In our earthly affairs, fast courtship and marriages become the norm, a Christian form of "Wham, Bam, thank you Maam." Before you know it the kids are married, but they're not sure what they're doing. They're in college, but they're not sure where they're going. They have a job, but not a clue why they are there or what it is for. There is no grounding in basic Christian principles; it is rather, "Do it, get it over with, get on with the next issue, and keep going at it until we die." A bit depressing, if we think about it. Is this what life is supposed to be like?
My dear friends, at the very least this is a weird way to live, and at worst it is a very dangerous way to conduct our affairs. Without a clear purpose or vision, by just "going through the motions", what is the sense of it all; what are we gaining? I think, this kind of living is the standard not just in the secular world but among Catholics, both Conciliar and Traditional. We plod along, marching in lockstep to the world's drumbeat, ever faster doing our duties, ever shortening our experience with any one person, place or thing, including the person of Jesus Christ, always seeking to finish everything, but not really finishing anything. We have no time for relatives or friends or neighbors, whom we only see maybe at weddings and funerals. We have no time to enjoy anything, because there is always too much to do. And it is no illusion - we are under the gun at work or school to get it done. We have pressures from the world, and if we do not stand up to the demand it would seem we would be swallowed up and destroyed! Does this make any sense? To the world it does, because those that contribute to speeding things up the most, and making things the most superficial, are honored highly by what the world has to offer. We can gain a great and mighty name for ourselves in the world, which, if we are really lucky, will be written on a memorial plaque or maybe even in an encyclopedia. Yet who is highly honored on earth? Satan. The world loves him, because he makes things easy for us and life becomes uncomplicated. Satan tells us: "Do what you want to, do it everyone." And who would pay attention to detail if we didn't have to? Would not we rather become lazy and superficial, as satan urges us on to do? And as we become more and more superficial and our living becomes more and more accelerated, we will know more and more things but understand nothing. Trapped! Just like satan wants us, a herd of people who are very knowledgeable, very well read, full of honors, knowing that when the wind blows from the south it will be hot, if there are clouds in the west it will rain, but understanding nothing!
Now Daniel tells us concerning the End Times: "Many will go here and there to seek knowledge." As life accelerates, our knowledge base grows ever larger. Why we can almost play God now, in the sense of creating and altering the fabric of life. It might be very soon that people, or people-animal hybrids, might be manufactured to specification. Mobile intelligent robots will supplant humans to complete common tasks. We will have minotaurs and robots as sentries to guard our houses and do the tasks for us that we do not wish to do. There will be more leisure time then, more idleness which the devil uses to his advantage, but also more time for humans to think of how to speed up the world even more. We will be everywhere we want to be in an instant through our computer connections. Soon even, perhaps through three-dimensional imaging technology, we will visit our friends and relatives without leaving the computer. They will appear before our eyes as three-dimensional holograms. If we do not like or get along very well with certain people, we will even filter the computer program to make them more likable or more to our own tastes when we receive the transmission. We will live in a virtual world, ruled by our very own selves. We will be gods. All of our experiences will then be virtual ones, without any grounding whatsoever in reality. We will spend our days indulging ourselves in superficiality, we will wallow in self-indulgence and pleasure. We will ever be seeking new experiences which can be aborted at the push of a computer button, or at the whim of the self-indulgent and superficial mind.
The world I have described is really one of horror, because it will lead to the destruction of many souls, but in fact we live in this world right now. Although we have not yet reached some of the fine technical details yet, our world, generally speaking, is highly accelerated and superficial. My dear friends, this should not be. Yet it is often not practical to give everything up - our jobs for instance - for we must eat after all. And so what to do? Let me say that the secret is in the details. I think that God loves the details. They are very important to Him. We do not realize it and do not even think about it, but when we forget the details we are dishonoring God. By this I mean the little things that seem of minor importance to us, or that we just don't think of at all. Let me give some examples. When we are at Holy Mass, do we concentrate on the liturgy, the Holy Cross, Christ's passion and death, the Blessed Mother, and other things that will please God? To quite the contrary, many times our minds start drifting away - to what we will do later in the day, to some conflict in our lives, to some good thing in our lives that pleases us, to what we will do tomorrow or next week. We are always thinking about the future, and never about the present. "Let tomorrow worry about itself, today has enough troubles of its own" so the Lord tells us. Remember that Saint Theresa of Lisieux, Doctor of the Universal Church, was very good at remembering the details. She should be a model for us all. Her life was one of carrying out the details, and not worrying what tomorrow had in store. She painted and wrote to express these things, and there are some very fine books of photographs that captures the essence of this saint. Jesus said "Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things!" Should we not rather, focus on one thing only, and that is- how to please Jesus Christ in the moment that we are living in.
To be sure, it can be useful to have a general plan in life, particularly since if we are doing our jobs there are people who count on our support (our families and our church for financial support and prayer, our parishioners spiritual well-being if we are clergy). But this must always be considered with an attitude of faith. Saint Paul tells us that we should not boast of going to this town or that, and what we will do there, because we do not know what might befall us in the intervening time. Rather, our most important plan should be how we can serve the Lord Jesus Christ at the moment, concentrating on Him in everything we do and say. Let our entire life be a prayer, attentive to the details. At church, should we not concentrate on what we are speaking or saying, or what the priest is saying? Should we not try to feel the presence of the Lord and the angels when the words of Consecration are spoken? Shall we not drive carefully rather than hastily to and from Holy Mass, if we have our own vehicle? And should we not use this vehicle wisely and conservatively, rather than taking a cruise to support our every whim and desire? Shall we not keep our eyes and minds and hearts on Jesus? When we work at our secular employment, if we have it, should we not work as though God were watching and approving or disapproving of what we do? He is, after all, watching, as are the angels, saints, and all of Heaven. There is a great cloud of witnesses, who see every little thing we do. Let every little thing be attentive to the details of God, so that we will be found blameless!
If we cannot spend quantity time with God, because of our busy lives, at least let us spend quality time, all the while concentrating on the little things, the details that seem unimportant to the world. The world will say that going to mass is enough; would not God tell us that we must also keep our minds undistracted as much as possible? When we pray, let it be with an open heart and mind to God, not one that is distracted. Distractions are seeds of the devil that he plants here and there in hope that they take root, just as Jesus can plant the Word in our hearts if we let Him. Let us rather, use the little time we have on this earth efficiently, by devoting a substantial portion to the Lord, and giving it to Him wholeheartedly and with complete fervency, rather than with distraction and urgency for the things of this world. In doing so, we will gain many more graces for ourselves and those we love. It brings us closer to the assurance we hope for, that our eternity will be spent in paradise. Even, that we may suffer less the refining in the purgatorial flames, owing to our strong commitment to Jesus Christ shown in this life. We cannot always be assured that everything that we are doing is right before God, but let us do the little things carefully, with much prayer and gratitude to the Almighty, which is evidence of our faith. And with the help of our spiritual advisors, who serve to protect us from going astray, let us present small gifts, little flowers, to Heaven, so that when we die and are raised, we may be counted worthy to be joined to the Lord's holy family of believers. These are the ones who will live with God forever and ever, and they will be given innumerable gifts by the Father for the small sacrifices and attentiveness to the details of godly things that they gave while on earth.
Alebam super eum qui afflíctus erat, et compatiebátur ánima mea páuperi
I wept for him that was afflicted and I had compassion for the poor.