ATTENTIVENESS TO GOD’S PRESENCE | by Ed Rice
How do I find practical ways in which I have the opportunity to be attentive to God’s loving presence in my life? As I grow older, one thing I notice about myself as I go about my day is that I find myself preoccupied with things not related to the tasks at hand. I, like many, have had the experience of going into a room to get something and then forgetting about that for which I was seeking. Consequently, the result of this preoccupied stance is that I can easily miss the details of my surroundings or the unique circumstances affecting those individuals with whom I interact daily. If I intend to be open the manner in which God reveals his presence throughout my day, then I need to find a specific time and an appropriate setting that will provide the potential for this to happen.
The most convenient time for me for such interaction is in the early morning – before the rapid succession of daily occurrences begins. It is at that time that there is little to distract me. It is quiet both inside and outside the house – an atmosphere conducive to resting in the moment and, as is humanly possible, to empty myself of all my current concerns and preoccupations. A secondary occasion for me to tune into God’s presence and to empty myself of distractions is when I am driving to my art studio or to a class or appointment. A mindful approach at this time can serve to reinforce the process begun earlier in the day.
My resting in the moment can also be an opportunity to be attentive to my relationships with others – particularly those with whom I interact with daily, those about whom I have some preconceptions or with whom I have some issues or conflicts. How can I come to the point of recognizing that those with whom I am inclined to dismiss may indeed have something to teach me? Earlier this summer James Martin, S.J. gave a powerful reflection on the gospel story of the Good Samaritan. How ironic that a Samaritan, a person hated by the Jews, is the one who chooses to help the Jewish person by the side of the road. Fr. Jim states that the deeper message is not so much about the one receiving the help but the one who is helping. And, the lesson is that the one that you think you hate is about to help you, is about to teach you something. There is a message here for all of us, but particularly all those who have been overwhelmed by violence or are polarized as a result of opposing political stances. What a challenge it is for us to welcome all that others have to teach us, particularly those we feel at odds with and whom, for whatever reason, we are inclined to dismiss.
Being focused on God’s presence is the ideal and there will inevitably be times in which my mind wanders and steers me toward things that are essentially selfish concerns. Practically speaking, I know that I need to be realistic in knowing that I might be successful some of the time but not all of the time. My mind can race and be full of such preoccupations. It is at such times that I need to close down distractions. The experience of age tells me that I only have today and that not all my concerns and worries can be resolved in this one day. And, I constantly fall into the trap of thinking that it is only me that can resolve all that concerns me. Like many others, I am not alone in wanting instinctively to be in control of every circumstance in my life. But, the energy this takes can be exhausting let alone frustrating. Some issues will simply resolve themselves as they unfold with time; some may need the assistance of others, something that I find to be a frequent challenge.
One of the practices that I do not currently ascribe to at this time but would likely enrich my attentiveness to God’s presence and interaction in my life is to do a brief examen at the close of the day – calling to mind the persons, experiences and circumstances that were meaningful to me and spoke to me of God’s presence and interaction. Such would complete the cycle begun at the start of the day and to tie together those issues that were part of my reflection.
There is a prayer that I composed some years ago and one which focuses precisely on the desire to being attentive to God’s presence throughout my day. It is appropriate at the start of the day and to be honest there are periods of time when I am faithful in using it daily and then there are times when I use something else that is helpful in this regard. The prayer is as follows:
O Lord, my God I give you thanks for granting me
the gifts of life and health on this new day.
May I always come to trust in your loving providence,
your constant companionship and in your unconditional love.
May I call upon you frequently throughout this day,
reminding myself of your constant presence.
What will you ask of me this day and how will I respond?
Will I be attentive to the needs of others
or will I be more concerned with my selfish interests?
Will I be patient when things don’t go my way,
letting go of trying to control circumstances that are beyond my control?
May I be worthy of the gifts and opportunities
that you give me this day.
Help me to show my appreciation for these gifts
by using my time profitably,
seeking to fulfill your will in all that I do,
intent on spreading your gospel message
to all with whom I come into contact.
May I see your presence
in all who come before me this day.
May I recognize the sinfulness in myself
before I see it in others, aiming to be positive rather than negative
in my words and in my actions.
Help me to refrain from prejudging,
from trying to control the lives of others.
May I always respect others’ privacy.
Finally, I ask of you, O God, that I amy be open,
honest and truthful in all that I say and do. Amen
In summary, the desire to be ever mindful of God’s presence and his interaction in my life boils down to the choice I need to make between preoccupation with the self vs. concern for the other. To quote Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death…now choose life…so that you may love the Lord your God. Listen to his voice and hold fast to him”.
About the Author
Brother Edward Rice, a Xaverian Brother for 53 years, is an art instructor at the Senior Centers in Danvers and Melrose, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Xaverian Brothers community on Earle Street in Malden.
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