Now, in the days just after Christmas, it seems a good time to think and talk about Christ and his message and who better to assist us than Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, an Irish nun renowned as a social activist and helper of the disadvantaged, especially the homeless. We are going to take a look at her book from 1998, so long ago – “Now is the Time”.
This is another book i have owned for years but had not properly read – so many of such books adorn my shelves. You may ask what have i been doing with my life – merely collecting books? In my defence i would argue that i knew that these books would eventually be important to me and that i looked at them from time to time and, that eventually, their time came. An argument perhaps for never throwing out a book!
Sister Stan, in a manner similar to Ekhart Tolle in his book ‘The Power of Now’, published a year earlier, emphasises the importance of now, of living in the present. “Everything has its time, and that time is always now”, she tells us in the very first sentence of the book. The fifteen chapters are based on wisdom about life, ‘A Time to Live’, ‘A Time to Die’, ‘A Time to Sow’, and so on taking its inspiration from Ecclesiastes 3, which is quoted in the preface,
“There is a season for everything,
A time for every occupation under heaven
A time for giving birth
A time for dying ……….
A time for sowing …….
A time for reaping …..
A time for loving ……
A time for peace …”
And that time is NOW. “The time is always now to live our lives, every minute, every hour, every day, every year”, this is the Christian message from Sister Stan, “Now is the time to live the lives we have been gifted with. If we put it off till tomorrow to live, then we have lost today”.
As the title of a novel by Primo Levi states, “If Not Now, When?” – and, for my Italian friends – here is an image of the original book.
Every moment is precious, Sister Stan tells us and must be lived, “There is no such thing as a meaningless moment or a meaningless life. If we are open to it, life will teach and shape us to become people of wisdom, compassion and joy, in our age, in our time. For that to happen, every small part of life must be lived. If we are open to life the cycle of time shapes and reshapes our misshapen selves until we become what we are called to be”. A paragraph which would not be out of place in any of the books on Buddhism we are looked at recently, nor would it be out of place in Ekhart Tolle’s philosophy.
As we approach 2015 and the start of another new year, it is a good time to ask ourselves, “Am i wiser, more compassionate and more joyful than this time last year?”, and if not, “Why?” and if “Yes”, then by how much and in what ways.
If you are like me, you may well struggle to be able to answer “Yes”, and, if Sister Stan is right, and i believe she is, that probably means that i, and you, have not been living every small part of life, have not been living in the present moments.
Let us turn theory into practice so that when we examine ourselves at the end of another year, when 2015 is coming to a close, we may answer with a resounding “YES”. There we go, projecting our lives into the future again!
“This is my time right here, right now, in this isolated spot or in this village, in this town, in this city or suburb. What happens here, now, is my responsibility”, Sister Stan reminds us.
And so to Christ, whose birthday we celebrate at this time of year.
Sister Stan compares our physical birth to a possible spiritual birth, she tells us, “There is indeed a time to be born, to come out of the cocoon of the self, to speak and to act and to take responsibility”, and reminds us, “The model Christians are given for living their lives is the life of Jesus. He risked everything; he was abandoned, rejected, betrayed and killed for being who he was, for saying, doing what he did in his time; he was crucified for asking the right questions of the right people and for standing up and taking responsibility for the right things in his time. This is what it means to be born to the world, to break what is false and what is hidden and destructive in our time”
Truly a description of Jesus which resonates with my beliefs. Why would we need any more than this to follow Jesus, to base our lives on his example. This, in all its simplicity, would, i believe, be endorsed by Jesus himself.
But this is no ride in the park, this is no hour spent weekly in a church. Living our lives according to this model requires commitment and effort. How often have we been told this in the books of wisdom we have looked at. Remember Scott Peck believed that laziness was the most significant barrier to spiritual development that we would encounter.
Sister Stan concurs, “It is not easy”, another reminder of the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, that life is suffering.
And then, a beautiful promise from Sister Stan, “There are, however, great spiritual comforts for us if we are all willing to become people of truth in our time, however hard it may be. To live with honesty and integrity, letting go of falsity, gives us a new sense of freedom and truth. Once we have broken through the pretences, the barriers, the falsities that blind us and bind us, we are free, we are free forever and no-one can ever take that freedom from us”.
In the words of a George Baker song from my youth, “No-one can take my freedom away”.
Stay free my friends.