Living in the Present and Not Nostalgia

I would like to share with you a very powerful and personal sermon from St. Augustine that really struck the heart when we somehow think that the past is better than now. I think we can all relate to what he said because many of us tend to think that the past is much better than the present moment. Nevertheless, nostalgia is often false and not the complete picture of what really happened.

Whenever we suffer some affliction, we should regard it both as a punishment and as a correction. Our Holy Scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and rest. On the contrary, the Gospel makes no secret of the troubles and temptations that await us, but it also says that he who perseveres to the end will be saved. What good has there ever been in this life since the time when the first man received the just sentence of death and the curse from which Christ our Lord has delivered us?

So we must not grumble, my brothers, for as the Apostle says: Some of them murmured and were destroyed by serpents. Is there any affliction now endured by mankind that was not endured by our fathers before us? What sufferings of ours even bear comparison with what we know of their sufferings? And yet you hear people complaining about this present day and age because things were so much better in former times. I wonder what would happen if they could be taken back to the days of their ancestors–would we not still hear them complaining? You may think past ages were good, but it is only because you are not living in them.

It amazes me that you who have now been freed from the curse, who have believed in the son of God, who have been instructed in the Holy Scriptures–that you can think the days of Adam were good. And your ancestors bore the curse of Adam, of that Adam to whom the words were addressed: With sweat on your brow you shall eat your bread; you shall till the earth from which you were taken, and it will yield you thorns and thistles. This is what he deserved and what he had to suffer; this is the punishment meted out to him by the just judgment of God. How then can you think that past ages were better than your own? From the time of that first Adam to the time of his descendants today, man’s lot has been labor and sweat, thorns and thistles. Have we forgotten the flood and the calamitous times of famine and war whose history has been recorded precisely in order to keep us from complaining to God on account of our own times? Just think what those past ages were like! Is there one of us who does not shudder to hear or read of them? Far from justifying complaints about our own time, they teach us how much we have to be thankful for.

I think all of us, in our own ways, tend to grumble. We are oftentimes opinionated, vocal, and envious of others. We often tend to think that God does not care for us because He does not give us what we want and others seem to have what we have desired or do not possess. We often let envy eats us alive because we constantly compare ourselves with others, moping and wanting what they have out of jealousy. This often leads to many negative outcomes because envy leads to ill-will thoughts, gossip, and ways to talk down or dismiss others. Sadly, but true, we tend to destroy one another in hurtful and detrimental ways more than any manmade weapons can! Too many times, what springs out from the heart is full of malice and negativity for others when we leave ourselves unchecked and uncontrolled by divine love.

Second, I think many of us are clinging to false, unrealistic nostalgia like what St. Augustine talked about. Perhaps we looked at the world differently when we were young(er) or thought that somehow it was better than the current time, but facts show us that each age has its own problems. This world has never been perfect and it continues to be challenging. Holiness and the opportunities to sanctify ourselves and our world are in the present moment, not as with something in the past. We can only take what is available and challenging at the present moment in order to discern God‘s will for us here. We cannot change and go back to the past, but we can transform, unite, and seek to offer up what is going on right now to the love of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not send His disciples out into the world to make it like the past. The Apostles did not go out into the world to preach the Gospel to make things like the past. The Lord desires to make all things new, beginning with us! Therefore, we have to assess, understand, acknowledge, receive, discern, and respond to the current matters and present situations as to find proper ways to bring His loving presence and life-giving message to those who are lost, struggling, and trying to seek Him. In the present moment, we have are able to find the true joy in the Lord to seek, love, and bring what we have received from Him to the world at large. Even though it will be challenging at times, we are able to receive His efficacious grace at work for what is needed according to His will!

Furthermore, the present moment teaches us true perseverance in the midst of many ups and downs, challenging obstacles and opportunities, or things that we cannot plan or control as to seek the Lord‘s creative, life-giving, and mysterious works of grace in our midst. I know the present day and age is discouraging at times, but we only have today because the past has already passed and the future is still out of our control. We can change ourselves, be opened to His loving grace, and be able to find the deeper joy in the Lord here and now. While it is easy to day dream or fancy something that we think would be better in the past, it humbles us to love and embrace what the Lord can do now because it is amazing and beyond our feeble mind, imagine, and comprehension!

We are only able to be in the present moment by learning that we are not in control. Hence, it is very important that we be humble, genuine, transparent, and honest with the Lord. We might not be able to fix everything or influence others, but we do have the ability to change our lives, open ourselves up for the work of grace, and allow Him to change us deep from within. In the present moment, we are able to see our littleness and to practice a childlike faith that trust in the Almighty instead of trying to daydream, escape, or be absent from truly being present to Him here and now. I know it is corny to say this, but there is no better time than the present time, no better present than being in the present moment, and no better gift than the genuine gift of ourselves to others right here and now. Therefore, let us persevere, stay strong, humble, loving, and joyful in the Lord as to seek, love, and give our everything to Him.

May the peace of Christ be with you all.