Recently, during a retreat I attended, the preacher set me thinking as he spoke of the glorification of being busy. In a soft but convincing voice, he proposed an attitude of ‘pause’ within a hurried and time-conscious world. He observed that our daily routines are dominated by intruding e-mails and messages, innumerable errands to run in spite of traffic and back-to-back appointments pre-booked in our Google calendar from weeks or months before.
Our society, he said, recalls the opening scene of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In Disney’s animated version of Lewis Carroll’s book, the White Rabbit looks at his watch, hurries on and mutters: “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye... I’m late and when I wave, I lose the time I save... I run and then I hop, hop, hop, I wish that I could fly. There’s danger if I dare to stop.”
This message echoed the three attitudes proposed a few days before by Pope Francis, during his Ash Wednesday homily: Pause, See and Return.
Pause from what? To quote Francis, pause from the compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, friends, children, grandparents and God; from the need to show off and be seen by all, the need to continually appear on the ‘noticeboard’ that makes us forget the value of true intimacy and recollection.
Pause from the unrest that fills our soul with bitter feelings that never get us anywhere; from the urge to want to control everything, know everything, destroy everything; from the deafening noises that weaken our hearing and make us forget the fruitful power of silence.
Why pause? To see the little gestures... the hidden actions that keep the flame of faith and hope alive
Pause from the emptiness of everything that is instantaneous, momentary and fleeting, that deprives us of our roots, our ties, of the value of continuity and the awareness of our ongoing journey.
Why pause? Again, to quote Francis, to see and contemplate the little gestures that prevent the extinguishing of charity, the hidden actions that keep the flame of faith and hope alive, the many faces that reflect God’s wisdom, tenderness and goodness at work.
Pause to see the faces of our families as they continue striving, day by day, with great effort, to move forward in life; the faces of our children and young people filled with yearning for the future and hope; the faces of our loved ones and parents who, despite many concerns and much hardship, are committed to turn homes into schools of love.
The faces of our elderly, whose faces, marked by the passage of time, reveal the living memory of our people; the faces of our sick people and the many who take care of them, who remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility; to see the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their mistakes and fight to transform their suffering and move forward. Above all, pause to return to the outstretched, eager arms of the Merciful Father. To return to the Crucified Love, who from the silent stillness of the cross, continues to bring healing, reconciliation and hope, particularly to those who experience the burden of failure, sin, disappointment and heartbreak.
We are busy. Yet Lent is a favourable opportunity to pause, and again take hold of our life in a society driven by a false sense of urgency and productivity. After all, we are human beings, not human doings.
Fr Kevin Schembri is a lecturer at the Faculty of Theology and a member of staff at the Ecclesiastical Tribunal.
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