One of my favorite books is called the “Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis. I’m sure many of us have read it. The book takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior “tempter” named Wormwood, giving advice on the best way to ensure that a British man, known only as “the Patient,” ends up in hell. In a great irony, God is called “the Enemy.” One of my favorite letters involves the idea of “living in the present.” I’m going to let C.S. Lewis speak for the pastor today:
“The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience that our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.
“Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. … [I]t is unknown to them to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. … Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead. Do not think lust an exception. When the present pleasure arrives, the sin (which alone interests us) is already over. The pleasure is just the part of the process which we regret and would exclude if we could do so without losing the sin; it is the part contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in a Present. The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward.”
I think that’s the real reason why Our Father doesn’t want us worrying about the future. You can only reach Him today.
(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty