Don't dwell on the past at the expense of the present

By Moira Billinge

It was my own fault. My loathing of being late had exceeded common sense and, as a result, my long stay in the waiting room had nothing to do with an over-stretched NHS but more to do with me. I couldn’t blame anyone else for my boredom, or my frustration with a weak phone signal and having nothing to read.  
I suppose I could have used the time constructively by focusing on all the urgent intentions on my prayer list – but that was easier said than done amid the distractions of a busy surgery.

Naturally, the devil finds work for idle hands – and also for idle minds – so I started thinking ... ‘What would I change if I had the chance to live my life all over again? What different choices would I make? What career would I have pursued? What would I have said and not said, done or not done? Who were my most positive influences and who left a trail of unhappiness in their wake?’

Later, however, reflecting on my meanderings, I realised the uselessness of wasting precious time on what ifs and if onlys.  As an anonymous sage remarked, ‘What’s done is done and can never be undone.’ What can be changed, however, is the degree to which we allow the negative events of the past to cripple the present. The past is past, it is spent, it is gone. The future is yet to come.  

All we have is now and the reality and grace of the present moment, together with the positive lessons that we have learned along the way. 

The old Penny Catechism asked, ‘Why did God make me?’ The ‘answer’ was, ‘God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.’ But, God loves us so much that it stands to reason that He wants us to be happy in this world, also; to be joy-full in our service of him and of each other. He doesn’t want us to be sad, wringing our hands about the past and worrying about the future. As Padre Pio aptly wrote: ‘My Past, O Lord, to your mercy; my present, to your love; my future to your providence.’

Only the devil wants to chain us to the vicious circle of regret and memories of past unhappiness and misfortune. He has no interest in the many thankful memories of our life’s most blessed episodes. He is far more attracted by doom, gloom and soul-draining negativity and despondency. He would rather we forget that Good Friday led to Easter Sunday.

The Easter Triduum is about God, through Jesus, releasing us from whatever shackles us to the past, holds us back and prevents us from discovering who and what we are: so very dearly loved and valued that Calvary was worth the cost.

Easter is about being realistic about ourselves, exploring  the areas where we might be able to improve – with God’s help – but it is also about recognising and acknowledging where we may actually be getting things beautifully right in our lives. Peter let Jesus down. He must have carried that painful memory for the rest of his life but it acted as the catalyst for a complete change in his commitments, priorities, lifestyle – and his death.

Good Friday is the proof of God’s love. Easter Sunday is its celebration. Happy Easter!