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Time reminds us that it is fleeting; how can we live in the present? — Sister Nancy Usselmann

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Soldiers are shown in a scene from the movie "Dunkirk." The OSV News classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (OSV News photo/Warner Bros.)

As I’m sitting in the chapel, I hear the clock in the sacristy ticking in the silence. The tick of every second is the ever-fleeting present leading to the next moment — the future St. Teresa of Kolkata‘s words come to mind, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan uses the reality of time effectively in his storytelling. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack in “Dunkirk” creates suspense and urgency with a ticking clock underlying his score. The movie relays the rescue of the beach-stranded soldiers surrounded by the enemy as a race against time.

In his sci-fi thriller “Inception,” the spinning top symbolizes time and reality. If it falls over Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb is awake in the real world, but if it remains spinning, he is immersed in a dream. Nolan tells a group of Princeton graduates his reason for the film’s unresolved ending, “Reality matters. … I want you to chase your reality.” In other words, live in the present.

Time reminds us that it is fleeting. It never stops. Like in the story of Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight all the beautiful fantasy fades away. What remains is the reality of the present. We can’t stop growing older. We can’t stop family and friends from the reality of death. We can’t hold back time to relish the good times. We can only keep moving forward. We can live in the present.

Sister Nancy Usselmann is a Daughter of St. Paul and the director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles. She is a theologian, film reviewer, blogger and author of “A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics.” (CNS photo/courtesy Sister Nancy)

God exists in the “eternal now,” that is, outside of time that moves from moment to moment. But he waits for us to discover him in the fleeting moments of beauty before us in a redwood-lined, mountainous trail, the smile of a friend or the gift of grace in prayer. We recognize him in the generosity of strangers, the meaning of our lives and the hope for life with him forever in heaven. Sometimes we may become a slave of time anxiously planning the next thing. We want to live in the present, but it moves on so quickly. Cherishing the time we have now helps us focus on what matters.

So, how can we live in the present? Here are five ways:

Relish the moments: Let go of the past with its mistakes and disappointments. Be grateful for what you have right now and thank God for these blessings.

Don’t worry: Jesus says, “Do not worry about tomorrow. … Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Mt 6:34). Surrender all your cares to the Lord.

Choose the good: Discern the best next step in self-giving love and do that. Choose what will bring you peace.

Lighten the baggage: Divest yourself of excess possessions.

Be optimistic: Smile and share a word of joy with others.

I bring these tips into my daily prayer and experiences. My family all live in different areas of the country. I am grateful to God for the opportunity each time we come together. And so, I decide before each visit that I will relish the moments we have as a family. It gets harder and harder to say goodbye when it’s time to leave. How much longer will we have together? Only God knows! It’s futile to bring up past hurts or be anxious about future concerns. When I live in the present, I find joy in the moment.

Time marches on, like Pink Floyd sings in the song “Time.” Before we know it, we question if we’ve really lived. Instead, the present holds the reality of life in view of eternity. We live well when we focus on the now with a grateful heart. When we do, we find God. For God is in the present moment waiting for us to recognize that we have today to live and to love. So, let’s begin.

Sister Nancy Usselmann, a Daughter of St. Paul, is director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles and a media literacy education specialist.