A couple of weeks ago I found myself standing in front of The Alba Madonna at the National Gallery of Art, which was painted by Raphael in 1510. As I looked at this extraordinary painting, I noticed quickly that I was standing alone in an empty room. There wasn't even anyone in the large gallery space behind me. As I turned my attention back to the painting, I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to simply be present. 500 years after it was completed, I was given a brief moment in time to be present with this painting.
I am well aware of my tendency to multitask, to attempt to read ten books at a time, and to listen to podcasts while I run. I have also found that technology and social media can perpetuate an unhealthy awareness of how much more there is to read, watch, and understand. Obviously, being well-informed and well-read is a great thing, but the onslaught of messages, books, articles, tv shows, podcasts, etc. can serve as a distraction from the moments we are called to be present within.How many times are we going about our days either thinking about the next thing we have to do or running past scenarios through our minds? This is me more times than I would like to admit.
I imagine a thousand scenarios and questions were going through the minds of the disciples during the Passover meal with Jesus on the night he was betrayed.
"Jesus said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves..." (Lk 22:14-17)
In this moment, Jesus simply desires to eat a Passover meal with his friends, which would be their last night together. But later at dinner, the disciples were bickering about who was the greatest.
As we approach Thanksgiving week and the Advent season, may we be reminded of the gift of the present moment that we are able to share with each other and Christ. It's easy to be distracted by holiday madness, end-of-the-year responsibilities, busy schedules, and petty arguments.
But may we take simple moments to eagerly desire to eat with good friends and family.
May we breathe.
And may we pause long enough to notice the beauty around us and realize that this is our unique opportunity to experience whatever the moment brings.