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The paradox of the past is that the past is behind us even as we experience it…

The Temptation of Saint Anthony (David Tenier)

The other day I read a short anecdote that told an imaginary story about three monks and their encounter with the Evil One.


In the story, the Evil One appeared to three monks and he asked them all one question, and his question was, “If I gave you power to change something from the past, what would you change?”


The first monk responded that he would stop Adam and Eve from committing Original Sin in the Garden of Eden because that would have prevented the fall of Humankind and the corruption of the world. The second monk went back even further, and responded that he would prevent the fall of the angels, who were then responsible for prowling the world and leading human souls astray after the fall of humankind. Now the time came for the third monk to give his answer. But when it was his turn, the third monk said not a word… Instead, he turned AWAY from the Evil One and began to pray, “Lord, free me from the temptation of what could be and was not.” And with a scream and shudder of anguish at his defeat, the Evil One fled back to the very depths of Hell…


And I have been reflecting on this story ever since I first heard it because while the first and second monks were tempted to consider the past and reflect on what was and what could have been, the third monk was the only one of the three, who understood the paradox of the past. And the paradox of the past is that the past is behind us even as we experience it.


It was for this reason that the third monk knew that he should not engage with evil – even for a good reason – because that he was powerless to change the past, being able to change only the present… If only more souls understood this truth – how many more souls would be saved!

And I have been reflecting on that third monk as I have been thinking about what I am doing RIGHT NOW to make choices that would please Our Lord…

You see, most human souls wish that this life were easier. Most of us imagine that we would do many wonderous things to make a difference and to change the world for the better if only we had access to the past. I know that I do. I think to myself – well, if I were in her place, I would do it like this. I think to myself – this is what she should do. I think to myself – I would never be as silly as to do that. Or worse still, I think to myself – if only they had not done that, then we would not be in this mess right now…


And yet – that third monk was right – because he did the only thing that God gave him the power to do. He took what he had RIGHT NOW and spoke to God about it.


He did not try to fix the past – that was beyond his control. He did not try to convince the Evil One – that was beyond his control. He did not try to change anyone or anything – that was beyond his control. Instead, he decided to change ONLY himself and he decided to do it RIGHT NOW. Not after he had a little conversation with the Evil One, not right after he berated his fellow monks for their poor choice to engage with evil, and not right after he made some changes in his own life. No. He decided to make those changes RIGHT NOW… And that is exactly what he did!


I pray that God will grant me the Grace to do the same… Right NOW…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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