I think we’ve all done it, though few of us would care to admit it. I’ll step out on a limb and admit it: I recently caught myself thinking about my dinner plans right at about the same time as our priest was holding up the Body of Christ during the consecration. I have been known to stop my prayer mid-sentence because my lips are moving, but my mind is in another place entirely. Sometimes at night when I review my day in the Examen, I can’t even remember the grace I prayed for that morning. I don’t always think about what I’m doing or saying. Sometimes, I admit, I am running on autopilot.
My autopilot mode was jostled lately by Pope Francis’s words during one of his weekly audiences: “How do we experience the Eucharist? When we go to Sunday Mass, how do we live it? Is it only a moment of celebration, an established tradition, an opportunity to find oneself or to feel justified, or is it something more?” This startled me, perhaps because I consider church to be my “go to” place when I need to escape the world outside of its doors. Sometimes this leads to Mass becoming routine and all about me. Did I let the Eucharist, this great gift from God, become rote and ordinary? Have I let autopilot get in the way of something more?
Autopilot gives us a sense of ease and comfort as we go about our lives. Routine feels secure. But does anyone really find God on autopilot? Jesus never said, “Come, follow me; it will be easy and you won’t really have to think about it.” I know in my heart that I cannot be Christ for others when I am not fully present in the moment. No, I desire something more.
All of this leads me to my Lenten promise this year: disengage autopilot. The grace I seek is to be fully present, to live each moment fully engaged. How am I going to live that out? I suppose that’s what the Lenten journey is all about. Maybe it starts with aiming for at least one moment each day that I step out of my own little world and focus on serving the person before me. Maybe it means ticking off little marks on a sheet of paper each time I catch myself spacing out during the day. The goal is clear, though, and that is when the Body of Christ is held up for me to behold next time, I will have only my crucified Christ—who is always fully present to me—on my mind and in my heart.