"No Present Like the Time"

"There is no present like the time." This seeming misquote is spoken by a cab driver in the film, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," sequel to the popular film, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." That movie told the story of a young entrepreneur in India who creates a place for senior citizens to come and live out their remaining years. In the process, a group of British retirees each discovers new life. The second film continues the story of many of the characters.

"There is no present like the time," says a cab driver to one of the British residents of the hotel. His twisting of the cliché, "there’s no time like the present," becomes the second film’s final words, voiced by the character played so beautifully by Dame Maggie Smith. She reflects in the film’s closing moments on new life—that of a newly married couple—and the renewal and rebirth sought by herself and the other residents of the Marigold Hotel.

"There is no present like the time," might be a good way to focus this year’s "Lent in a Year of Mercy." What might we hope from this Lenten season? Certainly, we bring our past Lents, with memories of fasting, various choices for Lenten observances, all set against our Catholic liturgical lives with the familiar rhythm of Scripture and prayer.

This year, we place over those memories the challenges presented by Pope Francis in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is a time, he says, to learn more about the mercy of God, to encounter Jesus, who is "the face of the Father’s mercy." Pope Francis recommends to us the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These traditional Catholic practices, drawn from the Gospels, offer us a fresh way to embrace the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

We have the time—but as more than one spiritual director has reminded me over the years—the time is God’s gift. Pope Francis urges us not to waste this time. May it be for us a "present" given by our merciful God for repentance, conversion, renewal of our basic identity as a people baptized into Christ.

Fr. Greg Friedman, OFM