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‘Past Tension’

Fr. Francis Ongkingco


“CLYDE, how are you? How do you feel after the board exams?”

“Am now in past tense mode, Father,” he sighed deeply with relief.

“Past tense mode?” I was a little confused by his reply.

“I mean my tension is now in the past, Father,” Clyde sniggered with a typical hissing sound after succeeding in puzzling me with his words.

“Oh, I didn’t quite get that.” I pulled a seat to join him.

“And after the results, of which I believe you will pass with super-flying colors, what’s next?”

“Chill, I guess, Father,” he closed his eyes as he deeply savored every drop of his cappuccino.

“Just that?” I complained.

“What’s wrong, Father? Don’t I deserve some rest from all that effort?

“Precisely after all that work, you can’t simply live in past tense but also in present and future tense!”

“Father,” he eyeball-rolled me. “Give me a break, at least even some space to gather my peace and pieces together. ‘Sides, am I not living in present tense now with my cup of coffee?”

“Yes, in the present but not tense enough dude.”

“Huh?” He was totally unprepared for my comment.

“If we live the present without being tense, we will live it on procrastination, entitlement, and boredom.”

“Chill, Father! You want me to die of a heart attack before turning 30?”

“You don’t have to wait till 30 zombie dude, coz you are already living the present being dead, killing time, and wasting opportunities.”

“Can I cut the corners of your square, Father?” He jokingly scissors the air with his index and middle fingers.

“Ugh! Can’t you take this seriously for a second?” I tried not to show him my irritation.

“Okay, Father. Now, seriously I will,” he gave me a wink.

“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be taking a break or a rest, but we should never remove the tension.”



“Isn’t that bad, Father?”

“By tension, I’m not referring to anything psychological or physiological but keeping the idling of our life going and bearing fruit!”

“Am I not idling now, Father?”

“Yes!!! You’re definitely idle, Clyde!”

“Oh cooome ooon! How bad could this idling go anyway?”

“You don’t have to wait for bad. For nothing to happen can already be bad in itself when we neglect precious time, relationships, and graces without allowing them to take their true effects in us and others,” I clarified.

“You’re not joking, are you, Father?”

“This tension, however, isn’t one of activism or being a blind workaholic. There is a healthy type of tension that prevents the devil to wreak havoc in every good that we do.”

“The devil you say?”

“He is a sly and dangerous enemy of our holiness. He only needs a small window, like our laziness or mediocrity, to allow other vices to enter.”

“Is that why they say ‘he never goes on vacations?’”

“That is very true! And here we are, just taking our time while he makes many moves ahead planning our downfall.”

“So how do I live better the present tense?”

“Responsible people always have a schedule, a plan, and concrete targets to ensure that every daily step is closer to their life-goals.”

“I pretty much do that, Father.”

“I’m sure you do, Clyde,” I smirked at him.

“But what else can I do?”

“Align everything with a healthy tension of eternity,” I suggested.

“Eternal tension?” He raised an eyebrow.

“More of tension arising from our awareness that God is watching us, loving us, and banking on us as His instruments here on earth. We apply then this awareness to our work, rest, and social engagements, etc.”

“Is that even posss….,”

“By ourselves it isn’t, but with His grace it’s possible.”

“Wait a sec! How, for example, would it apply it to this very moment?” Clyde set his cup down.

“Present tension would mean while enjoying your coffee, you can thank God for it or simply lift it up for Pope Francis’ intentions.”

“And past?”

“Realizing you could have been done better yesterday and resolve to make up for it by doing better in the present tense. It may even mean patching up the negative outcome of our behavior by saying sorry after being irritated with the waiter’s sloppy service.”

“Veeery interesting. So, what’s the future tense with my cappuccino?”

“If the past was to say sorry to the waiter, the present is offering it for Pope Francis, perhaps the future tense could be treating me one day for a cup of Americano!” I quipped.

“I get the drift, Father! Waaaiter!!!”

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