do not be anxious

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Sometimes the best homilies are the simplest. Truth is presented with clarity and practicality. Words are spoken from the heart. Most importantly, you remember what was said. Today was one of those homilies, given by one of my favourite priests. I hope he doesn’t mind if I paraphrase it below.

Do not be anxious!

How easy it is to worry. Life gives us solid material each day – some big, some small. If we have the good sense to take our worries to prayer, we often begin by listing off our intentions. We name our worries. We name loved ones and friends. We name crises and disasters both near and far. We give words to our fears and ask God to answer our prayers.

AMEN!

And our prayer is ended. But, is it?

Prayer is a conversation. Too often, we do all the talking then end our conversation with AMEN! But, did we allow God time to answer? Did we meditate?

This was, perhaps, one of the best definitions I’ve heard for meditation.

Meditation is giving God time to answer us!

We need to stop talking and sit in the stillness.

We need to Listen.

We need to be still and know that God is God, ready to speak to us in the quiet of our hearts, even if our hearts are not quiet.

Silence is even more important if our hearts are restless or screaming with anxiety and worry. I find meditation the hardest during these dark moments. I want to turn my brain off. Turn away from the worries that haunt my days, and keep me up at nights. I’m afraid of what I will face if I sit in the stillness.

Meditation is giving God time to answer us.

A simple message. Why do we make it so hard to do?

 

 

 

feast of the presentation and the prophet anna

Twenty-nine years ago today, hubby and I embarked on our parenting journey. Our first-born entered the world with  healthy lungs announcing his displeasure at the sudden change of venue. We joked about him seeing his shadow and wanting to go back for six more weeks of snoozing. When hubby began the round of phone calls to share the good news, mention was made of it being Groundhog Day. But it was our dear Benedictine friend, Sr. Grace, who gently reminded us that it was also the Feast of the Presentation.

Luke’s gospel story of Mary and Joseph presenting the baby Jesus in the temple is filled with rich words and memorable characters. (Luke 2: 22-39)  I always had a fondness for the prophet, Anna. She spent a mere 7 years with her husband, and was a widow until 84. Her days were spent praying and fasting in the temple.

Do you know an Anna? Our parish has been blessed with many Anna’s over the years. These are the faithful and faith-filled women who form the small remnant of weekday mass goers. They are present at every Eucharistic Adoration or extra prayer service. They arrive early, and leave late in order to pray more. They are the ones with the tattered prayer books and worn-out rosary beads. In our parish it was Anne, Pearl, Kay, Catherine, Helen, Tessie, Kate and more. When we first came to the parish, 30 years ago, some were already widows. Some are still alive today. Others have joined the glorious communion of saints, still joining their prayers with all holy women and men across time.

My favorite Benedictine community also had its Anna’s. These elder nuns were no longer able to participate in active ministry. But, they spent hours in the chapel praying for all.

Of course, we cannot forget the Simeon’s. But the men in the temple are usually front and center, so it is not easy to forget them. Today let’s remember, with gratitude, all the quiet women prophets in our midst.

oh God, hear our prayer…

In our small town, death notices are posted on a bulletin board at the Post Office. Folks slow down on the way to their mail boxes to scan the names on the little cards. Being a small town, the odds of knowing the person are pretty high. After looking at the name, one looks at the age. Oh, this one lived a long life! Death is always sad, but easier to accept if the person had been blessed with the gift of many birthdays.

This past week, one card stopped many in their tracks. It announced the sudden death of a young, 28 year old man. He was a school friend of my eldest son. Hubby over-heard two elder gentlemen of the community wondering out loud about this too-young-to-die notice. What happened? Another told the sad truth. He had taken his own life.

We never have to look far for intentions to pray for.  But, sometimes our lives are hit with a tsunami of sadness. It`s one piece of bad news after another. A young father, a friend of a friend across the ocean, dies suddenly leaving behind a stunned and grieving wife and young children. Young and old battle the scourge that is cancer. Some win the battle. Too many lose it leaving behind incredible sorrow for family and friends. On Saturday, a young mother from a neighboring town slid into an oncoming semi-trailer on a winter highway and was killed instantly. Her 4 year old twins were with her, and are still in hospital.

It is easier to give a moment`s notice to sad news, and then try to let it go. Why dwell on it and make ourselves miserable? Why bring all this negative energy into our day? We have enough stresses of our own to worry about! 

Nothing we say or do will take away the horrible pain of deep loss. And, yes, thinking about the reality of loss can make us feel pretty low, even if our relationship to the person is at arm`s length or more. What, then, must the pain be like for those directly involved? The thought of losing my 28 year old son is too much to bear. How does the mother who is living this reality bear it?

Sometimes, the only thing that we can do is pray.

Praying for another is to commit to entering into the sadness, even if for a moment. It means offering them up to a loving God who always hears our prayers. It means giving words to another`s wordless grief. It is a hope that the pains we feel from a distance may in some way lessen the pain of the one who is experiencing the immediate hell and agony of suffering and loss.

It is offering a spiritual shoulder to lean on, even if the person has no idea that you are praying for them. It is joining hands with a compassionate communion of saints in circling the suffering soul with love and support.