It is difficult to stay focused and alert when we are tired. It is safe to say that as we close one liturgical year and begin another, many of us are physically, emotionally and spiritually tired.
2020 has been quite a year. While our liturgical year may have come to an end, our calendar year still has some time left before the numbers change again. It has been a year of upheaval, surprise, change, turmoil, anxiety, fear, confusion, disappointment, disillusionment and detachment. We have been forced to “die” to so many things these past several months: expectations, routines, celebrations, institutions and most importantly, treasured relationships. We have been asked to leave the familiarity and security of the past we hold dear and embark upon a journey into the unknown.
Surrounded by so much uncertainty and doubts about what is really true, it is hard to have hope and stay alert and focused. We need to recharge our batteries. People of faith may find themselves murmuring a poignant question in moments when they can find some time to themselves: “why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” Wandering is exactly what we are doing. We are almost like the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years, wondering where they will eventually find peace and a place to permanently call home. We ultimately want God to restore peace in our times, as if the fullness of peace was ever ours to enjoy in the first place. But, we can hope. We know one thing for certain by now. This mess we are in is not something we can fix on our own. None of our problems ever are. It takes us a while to realize that and some really struggle learning that lesson.
When we are tired, it is hard to do even the simple tasks: tend to daily business, interact in the community, nurture relationships and pray. When out in public, one can almost hear a constant hum of anxiety not unlike that annoying “ringing in the ears” of which many complain. It’s always there. People are scared. Yet, this new brightly shining liturgical year bids us to stand erect, stay awake and watch! What are we waiting for? The current pandemic, political struggles, and church concerns all find us waiting for solutions to problems, resolutions to conflicts, vaccines for disease and leadership that can truly be effective and trusted. Even though all of these are worthy pursuits and necessary to achieve, they are all worldly. Real hope is found not in any of these pursuits but somewhere else.
Do we believe that God is faithful and that God will keep us firm to the end? Sometimes, we live life as if we are somehow going to just fall apart if things don’t happen a certain way. We don’t like times of disarray and turmoil. Knowing what we had, the discomfort and unsettledness of where we are and the uncertainty and unknowns of where we will end make being present to the moments of life and finding joy a difficult enterprise. We need real hope. Many often remark these days about how challenging it is to even pray. They wonder whether they are being led through some kind of “dark night of the soul” or whether God has really just moved on from them to someone else. Knowing that the latter is most likely not true, they find themselves living with a spiritual and even emotional malaise.
Keep it simple these days. Remember what Jesus told his disciples when they asked him to show them how to pray. Go to your room, close the door, speak to your Father (Daddy) in private, and use the words found in the Lord’s Prayer. Often, when life is derailed and we are experiencing loss, discomfort or confusion, a simple “Ave” or time spent with a brief, humble prayer is all we can do. It’s a loving gesture that connects us with our source. It allows us to remember that God is the potter and us the clay. Even when none of what’s happening makes any sense, God still has our back. Moments of prayer, regardless of how deep or profound they may be, allow us to see God’s creative and restorative will at work. The often difficult journey to God’s Kingdom, paved with the virtues of faith, hope and love is steadfast and eternal. The Divine Light that burns within every soul cannot be extinguished.
So, what is this real hope to which we are called? In practical terms, hope is really nothing other than having the faith that by Love’s power we will be led to and discover something that will make sense. Real hope rests in the certainty that we are hard wired for union with God and that God’s Will is ultimately the creative, sustaining force behind all that we do. Walking with this hopeful certainty is the only way we can see light in those dark moments when what we really may want to do is give up and walk away. It is this joyful hope, rooted in God’s promise that allows us to be vigilant, watchful and awake. It gives us reason to stay the course, even when we may want to just close our eyes and get some sleep.
We have many examples of people throughout history who stand as witnesses to this wisdom. Even when brought to their lowest point and facing despair, they always found their way back to hope and followed the impulse to Love. After all, didn’t St. Paul tell us that in the end there are three things that last: faith, hope and love? They are three intimate companions on the journey, a trinity of virtues that need each other in order to most perfectly radiate the joy that flows from God’s tender loving face. They are the gifts, given to us who believe, that help stay strong, simple and focused when everything else seems lost and spiraling out of control. It is true that we do not know that time when Christ will one day come again and it’s pointless to waste time to figure it out anyway. It’s not for us to know.
The journey still requires patient and joyful watching, all while keeping a vigilant, alert eye and heart on what is right and true. Generation to generation God’s power remains constant. It was this very power that brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, inspired prophets to speak challenging words of truth, raised Jesus from dead and sent the Gospel message to a weary world. Do we think that we are any less important than the countless others who have gone before us? Now it the time for patient endurance and joyful hope. A weary world is still waiting to receive its Savior and rejoice.
Listen carefully to what Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel: “Whenever you pray, go to your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in private.” Now, do what Jesus asks and find a quiet place to be alone. Open your mind and heart to spending some time resting in God’s presence. Try to be as present to these few moments as much as possible, bringing all that you are and everything that is happening in your life to this sacred space. Trust that God knows what you need. Don’t worry about what to say or how to say it. Be present with love in search of Love. Desire that God’s will and your will become one.
After a few moments, slowly pray as Jesus taught: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Offer a brief Thanksgiving to God for simply Being who God is and for making you into the person you are. Rest with this affectionate gratitude for a while. Breathe in, breathe out. Come, Lord Jesus! Come!