5th Sunday of Easter A

I have been following St. Thomas a lot this year.  We heard him showing great courage when Jesus decides to return to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead.  As all his enemies are waiting for Jesus there, he says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”  Then we witnessed most famously his denial of the resurrection after the others have seen the risen Lord.  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  When you put those two statements together, you realize that Thomas was neither primarily brave nor doubtful.  He is a realist.  So it is not surprising as Jesus gives his speech to the disciples at the Last Supper, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” when the whole world is closing in on them and then says, “Where I am going you know the way,” you can almost picture the scene.  All the apostles, nodding their heads politely as what Jesus says is going directly and swiftly over their heads. Thomas probably looked around, sighed and rose his hand and did his duty by saying, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

And of course, Jesus responds in the most comprehensive way possible.  “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  What a stunning statement.  How it must have gripped those who were in the room with him.  What a startling revelation.  It was and is almost too much consume in one breath.  Jesus is the answer.  Entire philosophical systems were designed to seek the way and the truth and the life.  It has been the goal of politics. But Jesus insists that it not in a book or at a school of philosophy from which life derives its meaning.  It is through him.

And if it were difficult to accept this massive statement then, how much more difficult is it to do so now?  In an age of relativism, does this make any sense?  When every way is considered a valid way, when every truth is true as long as you believe it, when every life chooses its own meaning, how can, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” seem plausible, if not outright egotistical.

The only thing I can do is to check it with my life.  For example, we have or will have all lost our way in life.  How did you find your back?  For me, it is when I turn outward or find a reason to love someone else, that I find my way back; I discover myself again.  And that just happens to be the way of Jesus who urged us to look beyond our self and our own satisfaction so that we might entrust ourselves to another. His way is the way of the other before ourselves. That is the way that has worked for me.

And his truth is far superior to anything I could conceive.  Would I have known that feeding my selfish need for vengeance injures a world in a way only forgiveness can heal?  There is no chance I could have figured that we are joined so intimately and perfectly – that we were made for harmony and not discord.  I prefer his truth to whatever has been or could be proposed.  His truth is best called wisdom because it is governed by love and by mercy.

And finally, when I seek to know what I have valued in my life, it is never what I have gained or taken.  Ultimately, it is what I have given and preferably even given up.  It my love for others that will leave my mark on the world and to the degree that love was selfless is how I can measure my success.  This is called in Greek kenosis, or emptying out.  And no word better sums up the life of Jesus but the one who had everything and left with nothing for he gave it all to us.

So with all due respect to everyone’s way and their truth and their life, unless it can all funnel back to love, it has no value to me.  Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life because his love is perfect.

There is an intriguing line toward the end of the Gospel.  “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”  How can we do greater works than Jesus?  Well the work of Christ was to bring people to his Father.  We have done these works exceedingly well.  There are likely about as many people who are members of this parish as there were followers of Jesus in his lifetime.  But the work goes on for there are still those who have lost their way.  There are still those who seek the truth but cannot find it “out there.”  So many want meaning to their life, but cannot possibly find it in an answer that is not ultimate.

Let them come and see Jesus.  We need not sell it as Jesus is the solution to all their problems. That can only be found by the person themselves.  But we trust once they have heard his word and tasted his presence they will know there is an answer for all they seek.  Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life.

3rd Sunday of Easter A

The story of the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus is my story.  It fits all I believe of Christ.  It holds paramount meaning in my life.  The Journey Retreat is based on the story of Emmaus.  When we started the Albany Catholic Worker, we called it Emmaus House and as I read to my mother the Gospels for funerals as she lay dying, she passed away as I read about Emmaus.  I thought, “Of course.”  These verses from Luke have always brought me consolation, challenge and joy.  I hope you have a favorite Christ story, a story you can have a special relationship with that could speak to you at a first communion, a wedding or a funeral.  Emmaus is my story.

I love the story for its multiple images of Jesus upon which I can rely.  This time I saw Jesus along the watchtower.  It is Easter Day.  He has been raised from the dead and it is late in the afternoon. But two disciples are leaving Jerusalem despite the growing buzz among the Christ believers of the resurrection. They are not two of his most important disciples.  We have never heard of Cleopas and the other is never named.  Let’s say the other one is Mrs. Cleopas.  And yet there is ultimate concern on Jesus’ part for them to understand.  He cannot let them go.

He knows there faith has been shaken.  The cross has crushed their dreams and not even rumors of a resurrection can raise their hopes.  They have given up.  As Jesus predicted, all of us have had or will have our faith shaken.  He is coming to restore theirs.

He joins them on the road and joins their journey the only place he can – where they are.  Like a friend catching up with others, he comes up from behind, clasps his arms on their shoulders and says, basically, “What’s up?”  But a familiar theme in the resurrection narratives helps to advance the plot.  They look at their new companion, but they fail to recognize Jesus.  Obviously, if they did, the point is made and their doubt comes to a screeching halt.  But that would not allow them to do what everyone whose faith has been shaken.  They must tell their story.  They must tell their story if they are a young person who feels their faith is slipping away. They must tell their story if they have asked desperately for something precious, something good, and have not received it.  They must tell their story if they prayed for someone to live and they died.

These disciples must share their heartbreak as they do the stranger.  They are amazed that this visitor and not heard of the remarkable events of the crucifixion.  They speak of the strength of the one they had followed, “Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. “  They spoke of the hope they had lost “that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  So profound is their loss that even the whispers of life beyond death cannot bring them back to Jerusalem.

Jesus listens patiently to their whole telling of their tale.  But then he presents another narrative.  He says, “Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” Don’t say that to those whose faith has been shaken.  He gets to do it because he is Jesus and he knows how this is going to end.  But follow his way of bringing them back.  He spoke of what they knew and they always believed from Moses and the Prophets. He showed a God who always engages people.  He makes sense of the suffering on the cross for the life of God must include every life, no matter how lonely and cruel, and finally he unpacks for them the promise of the resurrection which makes the horror of the cross a triumph and its defeat a victory.  They would look back on this moment of teaching and say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

We must reach out with the same narrative to those whose faith is shaken.  We must paint a God who is always with them, who cares about how they are hurting and knows how to return them to the peace they have longed for.  We must share the same God of their Good Fridays is the God of their Easter Sundays.

Then, with patience beyond patience, Jesus allows them to grow still deeper with them.  He acts as if he is going on toward Emmaus.  He gives them the opportunity to invite Jesus to dine with them.  As Catholic evangelizers, we do not cram God down the throats of anyone. We simply share ourselves and our story and give them the space to invite Jesus in.  Of course, when they are seated together, Jesus does Jesus.  He presides. He breaks the bread and gives it to them.  “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”  The shaken have been stirred by the talk on the road and the doubting now see.  They see what so many who have had their faith shaken come to recognize – that Christ was there with them always.

Here we break open the word and tell the story of love; here we broken open our lives and share the story of faith; here we break the bread and our eyes are opened and we see Christ with us.  This is the stop on the road to Emmaus where lives are turned around.   Here weakened knees are strengthened and sloughed shoulders are made broader.  Here is our peace and hope and faith.  Let us go out to the road and catch up to those who faith is misplaced or forgotten and tell them the story of Jesus Christ.

2nd Sunday of Easter A (Divine Mercy)

I have always been inspired by the story of that first community of disciples, how “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”  They sold everything they had to live together, to give themselves for Christ and to each other.  Of course, “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  Who could fail to see the attraction of those first believers? Yes, I have been inspired by their example, but also haunted.  Can we achieve that sort of unity in the complexity of our world today?  Short of you giving me everything you own and all of us moving into the rectory together, how can we shimmer like that fist community?  How can we burn like a beacon to attract others to the life of Christ?

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I suggest the Gospel gives us three ways to accomplish this, to brighten the path that leads to Christ.  The first is to invite all people to come to a house of peace.  Peace is the chosen word of the resurrected Christ.  He says it twice to his disciples as he mysteriously appears to them beyond the locked doors.  It is the same word he gave to his disciples when they entered the home of another.  This peace is not the rest from all enemies.  It is an active thing.  It is a bond of unity, a knowing that they are beloved.

I know how hard it is for you to get here each week.  Whether it is the Tapia family and their six children, if you are struggling with your own infirmities or simply running against the insane busyness of life, it is not easy to overcome the madness to settle in for an  hour.  But once you get here, don’t you feel like, “AHHH..”  You know it has been worth it.  You know that you can put everything else behind you and focus on what really matters – this is the word you need to hear; this is the bread you need to receive for you were built with both in mind.  And no matter the craziness that will occur from Monday until Saturday evening, no matter the hurt, loss and envy you will experience, this is a peace that cannot be taken away for this is the stuff of eternity.  Of divinity.  Of Christ.  Jesus I trust in you.  Peace that lasts forever and outlasts everything else.

They will also come and see a house of forgiveness.  For Jesus breathed on them and announced, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness has been handed down to the Church through the Holy Spirit so the fount of divine mercy may never run dry.  I am always surprised by people who are turned off by church because they say they see the same people as mass on Sunday sinning on Monday. To which I reply, “I was not aware that you were following me around.”

We are all sinners.  We are all broken.   This place will always be more about healing than perfection.  Look at how Jesus knows he will be recognized. It is not his glorified body they are to look upon, but upon his hands and feet pierced by nails and his side opened by a sword.  They are to know Jesus in his brokenness as he knows us in ours.  Our community must be open to the brokenness of others; our light will only shine if we can share our wounds, confident we will receive only the salve of mercy and not the pain of exploitation. Come and see the Broken Body of Christ, accepted and beloved.

And they will come and see a house of imperfect faith.  There is always room for doubters in this family. Poor Thomas, for his is known as doubting Thomas for his insistence on seeing and prying his hands into the wounds of Christ.  He does not say much else in the Gospel of John.  He says, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” to which Jesus famously replies, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  But less noticed still is when Jesus finally decides to return to dangerous Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead, it is Thomas who says, “Let us also go to die with him.”  Thomas does not lack courage, he, likes us, suffers from “little faith.”  The faith he had was knocked out on the cross and he is reluctant to believe again.  Have you ever been shaken; felt let down by God?  It is a moment of “little faith.”  One of the great heartbreaks of my life is that so many people feel their faith slipping away and never come to me to talk about it.  If your health was slipping away, you would see a doctor, right?  Yet the ebb of faith is seen as simply shedding unneeded skin when what is lost is so much more.

Look at the example of Thomas.  Yes, he doubts, but does so from within the community and they allow his doubts until Jesus comes again.  If he had left, his doubts would never have been answered.  We must be a place where people are allowed to doubt.  Jesus blesses those who believe without seeing. But in the peace of this Church, this broken and healing church, this doubting and faith shaking but still persisting church, they will see Christ.  They will see Him in our forgiveness, brokenness and peace.  And they will come to believe.

They will always come and see a house of Divine Mercy, for whatever else they were looking for, however, they wanted their questions answered, there is but one answer from God.  Compassion, Love and Mercy.  And they will come to such a house for it is what they, and all of us, were built for.

 

4th Sunday of Lent A

The man born blind claims that, “It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.”  He was the first person born with blindness to be cured.  But since then, with remarkable advances in medicine, thousands of those born blind have been brought to sight.  And their experience is fascinating.  As one researcher put it, the moment the bandages are removed from their eyes is not like how it is portrayed in the movies. It is a moment of great confusion.  Everything is blurry because the eyes do not know how to coordinate with one another. The vast array of colors means nothing to one without the experience of color.  Even objects that have been held and whose shape is known are not understood by the newly sighted for to feel a shape is not to see a shape.  The moment of sight is confusing cacophony of images unsettling to the newly healed.

Yet, the brain is a marvelously adaptive tool.  Within months and weeks, the eyes discover how far they are from each other and focus comes.  Associations are made between shape and sight.  With experience, colors gather meaning.  Beauty becomes visible.  Of course, the biblical story has nothing like this kind of detail.  Or does it?

For how the blind person builds their understanding of what they see is exactly how the man born blind grows his image of Jesus.  It takes time and experience, but eventually the blind man sees more than all the rest.

When they first ask the blind man how he came to be cured, he says, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’”  By the time the Pharisees ask him what he makes of the man Jesus, the healed one claims, “He is a prophet.”  After the religious authorities interrogate the man’s parents about his blindness, they return ever more convinced that Jesus is a sinner.  The man born blind now angrily and even sarcastically argues with the Pharisees, ensuring their everlasting wrath.  They throw him out of the synagogue.  Then, in a moment of pure compassion, aware of how badly he had been treated, Jesus seeks out the one he has cured and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man.  He is willing to believe even as Jesus reveals, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.”  The man does believe, then he performs an act no disciple, nor anyone else in the Gospels ever does. He worships Jesus.  The man born blind alone is able to see that Jesus is God.

His story is ours as well.  I am 52 years old and have made quite a study of God, but I best I can only see God through squinted eyes.  God’s depth and beauty will ever escape me.  When we ask people to “Come and See,” we are not asking as those who have found the definitive answer and that others must catch up with us.  We are only inviting people to journey more deeply with us into the mystery of God.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean.  Some people like depictions of heaven that are familiar, with family and friends clearly visible and everything relatable. I think it is a wonderful way to understand how heaven will comfort us.  But for how heaven really is, I prefer those depictions of death experiences which are not as specific – which describe colors and feelings and contours and images that are beyond explanation, beyond articulation.  When I come to heaven I don’t want to witness the most beautiful array of colors I have ever seen, I want to see a color I have never knew existed; I don’t want to hear the most beautiful music ever, I want to hear a sound beyond music.

Our God is beyond our comprehension and yet thoroughly intimate.  To know this God is to go more deeply along the path of compassion and love then we knew possible, and it would still be but a glimpse of the majesty and goodness and of our God.

It is why we worship together.  Here we can share the experience of God.  God touched and healed me this way, even as God spoke to you another way.  Here I can point out to you this stunning color and then you can touch the texture you have never felt before.  And together we wade into God’s beauty, God’ love; each of us a pilgrim in a strange and blessed land – each aware of overwhelming blessing like a blind person seeing for the first time.  And so we believe.  And so we worship.

3rd Sunday of Lent A 2017

They should never have met.  Jesus, tired from a long journey, takes a seat and a moment away from his disciples in the middle of the day.   This is the only time in John’s Gospel that admits of such weakness in Jesus.  The Samaritan woman comes to draw water in the midst of the hottest time of the day, well after the other women in the village had come. It is not an accident.  She comes at this time to avoid them – their talk to her face or behind her back, their withering looks of judgment.  We would still whisper today about a woman married five times and living with another man still.  Imagine the scandal she must have been in the small, tight knit community.  I picture her stooped, eyes downcast, trying to make her small enough to hide in plain daylight.

Jesus sees her at the well and asks for a drink.  She is shocked.  Jews don’t talk to Samaritans and men don’t speak to women so publicly.  The startled woman asks what his plan is here for he has no bucket and the cistern is deep.  But Jesus seeks more than water.  He answers her mysteriously, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  A water so alive that it quenches thirst forever.  She wants this water badly if only because she would not have to go to this darn well in the middle of the day.

She must feel she is getting away with something.  This stranger is treating her with generosity and kindness.  This is what life would be if no one knew her shame and her sin.  But that illusion shatters when Jesus asks her to call her husband.  She claims she has no husband, but Jesus fills in the rest.  “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’  For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.”  He does know!  Yet, he does not condemn or revoke his offer of living water.  He knows her shame and still he cares for her; still wants nothing but the best for her!  You can almost see her back start to straighten, her legs steady and her eyes lift.  She is free to look Jesus, or anyone, in the eye.

She even dares to talk theology to one she believes a prophet.  When she brings up the topic of a Messiah, Jesus acknowledges, “”I am he, the one speaking with you.”  Then comes a remarkable transformation, the woman who came at noon to avoid anyone in town, now seeks out everybody and excitedly informs them she has found the one who could be the Messiah. Her past has not changed, but her dignity, her beauty and her breath has returned to her.  Indeed, she even invokes her past to explain her encounter with Christ.  “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.  Could he possibly be the Christ?”

I wonder how often shame and sin have stopped us from spreading the word of God?  How often have we felt unworthy to tell the story of Christ because we felt unworthy of its promises?  When have we felt our dignity diminished and feel the grace of God should skip us?  Yet, all that disappears in a true encounter with Christ, the one who meets us where we are at, forgives us completely and continually reminds us of the beauty we have been created with.

If we are to be ambassadors for Christ, if we are to share the joy of our liberation, then we must shed our shame and embrace our dignity.  We must accept and deeply believe that Christ loves us right now, with our imperfections, our sins and our regrets.  He saw beauty and potential in the Samaritan woman despite her five and a half husbands.  He wants us to give us our best despite our failings as well.

You are capable and ready for this job.  Straighten your back, feel the strength return to your legs and lift your eyes.  You too can tell the story of how loved you are.  Now imitate the Samaritan woman and say to all “Come and See.”  We do not impose our beliefs, we offer a place where they can know the forgiveness of their sins, even if it takes 24 consecutive hours.  We offer a family of care and of true concern to our neighbor and the stranger.  We are the home of living water which quenches thirst and promises eternal life.

1st Sunday of Lent A

Do you think the serpent would have convinced you to eat the forbidden fruit?  I certainly think the serpent would have gotten me.  The brilliance of the story is how, in such a simple fashion, the seducer’s temptation covers all our weaknesses and exposes our vulnerability to sin.  The serpent misses not a trick in the fall of Adam and Eve.   It is the root of all temptation.  Their failing is called “Original Sin” because all of our sins resemble theirs.

The very first strategy of the serpent is the most reliable.  He lies.  “”Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”  Of course only the two trees in the middle of the garden were forbidden. Lies are inherent in sin because truth so closely belongs to God.  Eve to her credit rejects the notion but now she is intrigued.   Curiosity allows the conversation to continue.  Where is the serpent going with all this?  The lie has not warned her.  She allows him to continue having pointed out “it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'”  She is fully engaged now with one who introduced himself with a lie.   The serpent replies, “You certainly will not die!  [Strangely true as it turns out.]  No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”

Now this sets the temptation in a new direction.  The woman is interested in obtaining this knowledge of good and evil.  Now, having lived in paradise she did know things and all of them were good and beautiful, God’s original, untainted and perfect creation.  If her desire is to know good from evil, then she must really want to know what is evil for she has been taught and given nothing but the good.  There is an extremely primitive attraction to the darker aspects of our nature.   We may know what is good but we are excited by what is evil.

She is also jealous of God.  She the creature wants everything God has including knowing right from wrong. She, and we, are unwilling to accept limitations, any reminder that we cannot have everything we want.  That we are indeed, not God ourselves.  Her determination to pursue this ideal of evil only succeeds in bringing shame to the world.

Perhaps she fell victim to mimetic desire – that idea that we are attracted to what someone else possesses precisely because someone else possesses it.  The French philosopher and literary critic Rene Girard claims this mimetic desire is the source of all violence.  If I laid out five fruits before you, but warned you not to eat or even think about the middle one, what would you do?  You would become obsessed with it; why is it different?  Why can’t I have it?  It is when we battle with our limits that violence necessarily ensues.

Finally, the woman must deal with sensuality.  There is a difference between sensuality and aesthetic appreciation. In the latter we admire beauty for its beauty.  But with sensuality, not only do we recognize the attractiveness of something, but we must possess it.  That is why people make a living by taking pictures of food!  When you see that close up of that savory desert, what do you say, but “I have to have it.”  Therefore, when we read, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom,” we know that she will inevitably eat it.  She must possess it.

That is the complex seduction of Eve so that she might bite of the forbidden fruit.  For Adam it goes, “You have fruit.  I want fruit.  I eat fruit.”  Ah, men.  Perhaps he had also heard the temptation of the serpent, perhaps not.  But there is another dynamic in play that cannot be denied. He will not allow his partner to have power that he does not.  Our lust for power is far stronger than our desire to obey.  The fear of vulnerability to someone who has what we do not overcomes our discipline.

So what does this mean for all of us?  Are we as powerless as our first ancestors to resist temptation?  Fortunately, Jesus shows us another way when facing the same dilemmas in the dessert.  One of my favorite lines in the Gospel is that after explaining that Jesus had fasted for 40 days, “he was hungry.”  So the first temptation aligns with his greatest weakness.  Satan challenges the starving Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”  Give in to your sensuality, your desire to feed your stomach more than your spirit.  But Jesus rejects him.  Next Satan tempts Jesus to show off his invulnerability by falling off the Temple where he would be caught by angels.  But his ministry is cloaked in the flesh of vulnerability.  Finally, Satan tempts with power over all the kingdoms of the earth, but Jesus knows that evil, bowing even just once to Satan, destroys all good.  He will not give into sensuality, lust for power, desire to possess what others hold dear, intrigue, curiosity or lies.  He will not use the power of God to satisfy his own needs.  The only power he will use is for others.  Within his humanity, he had enough.

Jesus is letting us know that within our humanity, we have enough as well.  We need not succumb to the pressure to have more than we have been given, to choose a darker life in the name of something different or to become what God did not make us to be.  We are enough.  We are just what we are supposed to be.  Anything offered beyond our natural capacity; anyone who make us feel unworthy; anything that adds to power for power’s sake or responds in jealousy to another is not from God.  It is therefore not love.  Lord, give us the grace to resist temptation.  Lord, give us the peace of responding only in love.

 

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

 

Maybe your life is very different than mine. Maybe in your life you simply have too much time and you are looking for ways to waste it.  Maybe you have an overabundance of energy at the end of the day, and you want to spend it on something useless.  If that is true than the next few hundred words will be a bit of a waste for you. But if not, I have something that promises to save time and energy and it will cost you nothing.  What if you gave up worrying?

 

Now I know that worrying is a priority for you and you might not want to let it go.  For example, it is more important than homework, because before you even begin it, you have to explain how much you have and how concerned you are about whether or not you can finish it.   The same is true for deadlines at work and fretting over what happens next.  Worrying will not affect any of these things and yet we cannot even think of abandoning it. 

 

I have to think that we treat worrying indeed as sacred.  I have spoken to people and suggested that praying more is exactly what they need.  And they will say to me, “Father, I don’t have the time.”  So I ask them if they ever worry and they respond, “All the time.”  We are glad to spend energy on the problem, but have no time for its solution.

 

Jesus understands what a waste worrying is.  “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”  The God who knows how to clothe the wild flowers more beautifully than King Solomon’s wardrobe and feeds the birds of the air will take care of us as well.  How much important are we than them! 

 

These words of comfort might seem a distant cry away from the difficult challenges of the week before to not grow angry, to not retaliate or to love your enemies.  But it is truly a part of the whole.  If we understood how beloved we are by God, how our God is always there for us, than we need not resort to violence for God will be our protector.  We need not hate our enemies for God is our security.  Not worrying amounts to simply trusting God.

 

My spiritual director in seminary was a little Italian leprechaun name Fr. Al Giaquinto who passed away about a year ago.  In his famous high pitched voice he once greeted me by saying, “You look awful Bob.”  I said thanks and explained that I had trouble sleeping the night before.  Al blurted out, “Then you don’t trust God.”  I was like I am doing the best I can; I am in the seminary.  But he was right.   Whenever we cannot sleep due to anxiety, it is because we are holding onto something.  We might entrust everything else to God, but the thing my important we reserve for ourselves to toss and turn all night with as if we are going to do something better and more clever with our problem than the God of all the universe.

 

Often people come to me and list all the things wrong in their life.  I then ask them to slow down, take a deep breath and make believe there is a God.  When we worry, we are literally building a one-sided case for how miserable our life is.  It is not a dispassionate look taking in the good and the bad. Instead we anticipate all that could go wrong and every disheartening scenario.  There is no room for God in that equation.   Why not take account of God?  Why not savor the fact at the very heart of our faith, that our Lord will not fail us?  Why not entrust ourselves to the glory to steer away from our dread.

 

During the sacrament of Reconciliation, I hear some things that I am not sure are sins.  People get angry for a moment; they curse when they stub their toe; they miss mass although they had an operation on a Saturday.   Yet, no one ever confesses worrying too much.  Yet, there is expressly a command against it.  “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”

 

Lent begins this week.  We will sacrifice and give up a variety of things, many of them dietary.  I suggest that if you really want to be healthy in every manner – physically, emotionally and spiritually, put all your trust in God and give up worrying.  Let’s see how that feels forty days later.