Everyone knows, or should know, that people can efface challenges in their lives. Everything can go well for a long period of time. Goals sought after are being achieved. No problems at all! And then something happens. A death in the family occurs. A job might get lost. Perhaps some sort of marital infidelity not foreseen now surfaces. A recent visit to the doctor reveals a disease that could be threatening if not treated immediately. In your opinion, what else could happen in one’s life? Fill in the blanks.
In any and all of these life experiences, from the perspective of the Church is extremely helpful and healing if you realize that God is with you. Your realization completes the equation. On one hand, God is with you and always will be. The important matter now is the depth of your own awareness of this reality. In any of the above threatening experiences, you need to be strong. You need to make the best decisions to move forward. These next steps can more easily happen if you know that God is holding your hand and you are holding His hand back. And you hold His hand back by praying and in your prayer you ask for advice. Your prayer is best if you ask God humbly to help you evaluate your current state of mind, along with your thinking and the decisions you possibly might have made thus far. Are they in order? You will want God to help you here too! For centuries, the Church helped people by teaching them to pray. And by the Church teaching them to pray, simply trained their minds to turn to Him in times of trouble. Let’s look at a few examples. Whether at Mass or in saying the Rosary or in reciting any written prayer, one notices that one gets distracted. And then something tugs our minds back to what we were doing. A priest might engage in consecration proper, raising now the Host and then the Chalice. I might pray the Rosary and although I get distracted, I snap out of it, and place my mind back on what I want to do, that is, to think about God. This process is true throughout whatever prayer form I am engaged in and it is this very process that is the training! This seesaw movement of going from God to distraction to back to God is it! Now if I engage in this process daily I will find that when the time comes and I am challenged by something in life, I can immediately turn my mind to God and invite God to walk with me in whatever danger I face. The key is not to lose oneself in fear, depression, and in worry about the situation. Rather than getting lost in such negativity, I can find myself better yet in God.
This is a basic meaning of the Gospel story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The two men were walking along and Jesus appears to them and walks with them. But they do not recognize Him. Remember? But they invite Him home to eat with them, and in His act of breaking bread, they do recognize Him. The key here is that they invite Him home with them. Simply walking with Him for a brief time does not help them recognize Him. Only when they invite Him in to their home, and eat with Him, a very intimate, family act, that they succeed in recognizing Him. The moral? Don’t limit yourselves to walking with Jesus for a brief time for one hour every Sunday. Invite Him to your homes too. Pray before meals and invite Him to eat with you. By being consistent in this way, you will recognize Him by the sheer act of training your minds in prayer by not surrendering to one’s own thoughts, daydreams, and distractions but to learn instead to turn to Him. So trained, you will turn to Him immediately in all life’s challenges and in this way recognize Him throughout one’s life! Blessings!
Peace, Fr. Walt