Imagine Jesus standing in front of all of us here; we all recognise Him; we all know that it is Him who is our Saviour and Lord; we all know that if we follow what He tells us, we will surely gain eternal happiness. We then hear Jesus telling us, “My dear brothers and sisters, I want to call some of you here to follow me as priests and religious, but for some of you, I want you to change your job because it is causing you to lose your faith and for some of you I want you to change your lifestyles because you are distancing yourself from me more and more.”
What do you think our individual reaction would be? How many of us would be willing to accept and follow God’s Will and what Jesus wants of us? Or is it more likely that we would say to Jesus, “Its fine for the Apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John to give up their fishing profession and their families, but as for me, it’s far too complex an issue for me to change my job or my lifestyle and I don’t even know how to begin to reflect on Your request?”
My brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel is about living our lives in accordance to God’s Will and Ways and how connected we are or unconnected we are with God in our lives. It is about our relationship with God. If God means more to me in my life, then we would be freer to accept what Jesus wants of us as His Father’s Will. But, if God is distant to us and we are not very connected to Him in our daily living, then God’s Will and Providence are less important to us than “our will” and our lifestyles and desires in life.
There is a story of David, a teacher who went through a lot of pain in his life. He lost his wife whom he loved very much in a car accident. Then as his wounds were healing over some years, his only daughter whom he loved very much too was diagnosed to have a very rare disease; she was only then 7 years old. He was also very stressed at work as a teacher. With all that was happening to him, David sometimes wondered whether God is on his side or not. However, every day after work he would drop by at a Parish Adoration room and simply sit there in silence allow Our Lord to feel the pains of his life.
David says, “Most of the time when I come before the Lord and spend half an hour each day, I don’t seem to feel anything; my mind is distracted and my heart is often filled with much pain. Yet, somehow I know that all these silent adoration is not in vain. Some how I know that even though nothing seems to be happening as I sit before the Lord for 30 minutes, I am convinced and consoled that the Lord is with me in all that is happening to me in my life and that I am never alone. It is this belief and receiving Him at Holy Communion during Mass that gives me the strength to persevere in hope and know of the Lord’s compassionate love for me and His caring ways for my daughter, and how my dearly beloved wife who has gone to God a head of us is also watching and caring for us.
I have no doubts that I would have not survived the crises of my life if I had not spent those silent moments of adoration with the Lord. Today, my life continues to be burdened by the crosses that I have to carry, but deep within me, I know that Our Lord is carrying my crosses with me, and through all these trials of life, I have found a God I have never known to be so compassionate before.
I can say that I have learnt to embrace my trials in life willingly and in peace. I now find myself even be a source of peace to others who are suffering, like my colleagues and most especially for my dear daughter, who is now only ten years of age. Before these trials, I had only known and wanted a God who answers all my prayers in the ways that I want. I wanted a God who could fix all my problems and wipe away all my pains. But, over the years, I have learnt that such a God is only found in the minds of those who do not know Him and only want to use Him for our personal needs and gains.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, it seems to me that one of the reasons why many of us may find it very difficult to be open to what and how Jesus wants us to live in God’s ways and accept His Providence in our lives is because we do not have a personal relationship with the Lord. Unlike David who has allowed Jesus to enter into his pains and trials of life, we on the other hand have allowed our pains and trials to prevent God from getting closer to us. Sadly, some people even block God out of their lives and want to have nothing to do with the Church and with God.
Whatever our reasons, whoever we are, and where ever we may be, we all need God all the time; more so when we face the trials of life as David did. One way to be more fully connected with God is to develop a personal prayer life. Many of us say prayers, but are not really praying. To be praying we need to open our hearts and minds to God and be connected to Him in all that happens to us including and more so, when we experience the pains of failures, rejection, division, confusion and crises in life.
Someone once shared, “I find that my heart is slow to go to God; and when it does go to Him it does not seem to want to stay with Him; so that very often I am forced in my prayers, first to beg God that He would take my heart and set it on Himself, and then, when my heart is with Him can I then say, ‘Lord, help me to be close to You.”
We need God’s strength to help us be more focused in our life. Only when we are able to allow God to be part of all that happen to us in life can Jesus become more personal to us. St Ignatius would encourage us to develop a greater consciousness of Jesus’ presence in our daily living by what is called the “Consciousness Examen” prayer.
At the end of each day, we are to spend about 15 minutes in silence, recalling what happened during the day. As we look through the day, allow the significant moments to surface. Then get in touch with these moments and try to sense how we have been Christ-like or unChrist-like to others. For the times when we were Christ-like, we thank God for them. And for the times when we were not Christ-like to others, we ask Him for forgiveness.
Through such greater awareness of how we live our lives daily, we will gradually develop a greater sense of the quality of our daily living, and eventually Jesus will become more personal to us. And when this happens, life is never going to be the same. The pains and trials of life would become crosses that Christ and us share; the joys and the successes in life would become the happiness we experience with Jesus. I like to end with this reflection on how Jesus and us can be one in everything and moment and no longer as strangers, as today’s Gospel wants us to experience.
My life is but a weaving
between God and me;
I may not choose the colours,
He knows what they should be;
For He can view the pattern
from the upper side
While I can see it only
on this the under side.
Sometimes He weaves sorrow
which seems strange to me;
But, I will trust His judgment,
and work and walk on faithfully;
It is He who fills the shuttle,
He knows what is best;
So I shall weave in earnest
and leave with Him the rest.
At last when life is ended,
with Him I shall abide,
Then I may view the pattern
upon the upper side;
Then I shall know the reason
why pain with joy entwined
was woven in the fabric
of life that God designed.
The only words needed then is:
Father, Your Will be done.
Nothing more, Nothing less.
Nothing else. Amen.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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