The Happy Priest: Learning to Live by Trusting in God
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CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Life is filled with many difficulties and challenges that cause us to worry. Each day we are confronted with many events that may cause us to become apprehensive. This Sunday's Gospel narrative gives us a clear teaching on how we are to handle worry.
What is worry? The dictionary says that when we worry, we torment ourselves with disturbing thoughts. According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three adults has occasional insomnia, and one in ten adults has chronic sleeplessness. Experts are concerned about the ever increasing consumption of sleeping pills by many Americans.
The remedy for worry is for all of us to trust in God.
In this Sunday's gospel passage we hear these consoling words: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin."
In the silence of our hearts, filled with faith, we experience the presence of God. We contemplate him in the beauty of the sunrise, the power of the wind, the majesty of the ocean, the voice of the Scriptures, the presence of the Eucharist and each encounter with our neighbor. St. Augustine once said that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
We experience God through our life of prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is a continual being in love because God is real. God is personal. No matter what might be going on in our lives, we must always pray and pray daily. Prayer is the air that we breathe.
One of the greatest challenges that we encounter is our inability to see and to listen to God. We can be caught up in the distractions of daily life that prevent us from really encountering God. Our busy lives require refreshing times of prayer throughout the day.
A serious life of prayer is very important for the times in which we live. The traditional structures of support that have made our lives comfortable and easy are presently engulfed in confusion, but transformation is slowly taking place.
God is moving us away from clinging to things, people and institutions. He is calling us to detachment, to the desert, to the journey into the night of naked faith. He is calling us to cling to him and only him. This journey is difficult, frightening at times and even risky. But, those who embark upon the journey will be transformed into living witnesses of the God of love.
However, without a serious spiritual life, anxiety and fear will overwhelm us. If we are a people who live truly spiritual lives, we will be filled with peace and joy no matter what may be going on around us. And this is so, because we will always be able to trust God.
St. Teresa of Avila, the famous Spanish mystic, once wrote: "Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough."
St. Teresa provides us profound words of wisdom for our present times. The staggering number of prescription drugs available for the many forms of uneasiness and tension illustrates that many of our contemporaries suffer deep inner turmoil.
It is true that we are experiencing profound challenges: wars, continual threats of terrorism, problems within our Catholic Church, the rapidly accelerating unraveling of moral decency in our society, an uncertain economy and the terrible wounds caused by the dismantling of family life. Nevertheless, challenges such as these should remind us that we must always trust in God who is always with us.
Again, let us turn to the words of this Sunday's gospel narrative: "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."
But let us be convinced that prayer cannot be simply based upon need. God is not a soft drink machine. Nor is God a candy store. Some day suffering will knock on our door and we may not be spiritually equipped to handle the difficulties of life. But why do we have to come to God through suffering? Is not that the hard way to learn how to love and to trust?
Our lack of dependence upon God is rooted in a lack of trust. Trust is rooted in faith which is a gift. If your faith is weak, ask God to give you more faith.
Over and over again, I have been urging all of you to incorporate into your lives four practices that are so basic for anyone who wants to be a serious Catholic: contemplative prayer, daily Mass or a prolonged visit before the Blessed Sacrament, daily Rosary and the frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. These four things will allow you to trust God and they will provide you with the interior peace that all seek.
What are the practical steps that we can take in order to incorporate into our busy lives a serious spiritual life?
First of all, we need balance in our lives. When was the last time that we enjoyed dinner with family and friends, or turned off our cell phone and refrained from checking our email at every moment? Excessive work and travel, excessive involvement in sports and entertainment are tearing us apart.
Secondly, a serious spiritual life requires the capacity to be alone. It is difficult to be alone in our contemporary society. Even when we are alone, the noise of our own worries and fears drown out the silence of God's voice. Many people are incapable of being alone and they immediately feel an obsession to talk with someone on a cell phone or check their email.
We all need moments of solitude. Spending a quiet time before the Eucharist, reading the Scriptures during a peaceful moment at home, taking tranquil walks through the woods or along the beach all are necessary for our soul. In order to be with God, we must develop the ability to be alone with ourselves.
Thirdly, we need order in our lives. Working out daily schedules for the entire family by setting realistic priorities and minimizing extra-curricular activities for the children are steps that we can take. Early to bed and early to rise is a wise principle which is still valid today.
Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, is the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas and is a member of the Board of Directors of Human Life International. Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum. He has also published a book called Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life. You can click here for the audio podcast of this Sunday homily. His second book, Get Serious! will be available soon. You can visit Father James on the web at www.FatherJames.org.
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