Be Prepared

05-07-2023From the Pastor's DeskMsgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

There are many attractions, places, and people we think about seeing at different points in our lives. One of the most beautiful and interesting places I have been is on a cruise to Alaska. It was amazing to see the wonder of glaciers, whales and salmon jumping out of the water, and just the pristine beauty of nature there. But there is one place we all want to go, but not yet: the Kingdom of Heaven when we die. Jesus speaks about the preparations He has made for all of us in the Gospel for today’s Mass (John 14:1-12): “"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way."

As much as we know what Jesus has done to open our eyes and minds to God and His love, we are still very focused on where we are in our lives in this world. To think of Heaven and how it will be is not an escape into fantasy, but the way to keep our wits about us and to focus on who it is we are invited to be with there. Jesus opened the gates of Heaven by dying on the cross, rising from the dead, and ascending to the Father. The real eye and mind opener is taking the time to prayerfully reflect on not only how much Jesus loves me personally and all people, but who exactly Jesus is for me personally. This past week I met with the Quad group I am part of from the retreat we had this past February in our parish. Each of the three retreat nights we had music, a talk, and exposition of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. One of the joys I experienced was processing through our church on the last two nights and blessing those in the pews with Jesus’ body in the monstrance. How powerful it was to see the joy of those who had never been so close physically in the Blessed Sacrament. That wonder and joy continues each week as we follow the format for Quads in the guide books.

All we are and all we have are pure gifts. The ultimate gift is love. We are loved by God simply because we exist. In His boundless love He has created us in His very own image and likeness. There is no better model of human existence than God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus never wavered in His faith in the Father and His love for the Father. He took quiet time to be renewed, nourished, guided, and strengthened through prayer. The night before He died He prayed in the Garden, “Not my will
but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Out of pure love and trust in the Father He sought the strength, wisdom, and courage to do what needed to be done—for love to overcome and defeat evil.

Prayer is an essential part of who we are as human beings seeking to live in the very image and likeness in which we have been created. To pray sincerely and fruitfully humility is key. Prayer is not just asking God for what we want or think He should do, but spending focused time on His presence to us. I offer these quotes from the Quad guide we followed in my group last Tuesday evening:

“The best way to think of humility is to think of it as truth. St. Francis of Assisi, one of the humblest people who ever lived, said, “Who we are before God is all we are, and nothing more.” Through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are adopted children of he Father. We have infinite value because of God’s infinite love. This is nothing we deserve; it is a gift that will never be taken away, no matter what we do! We can’t earn this love. We just have to accept it.”

“Praying isn’t an optional part of being a disciple of Jesus, just as spending time and talking with your spouse isn’t an optional part of marriage. It is the whole point! It is about growing in love.”

“The two most important things to help us to grow in a life of prayer are humility and consistency. If God is only a part of our lives, we only pray when we are in need. If God is at the heart, we realize that we are always in need - not of His power, but of His love - and we commit ourselves to consistently sit at His feet.”

I offer this passage from Luke 10:38-42 to help us to see the best thing we can do is to sit attentively in prayer, being very aware of Jesus and His love for us. It it not what we are doing for Him, but what we are doing for ourselves in the best way possible.

“As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”