Opening Prayer: Almighty and eternal God, you have created all things according to Your plan from before the beginning of time. I pray You help me receive Your graces and respond to the challenges before me. May all that I do serve You and give You glory. Amen
When you reminisce about your life, aren’t there a mixture of both joyful and sorrowful memories that flow through your mind?
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with George Chemali. George is a Cursillista who is studying for the Deaconate. George was infected with the Corona Virus at the beginning of February. Shortly thereafter George’s wife Julianna was also infected. George is a special case since he has very bad Asthma and unfortunately the infection has really debilitated him. I speak to you tonight of George because it is amazing to see George’s take on what has happened to him.
George has only gratitude for his situation. He sees his illness as a way of furthering his ministry. He believes he can minister to our congregation because he knows first hand what surviving a setback can do to a person’s life and family. He believes that his experiences will make him a better Deacon and able to serve our parish. Amazing Eh?
The expression “In the Grand Scheme of Things” refers to the idea that there is divine providence working in our lives. We Catholics refer to “Let go and Let God” or “Give it Over to God. When we see coincides in our lives that we might refer to as “miracles” are we not saying there has to have been some divine intervention for this event? But when our lives are falling apart, do we ever think that there is some divine providence in those events also?
No one understood this enigma like the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-17) who speaks of his “far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death. Five times …. I received forth lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep … in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure.”
Well, who can outdo that catalog of afflictions? Yet, despite all those terrible ordeals, it is the same Saint Paul who declares in Romans 8:35-39: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life … no present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Through the troubles that befall us, the Divine makes us realize that there is something greater at work in our lives than our problems. Can we ponder that the problems that are plaguing us today, are a way for us to grow or change our lives and that too is maybe part of some Divine Plan?
Saint Claude imagines the Lord saying: “Let Me manage your affairs and look after your interests. I know better what you need as opposed to what you want. If I paid heed to what you think you need, you would have been ruined long ago.”
Spiritual writer Jesuit Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure says: “What the Divine ordains in us and for us is suited to our strength and capabilities, so that everything may serve to our advantage and perfection if we but cooperate with the designs of HIS providence. Basically, he is saying: “Move over and get out of God’s way.”
How can we get out of God’s way?
1. Count your blessings every day – perhaps there are many positive things going on at the same time your life seems to be falling apart.
2. Meditate, visit the Adoration Chapel and pray (especially the Rosary) to alleviate stress.
3. Your life needs to be a balance of work, relaxation, play and sleep.
4. Turn to friends, family, or clergy for consolation.
5. Keep an ongoing dialogue with God. Ask God what He wants you to do?
I will leave you with my favorite small antidote called When Your Hut’s on Fire:
The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. One day, after scavenging for food, he arrives home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt the worst had happened and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief and anger. He cried out: “God how could you do this to me?” Early the next day he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. The weary man asked his rescuers: “how did you know I was here?” They replied: “we saw your smoke signal”.
The morale of this story is: “It’s easy to get discouraged when things are going badly, but we shouldn’t lose heart because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember that the next time your hut seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the Grace of God.
My own experience many years ago of God’s intervention in my life was when I was living in Middletown and teaching on Staten Island for 15 years. I was excessed from my school and transferred to the High School I attended in Brooklyn. This was not only a financial burden (crossing two bridges) but emotionally I had to leave my friends and support system at the school at which I was teaching for so many years. I can remember driving there on my first day crying as I was crossing the bridge asking God “why have you done this to me?” I was miserable. Little did I know that 6 months later my mother would be confined to a hospital in Brooklyn and because I was working in Brooklyn, I could spend precious time with my mother everyday she was in the hospital. It also allowed me to oversee my mother’s treatment and share this responsibility with my sister. Interestingly, 6 months after my mother passed away, I was transferred back to my home school on Staten Island.
Can you think of any event in your life that has been influenced by the providence of the Divine?
Prayer to the Holy Spirit: Desiring the Spirit “Thirst”
You need to be constantly recharged by the power of the Spirit of God. Commune with God in quiet times until the life from God, the Divine life, by that very contact, flows into your being and revives your fainting spirit. When weary, take time out and rest. Rest and gain power and strength from God and then you will be ready to meet whatever opportunities come your way. Rest. Allowing every care and worry and fear to be enveloped by grace, then the tide of peace and serenity, love and joy will flow into your consciousness even in the midst of suffering. (2 Cor. 2:3-7)
Earlier this week I watched an interview of Yusef Salaam. He spent 7 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. If you remember the news he was part of the story and as member of a group that was called the Central Park 5. In this interview he was advertising his new book called “Better not Bitter”. He is of the belief that everyone’s life has a purpose. His was going to jail for a crime he did not commit. He came away believing that if you could change anything in your past, then you will change everything in your present. He believed that he is where he needs to be today. His statement “you cannot testify until you have been tested”, struck me to my core. His last statement in the interview when the interviewer asked him if going to prison was a good thing, he said “No, but God restores what was taken from you 10,000 times more than what was taken from you.”
In a passage I read in the Novena to the Holy Spirit sums up my message: “Romans 5:3-5: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Closing Prayer: Lord, I praise you not only for the blessings of my live, but for the many ways that you have turned sorrow to joy and weakness into strength. You have promised to be with us always, and your constant presence benefits us in ways that become clear only with time. I pray especially in gratitude for the gift of faith, something I could never have constructed or maintained on my own.
God bless you all.