May 3, 2020
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ; fellow priesthood members; I do miss each of you as things beyond our control separate us physically but not in spirit. I am picturing your faces as I write. Some of us or those we know may feel as if we are sinking as so much is out of our control. We wonder what will be the “new” normal. It may seem like we are under house arrest and want to break out as we can grow restless. But, as yet, we can’t here in Florida. With this as a background, my mind was drawn to the story of Jonah.
In the Old Testament Book of Jonah, Chapter 2 we read how Jonah had sunk into the depths of a stormy sea. The waves were above him and the seaweed was wrapping around his head. He was about to drown as he cried out to God in deep despair; then when all seemed lost, the Lord snatched him up out of the jaws of death (the whale). Jonah says to God: “When I had lost all hope I turned my thought once more to the Lord……I will never worship anyone but you! For how I can thank you enough for all you have done?” Jonah goes on to say: “Deliverance comes from God alone!” With that, the Lord ordered the whale to “spit up” Jonah on the beach, and it did. Then, the Lord told Jonah “go to Nineveh” and Jonah “obeyed”.
In the times we are in, we may feel we are sinking because of the virus and other life situations that are happening beyond our control. We may be learning that we never had nearly the control we once thought! And so, many of us, like Jonah, find ourselves turning to God in deep heartfelt prayer. One thing I noticed about my prayer life (which I must work on) is my prayers of thanks are not nearly as intense and heartfelt as when I pray a prayer out of desperation when I realize I’m drowning. It is then that I say with Jonah, “deliverance comes from God alone” for I am nothing. Throw me a life raft, God; even a whale will do! Please take me to my Nineveh.
Our daughter-in-law Julie was desperately trying to find a way to visit her mom, in Missouri. Julie’s mom has been put under hospice care in a nursing facility. Julie was anxious to see her mom while her mom is alive and coherent. But there were things beyond her control that could have prevented this from happening. As Julie and I shared together over the phone, we prayed and turned everything over to God to find a way. Julie is one of thousands in similar situations. A couple of days after our prayer time, Julie let me know that a way had opened up; she is going to be with her mom. She will be able see and speak to her mom through a first floor window in the nursing home. Like the story of Jonah, God heard our desperate prayers and deliverance came. Julie, like Jonah, can’t thank God enough.
Through the story of Jonah, we are reminded that not only can God deliver us but God will. Not too far in the future we will reflect and see how God was at work but didn’t seem or feel it. Then we, like Jonah will say “God, I can’t thank you enough for all you have done!” And God might well say, “You are welcome, now go on to your Nineveh’s.” Christ’s Mission our Mission.
Our closing prayer comes from a prayer written centuries ago by Teresa of Avila (1515-1852). Teresa was a special mystic whose greatest desire was to be at one with God through meditation and contemplation. She probably got as close to God as any human. People came from all over to learn and receive spiritual direction from her. Many of the spiritual practices we use today came from Teresa and others like her from the early church. Teresa was not a prayer only. While Teresa lived much of her life in pain caused by poor health, she didn’t allow her physical condition to stand in her way. She was able to build up to two convents per year; she was successful as an administrator, organizer, and in business as well as diplomacy; all at a time when women in and out of the church were 2nd class at best. She also had to walk a fine line as this was during the Spanish Inquisition when if you were found in “transgression” you could be beaten and tortured. She didn’t dare step into male territory. She overcame all. In my Spiritual Formation Studies, Teresa is one of my favorite mystics. Please read up on her.
In Proverbs 4:12 we read: “Nothing will stand in your way if you walk wisely, and will not stumble when you run.” Teresa’s life is living proof of this scripture. Please savor the words and attitude of Teresa’s prayer. I believe praying this prayer to be a wonderful way to start each new day and hold on to it. As it did for Teresa, I truly believe by living out these words we will find true joy, hope, love, peace and compassion within and without for all people and creation.
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing upset you.
God alone is unchanging.
With patience all things are possible.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough. Amen.
In Christ-like love; your brother and servant in Christ;
May 3, 2020