Mass of Nineteenth Sunday of the Year
10 August 2104
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 10.30am.
My dear friends,
Their forever only lasted a handful of years. They were devoted to each other; their lives had gradually become one. But he died young, much too young, with too much of life still ahead of him, leaving her on her own, much too soon. She was overwhelmed with decisions and details of all kinds. She felt herself sinking with the responsibility of raising their daughter without his help. She was terrified at the thought of living alone. With so many tears, in frustration, in loneliness she felt herself crying out inwardly “Lord, save me. I’m sinking. Lord, where are you?”
Then her daughter’s college acceptance letter arrived. It sat on the kitchen counter unopened for days. Her daughter was struggling with her own grief. For the first time death had touched her young life. Finally, one morning when, for the first time in ages there were no arrangements to be made and no mourners to greet, mother and daughter sat together in the kitchen and opened the envelope. For the first time since he died, they talked to one another and they laughed and they cried. They began to plan a new chapter in their life, as a family of two.
She listened to her brother as he advised her to put the business of death behind her. With the help and encouragement of a friend, she took up a job as a pre-kindergarten teacher. She soon discovered that there is nothing like a roomful of four year olds to make you forget your problems. Her Rabbi asked her to help with a community project. She finds in this that she receives as much as she contributes. She misses him terribly every day and that will not change. But the storm of grief has begun to subside and a new chapter in life has opened.
Through our families and friends, in the advice of pastors and teachers, Jesus reaches out to help us in the darkest of times. Despite the storms that batter our boats as we make our way across heavy seas, Christ promises to be the calming presence and steadying hand, if we keep faith in him, who is both our guiding star and our destination. We in turn are meant to be the outstretched hand of Christ for one another. We are meant to create in our homes and churches, our schools and businesses safe and sacred spaces of understanding and support for those struggling to keep their heads above water in life’s turbulent seas. We can be life-lines of support and trust for all who come to us in need.
In her book ‘Hope will find you’, Naomi Levy tells of the wisdom she learned from her daughter Noa, who struggles with a debilitating degenerative disease. One morning in early September, Noa woke up with a severe bout of ataxia, the inability to keep her balance. Noa was staggering like someone who was severely drunk. Her mother wanted to keep her at home from school but Noa, just into her second week in second grade, would not hear of it. She said to her mother, ‘if I pray for a while I’ll be okay.’
So Noa picked herself up, held on to the wall, and made her way to her room. She stood before the mirror and began singing her morning prayers in Hebrew. Her mother watched from a distance, not wanting to disturb her or make her self-conscious. A serenity started to flow through her body. Her mood changed, her posture changed and so did her expression. When she had finished singing, she walked straight to her Mum and said, “I’m ready for school now.” And so she was; prayer could do that for her.
Much of what we learn comes through our children, as well as through our frailty and weakness. We often approach prayer as a means of trying to get what we want or what we think we may need from a God who does not always grant our request. We may also approach prayer by reciting formulae of words that express our religious identity. But at its best, prayer involves talking to and listening to God, recognising God’s love in our lives and finding our bearings in the life of God.
Little Noa understands that. Her morning prayer helps her focus on God’s presence in the challenges and struggles of her life. Just as Jesus withdraws to the mountain at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, we too need sacred time and space where and when we can withdraw to listen to the voice of God in the quiet of our hearts, to know the joy of doing simple, humble things for others. Jesus invites us to find space for prayer and make quiet time in our days so that we can re centre our lives in the reality of God’s love to hear again God’s voice calling us to lives of joyful gratitude and meaningful service.
+Liam S. MacDaid
10 August 2014