May 14, 2017: 5th Sunday A
Click to hear Audio Homily
Around this time of the year many of us receive invitations to high school or college graduations, and we are challenged to find a meaningful graduation gift. Cash, gift cards, a laptop, or a travel voucher come to mind as typical gifts. However, I venture to say there is one gift that you could give that the graduate may not appreciate initially, but will appreciate later. My mom gave such a gift to me when I graduated from high school. Her gift to me was a rosary. The rosary was not just any rosary; the rosary was not even a brand new one. The rosary that she gave me was one that she had prayed with for at least a year. She picked the rosary up early each morning when she woke up and again late at night before she went to bed. Through the contemplative prayer of the rosary she encountered Our Lord through the gentle guiding hands of Blessed Mother. My mother wanted me to experience the deep abiding peace that came with encountering Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in prayer. She knew that I was going to face uncertainties and trying times as I embarked on a new beginning as a college student. One thing she knew in her own experience was that praying the rosary helped her imitate Blessed Mother who trusted in God even when the future was uncertain.
The Gospel we heard today is a discourse from the Last Supper, right before Jesus’ arrest, Passion, and crucifixion. The atmosphere was one of gloom and anxiety as the enemies of Jesus closed in around him. Our Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” He spoke those words to assure his disciples during such time of anxiety. Jesus called his disciples to trust in His Father and to trust in Him. These words were not only for the disciples but are so necessary for our graduates and for each of us. There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove, and to accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that the purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light. Trusting in Jesus means that even in the worst-case scenarios in our lives, God will not allow us to be crushed and lost. In those times we try our best and trust that God will take care of the rest.
Jesus also said, speaking to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Ever since Adam and Eve fled the Garden of Eden after their fall, we too struggle with conflicting desires within us--a part of us desires to be close to God, while the other part of us desires to flee from him. There is a sacred space that God created deep within our soul, what spiritual writers call “the heart,” that we are called to journey to every moment. However, original sin pulls us away from making that journey, leaving us to feel empty and unsatisfied. We restlessly seek for something or someone else to fill this empty feeling, but are never satisfied because only our communion with Heavenly Father fully satisfies us.
Jesus said that only through him, with him, and in him, we find our way back to the Heavenly Father, the One who awaits in that sacred space within us to heal and fill our deepest desires. How do we accomplish this daily, to find our way back to the Father? The way back to the Father is to turn our hearts and minds to Him through prayer. A very effective prayer is Blessed Mother’s rosary, which allows us a way to have an intimate encounter with Her Son who is the merciful face of the Father. Most of us have difficulty praying because the distractions within and outside of our soul pull us away from encountering Him. We are frequently on the surface of our soul, like a styrofoam cup tossed about on the surface of an ocean. The commotion of our selfishness, jealousy, anger, lust, and greed pulls us toward the surface and the superficial. We need a way to go deeper into the sacred space within our soul where God and his love can be found and experienced.
When we thumb through the beads of a rosary in our hands and recite the words of the Our Father and Hail Mary, our conscious attention begins to dive deeper into the depths of our soul. We achieve interior silence as our body and mind are quieted down. Our often busy imagination then focuses on the mystery of Our Lord’s life, and we are transported beyond time and space to the very presence of Our Lord who is the way, the truth, and the life. A storm of thoughts and distractions may go on above us, but as we provide a minimal inner movement of our fingers, our lips, and our imagination, we remain in the depths of our soul in union with God who loves us.
What a gift it is give to someone who is experiencing uncertainty or turbulence in their lives when we give them the gift of prayer--for example, to hand them a rosary that we prayed with personally! It’s like giving someone scuba gear to help them dive deep to harvest pearls of their soul. My own mother wanted to share with me the grace of encountering Jesus in the depths of her soul by giving me her personal rosary. Sometimes we don’t realize how powerful the gift of prayer is for someone. Do you have a rosary that’s been gathering dust? I encourage you to begin to pray with that rosary and make it a gift for someone in your life. Heavenly Father awaits patiently within us, calling for us to be with Him. We sense this as a longing, hunger, or thirst. Are we prepared to make that choice to leave the distraction behind and begin our daily pilgrimage to Him?