Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on May 20, 2017 at 6:00PM and May 21, 2017 at 8:00AM and 10:30AM Masses
I recently went on retreat with the men of the parish. Then my wife and I drove to Utah on vacation, really I drove 5,000 miles while my wife slept. She awoke for the important things, like the incredible scenery, the points of interest, and when I was being introduced to my new friend, a Utah Highway Patrol officer. Except for that bump in the road, it was good quality time with God.
It’s easy to find God on retreat or vacation. You see God at work in your life; that he has blessed you with the time and resources to go away for a little while. It’s quiet, peaceful, and unhurried so you have many opportunities to speak and listen to God in prayer. You walk and drive with God through the beauty of his creation, whether it’s a beach, a park, the snow-covered Rocky Mountains in Colorado, or the colorful canyons in Utah. You will even find God in other people. It’s amazing how friendly everyone is when you share a rocky, steep, uneven, and possibly dangerous trail on the edge of a cliff a couple of thousand feet above a canyon. Not only do people say “hello,” but they go out of their way to make sure you are OK, ask if you need help, and will even insist, “No, you go first.”
Now retreat and vacation are over. I had to go back to work and I even had to work last weekend. The beauty, quiet, and peacefulness of the mountains and canyons has been replaced with the noise and traffic of Route 28. As I walk to work downtown, people rush to work, ignoring those around them, especially the homeless people asking for their attention. Each bus unloads a long stream of unfriendly people that push and bump their way past me on their way to work. God is still a large part of my life since I returned home, but he is certainly harder to find than he was on retreat and vacation.
But that is the issue for us, isn’t it? We all experience God at various times in our lives: maybe on vacation, retreat, here at Mass, or the quiet of prayer, but how often do we recognize God’s presence in the regular and ordinary moments of our life? Of course we should remember that God is always with us. Today’s gospel reminds us of this. The Holy Spirit, is with us, in us, and remains always. God’s very Spirit dwelling within us. Not just on retreat, or vacation, or here at Mass, but always, in the ordinary moments of our everyday lives. In fact our relationship with God is very close and intimate. In today’s gospel Jesus says, “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” You can’t get any closer than that.
In Zion National Park there is a four mile trail that climbs 2,180 feet above the bottom of the canyon to a point that overlooks the entire park. It is incredibly steep and takes an old deacon and his wife about 5 hours total to complete the eight mile round trip. I certainly had many special moments with God along the way. I saw God in the beauty of his creation and several times I talked with God in prayer to help me get over my fear of heights during steep and scary sections of the trail. But for much of the way I thought about other things, not God, to be completely honest; things like “I feel so old and tired,” “My legs hurt,” “It is only 50 degrees and I’m still thirsty,” “I hope the altitude is the reason why I can’t catch my breath right now,” and “Maybe we should just turn around and give up.”
The same thing happens in our daily lives. We forget, ignore, or lose God at home, school, and work. We get busy and caught up in the activities and to-do lists of our lives and we forget that the Lord is with us. God takes a back seat in our lives, way back in the third or fourth row of the SUV that is our life. But it only takes a few moments to pause and invite the Lord to be with us and fill our hearts in a special way during the ordinary moments of our day. We can turn to our Lord and simply say “Lord, fill my heart and this moment with you and your Spirit.” Jesus may be just as bored as you during that staff meeting, but take a moment to invite him to be with you. Jesus may not like algebra class, standing in long lines at the store, a slow commute, or travelling hundreds of miles through the empty fields of Nebraska and Iowa, but he will accept your invitation when you offer it to him because he cares enough to want to share all of the moments of our lives with us, especially the ordinary ones. Peter in the today’s second reading talks about “sanctifying Christ as Lord in your hearts.” This is what we are doing each time we invite the Lord into our hearts and the ordinary moments of our day, and each time we do so we remember the Lord (instead of forgetting, ignoring, or losing him), the Spirit works within us, and our ordinary moments are transformed into the something special that they become when our Lord is involved.
Our Lord speaks to us in our hearts, but our busy days lack the peace and quiet needed to hear his voice. We can take some time in our busy day to pray, but if you do so in a meeting at work, I will warn you that people will think you have fallen asleep. How can we pray continuously throughout our busy day, to hear the Lord’s voice speaking to us in our hearts?
One of the best ways to have the Lord speak to you in our hearts is to reflect on the Word of God. It does not need to take long either. All you need is a small word or phrase from scripture that you remember or have written down to reflect on during the day. I have a calendar of Bible verses on my desk at work that I use. Maybe a phrase from the readings at Mass strikes you. You can even pick up the Bible gathering dust on the coffee table or shelf and just flip it open and select a verse at random. Many people have great experiences doing this. Recall the word or phrase at various times during the day and see how the Lord is speaking to you through his Word at that particular moment. It doesn’t take much time or effort and it helps you recognize the Lord’s presence in your life and will allow him to lead and guide you along the path of life, through even the most ordinary moments. The Lord will speak to you and guide you in amazing and surprising ways when you sanctify the Lord in your heart through his Word in this way.
After my wife and I made it to our destination at the top of the canyon, we celebrated, enjoyed the incredible view above Zion National Park, thanked God for guiding us there, and took pictures to remember the moment. But before we walked the trail back down, I went very carefully to the edge of the cliff, and looked straight down 2,180 feet to the bottom of the canyon. One of the other hikers noticed how nervous I was and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to figure out how to fly on the way down.” His friend added, “And you’ll have plenty of time to find God, if you don’t.”
We don’t have to find God. He is with us now and each and every moment of every day. He is with us always, no matter how rocky, uneven, or treacherous the road of life becomes. He will do anything to guide us, protect us, and bring us peace and calm, even when we feel that we are about to slip and fall over a steep cliff or we simply just want to give up. Our Lord is in our hearts ready to transform the most ordinary moments of our lives whenever we turn to him.
Our Lord is with us now guiding us to our ultimate destination!
Rejoice and be glad!