Tag Archives: friendship

Distractions: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #2

Another peculiar package of God’s blessings are distractions in my “prayer life.”[1] How can I conceive of such a thing? Distractions, after all, take you away from prayer! Nonetheless, I am convinced that, in some way, distractions are a blessing. Like the previous package of pride, distractions are something with which I am plagued and at the same time, through God’s grace, by which I find another path to faith.

I am convinced that, without God’s help, I cannot get rid of distractions in prayer. I used all the techniques in the world: from anxiously waiting for them to pop up so that I can banish them from my thoughts [a useless exercise in futility; they only become the focus of my attention] to sitting on the riverside, letting them float off into the oblivion. I have prayed until I am blue in the face for God to set me free of them…but normally, in everyday ordinary prayer, be it my own or during the Eucharist, the recitation of the Hours or the rosary, etc., distractions arise from every point of the compass, flights of fancy, starting piously innocent but ending up far afield.

On special occasions God grants me the blessings of focus and concentration.[2] But the majority of the time that I am plagued by distractions about everything under, and even beyond, the sun.

Are these simply the floating garbage of life washing up on the beaches of my prayer? To regard them as such would be to somehow fall into the trap of separating my body, mind and emotions from my soul, my spiritual life from my “normal, everyday” life, the sacred from the secular. Since this is the opposite of what I know to be true, the oneness and unity beneath the structure of the analytical categories into which I box reality, how should I re-evaluate these distractions in light of God’s providence? How do I refocus my vision to bring into alignment God’s knowledge of these distractions with their seemingly ungodly purpose of taking me away from prayer, from talking with Him, from praising and reverencing Him, that is my purpose in life? His constant answer: “I am here, learn from it. My grace is sufficient for you.[3][2Cor 12:9]” I must understand why this answer to my pleas are part and parcel of His unconditional love and desire for my greatest happiness, when in fact, these torture me constantly.

This is not an “either/or,” but, like many of God’s mysteries a “both/and.” I also find there are many intertwining answers: (a) growth in faith and humility, (b) seeing God in all things, even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant things in life, and (c) acceptance of my vocation to live the life of the ordinary Sunday-go-to-Church Catholic with all its joys and sorrows, ups and downs, desolations and consolations, nothing out of the ordinary, and with great need to find God right there in the midst of all that clutter of life, chaos of family and job.

I am what is to be a sheep of which Pope Francis wants the clergy is to smell. I am one of the millions and billions who live lives trying to bridge the gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, between doctrine and dogma and the lived reality in God’s world. I am only one very small part of this Church in the Modern World, this Body of the Cosmic Christ. I am a beneficiary with all of the blessed mercy and forgiveness necessary to transform the world into God’s Kingdom. And if I do my part of that right here in W. Pawlet, Vermont, and you do your part in San Francisco, Tokyo, San Paulo, Seoul, Beijing, Mumbai, then, not by our individual or even combined efforts, but by the power and providence of the Father working through the Holy Spirit to bring the world to His Son, this ultimate transformation will happen.

Distractions are a microcosms, the evidences of this life and, if I, by realizing that they too are God’s reflection, can use them to come to Him,[4] then I will have brought one more microscopic portion of the Kingdom into focus. I don’t always achieve this; in fact, it is a rarity that I even am conscious of this. But, like Merton, “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” [5] And, in that, I am comforted.

Finally, one of the blessings that You, God, have brought about with distractions is my confrontation with “You.” By constantly realizing that I am off the track again, that I have wandered, I then find you searching for me even there. You are indeed the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find this one lone straggler and bring me home on Your shoulders. You exude the smell You wish Your sheep to have, the odor of humility and faith, “of sanctity” as it use to be known. By humbling Yourself in constant service to us, Your brothers and sisters, Your creatures no less, You provide an example for us to follow…You walk the walk, not just talk the talk. By having faith in me as a person, that I am someone for whom it is worth Your time and energy to go out and search, You extend to me the hand of fellowship, of love, of caring; You hope that I will return. And by setting me on Your shoulders with great joy, You show me by your emotions that the joy of the Gospel is a lived joy, a joy of deep friendship, of love, of the bonding of Shepherd and sheep, of God and man. Your actions make clear that there is really and truly more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. [Lk 15:5,7]

So I keep fighting the distractions, shooing them away, to come to You. But at least I know that You are with me anyway and that I am beloved by You, even when distracted. Would that I were not distracted in prayer with You, in conversation with You, in communion with You! But I am and probably will continue to be. I thank You for coming to find me and for our bonding each time after Your rescuing me once again. That is truly such a blessing. Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] “Prayer life” is somewhat of a misnomer. It is normally used to designate that time or portion of one’s life which is set aside specifically for talking with God. While Jesus Himself taught us by example that there are times each day you need to go up to your mountain alone and pray, particularly before making important decisions, He also modeled praising God and speaking about God and calling on Him throughout his normal day. Finding God in all things, in the world around me, is not a separate special investigation I undertake only when I put my mind to it. It is a constant habit that I enjoy, finding, seeing, talking to God wherever I am, whatever I am doing, with whomever I am.   Thus, prayer life is all life seen from the perspective of living in God’s presence and carrying on conversations with Him as you do with family and friends throughout your busy day.

[2] One of the reasons I pray at my computer, typing what comes up between God and myself, is that I am not so distracted, I am forced to concentrate, I can listen to the Spirit for the next inspiration, for His reading on the topic, for what is true and what is false, what is on target and what is not….and raise my mind and my heart to Him in thanksgiving and praise as I relish and record to the best of ability His wondrous view of reality, a feeble attempt at recording a grand masterpiece.

[3] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

[4] Not “back” to Him; He is, somehow in some manner which may be totally unrecognizable to me, present in all things, people, and places; so my realization is just an awareness of Whom is already there.

[5] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton > Quotes > Quotable Quote, Good Reads, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/80913-my-lord-god-i-have-no-idea-where-i-am


I’m Afraid of You, Jesus

Jn 6:19b They saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. [1]

This fascinates me…We see Jesus and we’re afraid. We see Jesus and we’re afraid? [2] John is very subtle about this. These hardened fishermen were use to rough seas, waves and wind. They do not frighten easily. But seeing Jesus, a human being, a man, walk on the sea and not only that, but coming toward them, they began to be afraid. Not quite the terror of Matthew nor the crying out in fright of Mark. Just an inkling of fear, thank you. Maybe John was a bit ashamed that he did not recognize the Lord as he later does after the resurrection[Jn 21:7]…this was a learning experience, what can I tell you.

How often am I terrified when Jesus, in the person of one of these, the least of my brethren, [Mt 25:40,45] walks toward me, encounters me, confronts me. While I refrain from the crying out bit, the rest is very real. What do you want of me? How do you expect me to help you? I can barely help myself. In fact, I can’t truly, really help myself at all,…I only fake it, fumbling around, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. [Mt 12:45; Lk 11:26] I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m busy…can’t you see I’m busy. I don’t care if its jigsaw puzzles or FreeCell or Tetris or fill in the blank on the computer…I’m busy. I don’t care if you’re waiting; I’m busy texting, tweeting, blogging, rummaging through the caverns of life, not certain where I am going or what I am doing…but whatever it is, it is more important than you,…or you…or You…oh, I’m sorry Jesus, I didn’t recognize You…for You I have time…I’ll be right with You…just have to finish this text, email, puzzle, game, letter, memo, whatever.

Jesus, You warn us that You will be coming, that you will be knocking at my door, that you will be persistent, patiently standing, waiting for me to answer: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. [Rev 3:20a] My response: ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ [Lk 11:7]

I really, in my heart of hearts, don’t want to miss you. I don’t want to not have you come to me and make Your dwelling in me. [Jn 14:23b] But I have to let in the rest along with You… You warned me: what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. [Mt 25:45] You commanded me to love one another. [Jn 13:24] You point out who’s our neighbor, that derelict, that busy-body, that persistent 3-year-old, that nudgy boss, that bore, that hussy, that Koch brother, that ISIS executioner, that Muslim, that Jew, that African/Native/Hispanic American, that illegal, that homosexual, that abortionist, that politician, that…that…that[Lk 10: 25-37]. YIKES!!! If I ignore them, revile them, slander them, even in my mind [Mt 5:28], You see through my pretense, You knock me off my high horse and scream in agony: Why are you persecuting me? [Acts 9:4;22:7]

You are the ultimate nudgy neighbor: I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. [Lk 11:8] For this I thank you. No matter how many times I push You away in others, You keep sending them back. Please keep sending them back. Please help me to open myself, to allow them in, to love them as You did, to risk the possibility of hurt, picking up our cross and follow you amid the taunts and jeers.

But keep me open, help me to hear you in them, help me to open the door. Then, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. [Rev 3:20b] Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Matthew and Mark try to put this in context; they clarify that the Apostles thought they saw a ghost. [Mt 14:26; Mk 6:49].