26 November 2010 Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
Rev 20: 1-4, 11 – 21:2; Psalm 84; Luke 21: 29-33
There are times when our life’s journey becomes tiresome. The weariness is often caused by a realization that we are not going anywhere like walking on a treadmill. We think that we are not moving towards our goals; our struggles are still the same; our regular sins continue to be our ‘favorites’ and, despite trying, we find ourselves where we left off.
The Gospel today gives us a tip on how to get out of this muck. The Lord gives us the analogy of the fig tree. When it bears some buds, you know summer is near. In other words, there are telltale signs that we are on our way. We can really assess our growths. All it takes, the Lord said, is to train ourselves to see the ‘shoots’ in our lives. Biology tells us that growth happens when you see tiny little leaves coming out of a stem, but it is very difficult to see the movement of growing happening unless we do a time-lapse on a camera. (see time-lapse video below.)
First, we keep our eyes fixed on the goal. Blessed James Alberione* of the Society of St. Paul said that when our journey tires us, “let us recall that the narrow and arduous road we are walking along leads to heaven.” Revelation, in the first reading, offers this thought. At the end of our lives, our good deeds will not go unnoticed in the final judgment. The Lord will reward us. At the end of days, we will belong to the new heaven and the new earth.
How close we are to our goals helps us assess our growth. For example, if our goal is to get a grade of A (or 1) in a certain class, every excellent quiz is a move towards it. If we want to be patient, every time we have controlled our anger or our penchant to expect others to move rapidly as ourselves, we know that we are nearing the summer of our character-building. Our little successes are important. Thinking life as a process or as a journey is, I believe, realistic. Many things do not happen once and for all; they happen because many factors conspired to produce the effect.
Second, we need the skill to be sensitive to these little growths, these tiny successes, these small steps. Like skills, acquiring them takes time, regularity and practice. You can use the following to become more sensitive. It will require just 15 minutes max of your time. You can do it twice a day: before lunch and before you sleep. Or you can practice it as part of your evening prayer.
1. Take a few minutes to relax; be sensitive to your breathing; remember that you are always in the presence of the Lord.
2. Review the day, or half of the day (if you’re doing this twice). Just go through the day, like a fast rewind.
3. Stop at the most significant moment of the day where you experienced the presence and/or absence of the Lord. It may be a word or quote from what you read, an encouragement from a co-worker, an inspiration, a loss or discouragement, a hurt, a reminder to call a loved one, etc. If you have more, choose only one. It is better that you savor one event than having many without tasting every detail.
4. In the chosen event, see how God has been present to you. What did you feel at that moment. Identify the feelings: gratitude, joy, happiness, sadness, disturbance, etc.
5. Assess: What does it tell you about yourself? What is God telling you? In positive events, it is usually easy. In negative events, it is challenging. But you can see more significant growths in a hurting experience. Were you challenged to do better? Did it draw you to offer your suffering for a loved one? Did you feel as Jesus felt when He was also rejected, when His prayer like that in Gethsemane was not answered, when He was abandoned by friends, etc. Remember the shoots become more prominent if it is growing from an old, dry stump of a tree.
6. End with a prayer of gratitude. You can end with an oral prayer like the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and/or the Glory Be. I usually end with these three. Why? The Our Father reminds me of whom to adore and whose presence I need. The Hail Mary reminds me of whose example I can emulate and whose affection for me is greater than my love for myself. I have a great love and devotion to Our Mother. The Glory Be makes my heart praise the Trinity who is good and merciful to me all the time.
*Today is the Memorial of Blessed James Alberione