I have always loved the season of autumn. When I was growing up I loved the smell that was unique to that time of year which mostly originated from the crisp air and the falling leaves. Though the autumn signaled cooler weather and the loss of summer activities, I loved how the briskness of the air made me feel more awake and alive. I always thought of it as football weather. But since I no longer live in the north where this was how I remember autumn, I long for it now. So while most other people talk about getting 'Spring fever' in the early months of the year, the months that I get an urge to be outdoors are in the autumn. Therefore one could say I get 'Fall fever,' (which is not to be confused with seasonal allergies, though I get those, too.)
The change of seasons reminds us that all of life is about change. Things rarely stay the same. We have all heard the dictum that the only things in life that stay the same are taxes and change. There is truth to that. This week's Sunday gospel reminded us that we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's. Even Jesus had to pay his taxes! The point there is that we need to do what it takes to be a good citizen, so long as the gospel is our guide. However, even our taxes change. All things are in motion and we either learn how to go with the flow or we fight it, going kicking and screaming into the future, but going nonetheless.
The very same gospel I just referred to makes it clear that we have responsibilities to live according to the teaching of Jesus, so we are right to fight some change. However, we have to discern carefully what we are called to fight, inform our fight with the Gospel, that is, to do what we do with love, and stay the course in that attempt. But there are other things which we do not have the ability to change, such as the march of time and the changes which come with that. These are the areas in which we need to pray for the grace to let go of that which needs letting go, and for the ability to embrace that which is new, though it might possibly be scary or challenging at first.
One thing that never changes, and which can help us with everything else, is the love of the Lord for us. God is unchanging, and that He is with His people is everlasting. He has made covenants with us since He created humankind; the final one was sending His Son, Jesus, to bring us redemption and the gift of everlasting life. Jesus has opened Heaven to us and has given us what we need in order to guide us there. And as if that is not enough, Jesus promised to remain with us until the end of time, and has sent His Holy Spirit to do just that. He is with us and so therefore we can say with the Psalmist: "How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of hosts." (Psalm 84) This refers not only to what is to come, but to what is here. His dwelling place is within the hearts of all the baptized. He makes a home within us, and the love He has for us will never change.
This is not really new. In the Book of Exodus we read how God led His people to freedom. They were being led from cruel slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, yet they grumbled continually as they faced the uncertainty of the journey. They had to trust Moses, who was God's spokesman, which ultimately meant they had to trust God. Even though they saw God's miracles in how He fed them and gave them to drink, and even though they saw His presence in the column of cloud by day and the column of fire by night, they still wavered in their faith. They lacked all the details about when and how they would get to the land they sought; they did not have any sense of the future. But God told them to trust and that He would make good His promise. The faithful ones did hold fast, but many of the people lost that trust and strayed through the fashioning of a home-made god. This disappointed God and there were consequences, not because God loves to punish, but because they needed to see that He was indeed their God. In the end God held up His end of the promise, even though the people broke their end of it over and over.
Many of the biblical stories involved the same sort of situations we face today. We have no more ability to know the future then they did, so we have to rely on faith, hope, and love and the promises made by God which we can see are always fulfilled. Though things will seem to change just as we have gotten used to them, the constant is that we have God with us. When we become too comfortable, we find ourselves challenged by change. This is true of all things from how we pray to dealing with shifting relationships, shifting social norms, the speed of technological growth, and most especially the process of aging.
In our prayer lives, God will call us to something deeper if we are faithful to it. At first this can be disconcerting because what used to work is no longer satisfying. Prayer can seem tedious and boring, even ‘dry as the desert.’ But when this happens it may be that God is offering us something in which He is more in control than we are. We need to use our faith and remember that in His love He may be giving us the gift of deeper prayer. People are often tempted to quit praying when this shift happens, so a good spiritual director can help us to discern what is really going on.
We face the greatest challenges with day-to-day change. One minute we are young and the next we realize a number of decades have gone by and we can no longer do what we used to do; or we can, but it requires more effort (or more pain reliever.) Despite what the commercial, anti-aging industry tells us, there is nothing we can do except the best we can to go with the natural flow. We should take care of ourselves and be good stewards of the gift of our bodies, but we also need to accept that there is a process to everything over which we have no real control. We will get older. The one promise He has made, the most important promise, is that we are not alone. The Lord is with us through our friends and families, He has given us a guardian angel, and He is by our side every step of the way.
We will never have that proverbial crystal ball we want: 100% certainty is simply not ours to have. And thank God for that. To always know what is to come would mean we would have the insight to see all things, so we would never need to rely on the One who loves us. It would tempt us to a power far too great for us to wield, given our brokenness. Rather, God in His wisdom asks us to trust Him that even when things look bleak and even when we are suffering, He is with us. Jesus never promised us that our lives would be easier than His. Rather, He promised that He would never leave our sides and that He would help us to weather the storms with His grace. He promised us unending love which comes to us as comfort, tenderness, forgiveness, guidance, joy, and faithfulness. The journey of life is the journey to Heaven, so going with the flow, knowing that through it all He is with us, is the only way to go. In both the Old and New Testaments He frequently says, “Do not be afraid.” If we trust this and cast all our worries upon the Lord we have nothing to fear. (1 Peter 5:7) Let us trust in His promises, acknowledge that we are in His presence and say with the Psalmist: “But I, though the greatness of your love, have access to your house.” (Psalm 5:8) Thanks be to God!
May we trust in the promises of God, remembering that He has never let His people down and always does as He has said! May we pray for the needs of our brothers and sisters in the world! May we trust that the Lord is with us, especially in times of trouble! May we accept the gift of peace offered to us by the Holy Spirit! May we utilize the gifts of faith, hope, and love! And may we learn to recognize the presence of God who loves us beyond what we can imagine! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The photos are all mine. The first was taken at Lost Maples State Park in Texas. The second was taken in Sicily, near Contessa Entellina. The third is Michelangelo's Moses which is found in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) in Rome.
The two images were painted by Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first is called The Name of God Shekinah. It is the tetragrammaton, that is, the I AM WHO AM, spoken by God to Moses. It is represented in the cloud which is a symbol for the protective presence of God leading the people. If you would like to obtain a copy it can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/30-the-name-of-god-shekinah.
The second is The Name of God Yahweh which is another representation of the tetragrammaton. In this one the letters are superimposed with the symbol of fire, which is God's presence also. It can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/31-the-name-of-god-yahweh.
Heart Speaks to Heart