Presence: God’s Blessings

Presence: God’s Blessings

August 30, 2020 | N W | Blessings, Comfort, Faith, Father Salvador, Joy, Prayer, Self-Reflection, Wisdom

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 30, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Jer 20:7-9 / Ps 63 / Rom 12:1-2 / Mt 16:21-27
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor

A couple of decades ago, I had the privilege of being around a group of Religious who were just sparkling with joy. They are called Dominican Sisters of Sparkill and I happened to be their chaplain for a couple of years. I would say those were “heaven on earth” experiences. It was a joy to watch those nuns, especially those who lived in the retirement section and the infirmary. They spent the whole day thanking and praising the Lord.

One afternoon, I had the privilege of seeing Sister Mark, who at that time was already in her late 80s or early 90s, watching a squirrel that was about three feet in front of her. She was just so happy and joyful, like a little child. When the squirrel left and she saw me, she said, “Father, what a blessing it is for us to be here, watching that beautiful creature.” (A squirrel—many of you may be shooting at squirrels with your BB guns, because they are eating your bird food. I let my dogs drive them away!)

But Sister Mark was just so happy to see that beautiful creature. Not only that, but she was saying, “What have I done in this world to deserve this wonderful life I have? To live in this beautiful place!” And she couldn’t help but thank God for all her blessings.

I was thinking to myself: What blessings? They had nothing; they owned nothing. Just a few yards from where she was sitting was the cemetery, their own cemetery, where she will be buried. She was a woman who was very successful in her career, as a professional. She left it all to join the Dominicans, serve the orphans, serve the poor. And yet she was saying it was such a blessed life.

A day before that, I was with a group of friends and relatives in Manhattan. While having dinner, a couple of them were complaining about almost everything in this world. Here was a man who had a very good job, with flashy cars, and yet, compared to this nun who had nothing, the difference was night and day. Why? As Jesus said in today’s gospel, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I come that you may have life and have it in all its fullness.”

What this group of nuns is doing is not all that different from what many of us, as Christians, do. What they do there in the convent is something we can do wherever we are, whatever may be our state of life, because we can be aware of God’s presence “twenty-four seven.” We don’t have to be a nun or monk to do that. We can just go on with our lives and be in God’s presence, be aware of His presence and communicate with Him through prayer.

The nuns have problems like many of us. They also get sick, and many are in pain. In fact, one day, one of the sisters there was in the chapel the entire day. Since the chapel was right next to the chaplain’s room, I noticed and asked her if she was on retreat the whole day. She said, “No, Father. My sister just died. I am too sick to be there for the funeral, so I am praying for her here in the chapel, for the same Jesus who is now welcoming her into His eternal kingdom is the same Jesus who is here with us.” What a beautiful outlook. This is how they see life. Not only that, they immerse themselves in the Good News.

Every single day, we have the opportunity to either continue to listen to the bad news of what’s going on through the TV, newspaper, and other people, or to be immersed in God’s living words. I’m not saying that we should stop listening to or watching the news. We should be aware of what is going on. But, if we spend almost the whole day reading all the posts on Facebook or Twitter, and not listening to God’s words or reading what God has to say, then maybe we should modify our schedule a little bit.

Whether we like it or not, we will be formed by the ideas of others, if that’s what we listen to. What should form us instead is what God has designed us to be. He has given us a life in all its fullness and He is the way, the truth, and the life.

St. Augustine, whose feast day we celebrated a couple of days ago, said, “My heart is restless until it rests in You.” When he finally discovered his faith and the difference that God could make in his life, he was never the same again.

Sometime in the past, we must have discovered the difference of being in God’s presence, and that is the reason why we are here in the sanctuary of Holy Name of Mary, and that is the reason why you are all there, joining us in prayer, through Facebook Live. Because we believe and we continue to hold on to our faith that the Lord, as He promised, is with us.

May we continue to immerse ourselves in God’s words and listen to the Good News every single day. As St. Paul said in today’s second reading, which is taken from his letter to the Romans, “Brothers and sisters…do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

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