ISSUES OF FAITH: God is nearer to us than we think

WOW, THE FIRST day of September.

Should we say that it was another summer that went way too quick, or a joyous summer that we will experience again after some seasonal rain and football?

Maybe you are glad summer is nearly over, as you have had enough of outside activities and trips to the dump with yard waste. We really have no choice in this seasonal climate but to move on, and so move on we will.

After our annual trip to the Oregon coast and our family reunion, we began our goodbyes and talk of next year, and then we stopped and paused.

We are all getting to the age where nothing is guaranteed next year, and we realized with God’s blessings, we will get together and continue on as if it were a mere week or two since we had seen one another.

So much can happen in a year, but it is useless to be anxious about any of it. It is hard not to worry about certain situations, but we must — that is, not worry.

The easy alternative to worry is prayer. Say a prayer next time you experience anxiety or worry, no matter where you are, and you will feel a difference that can only come from God.

Problems certainly don’t go away, but you learn to see them through a different lens, which is not indifference but love. God loves us and will take care of us. Our eternal home is with him. Speaking and talking and listening to God will add calm to busy and full lives.

Pope Francis this summer placed a sign on the door of his apartment that says, “Vietato Lamentarsi,” which means “It is Forbidden to Complain.”

It is the rare person who never complains. How do they do it, I want to know. In a former job of mine, I once remarked that if complaining were an Olympic sport, we would all be gold medalists.

In Italian and in smaller print, Pope Francis goes on to say, “Offenders are subjected to a syndrome of victimism that lowers the mood and the ability to solve problems.” And that “sanction is doubled if the offense is committed in the presence of children.”

We know what Jesus says about gossip and detraction, saying things that have no value other than the need to tear someone down a notch.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). Jesus adds emphasis in Matthew 15:11 with this: “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”

Pope Francis ends his apartment door homily with this great suggestion: “To become the best of yourself, you must focus on your own potential and not your own limits, so stop complaining and act to change your life better.” This might call us to get out of our “comfort zone,” the predictable, routine highways of our life.

I see kids and adults on a regular basis volunteer to help at time-consuming, energy-sapping events because they have chosen to get out of their comfort zones and get involved. This is how you grow and truly find out who you are as a person.

A personal thanks goes out to all those who helped out at Camp David Jr. vacation Bible school, religious instruction and other events this past year, the payoff being the joy of following something to the finish line, and the grace of God who is pleased when we are gathered in his name.

Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite from 17th-century France, speaks about the presence of God in our lives in a beautiful and simplistic way: “God does not ask much of us, merely a thought of him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for his grace … at other times to thank him … One need not cry out very loudly; he is nearer to us than we think.”

He is nearer to us than we think. Remember that.

Elijah discovered the nearness of God when he met God at Mount Horeb in 1 Kings 19:11-13. God did not reveal himself in the mighty wind, or the earthquake that followed, or the fire, but “in a still, small voice.”

Do not doubt that God is near to us, and ask yourself: If God spoke to you in a still, small voice, could you hear it?

One of those things that appealed to me when I was church-shopping many years ago was the quiet I experienced at a Catholic Mass during the liturgy. Since then, I have been in large fields where 2 million young people have gathered and experienced this same beautiful silence.

Sister Maria Faustina wrote in her diary on the relation of silence and holiness, this from the perspective of life in a religious order and convent, but where the temptations of the world are still at play:

“If silence were strictly observed, there would not be any grumbling, bitterness, slandering, or gossip, and charity would not be tarnished. In a word, many wrongs would not be done. Silent lips are pure gold and bear witness to holiness within” (No. 552).

We pray for a safe, joyful, challenging and, in the end, awesome school year for all those getting ready their backpacks. Aloha.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim.

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