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On November 20, the Solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis closed the Holy Doors in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome thus completing the Extra-ordinary Holy Year of Mercy. 39 pilgrims from The Basilica of Saint Mary were in Rome for this celebration. Our Basilica Schola Cantorum sang for the Mass. It truly was a beautiful and joy-filled liturgy. Pope Francis spoke about the past year with appreciation and gratitude. He also indicated that a lot remains to be done.
To that end Pope Francis wrote an Apostolic Letter entitled: “Misericordia et Misera” or “Mercy and Misery” or one could say: “mercy meets and heals misery.” St. Augustine used these two words to describe the meeting between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11). This life changing encounter between Jesus and the woman pre-figures our own encounter with Jesus for we too, though sinners, are the recipients of God’s mercy.
In this beautiful letter Pope Francis wrote: “The Jubilee now ends and the Holy Door is closed. But the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open. We have learned that God bends down to us (cf. Hos 11:4) so that we may imitate Him in bending down to our brothers and sisters.”
He goes on to say that we need to deepen our commitment to mercy by celebrating the mercy we have been shown by God; by witnessing about God’s mercy to the world; by sharing God’s mercy with the world; and by showing mercy to all those around us. In essence he once again calls on us to embrace a culture of encounter characterized by mercy, love and tenderness; a culture that tears down walls and builds bridges; a culture that invites dialogue instead of division; a culture that lifts people up rather than putting people down.
In one of the most beautiful passages of the letter, Pope Francis calls on us to “unleash the creativity of mercy” so as “to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.” In response, here at The Basilica of Saint Mary we decided to continue on the path of mercy by initiating a Revolution of Love and Tenderness. Revolutions, peaceful and otherwise, have changed the world. Our suffering world is in dire need of great change. So we propose a peaceful revolution accomplished through love and tenderness, two Christian strengths Pope Francis often links to mercy.
How will this revolution manifest itself? It will manifest itself when we protect creation and respect and honor all life. It will manifest itself when we bridge divisions and work for the common good. It will manifest itself when we stop all discrimination and accept one another no matter our class, race, age, gender, sexuality, creed, physical or mental ability. It will manifest itself when we end all speech and acts of hatred. It will manifest itself when we put the “we” before the “I.”
During this upcoming Year of Our Lord 2017 may we truly find ways to bring about a Revolution of Love and Tenderness for the much needed healing of our world.
Waiting. I don’t think we’re very good at it anymore. But then again, maybe we never were very good at it. In this fast paced, electronically driven, and hectic world we seem to get frustrated very easily if we have to wait for any length of time. We’ve gone from voicemail to email. That wasn’t fast enough, so now we text and instant message people. And waiting in a line at a store or at a stoplight can feel like doing hard time in prison. Waiting feels like time wasted. And who can afford to waste time these days. We are a busy people. We have way too much to do. Every second counts.
But now we are in the season of Advent, and Advent is all about waiting. During this season, we remember all those faithful and faith-filled people who waited in hope for the messiah to come. So maybe a little waiting is a good thing. Now I know this is probably a heretical thought for some people. I think, though, that there are some real and tangible benefits to waiting. In fact, I’d like to suggest four specific benefits to waiting. You may disagree with them of course, but I think they are worth reflecting on.
1. Waiting reminds us that God is in control. Or looked at another way, waiting reminds us that we are not in control. Now I realize that for some people this may be a difficult concept to accept. For many people control is an emotion, and not being in control can be anxiety producing. Ultimately, though, waiting reminds us that God is in control and we are not. This is a lesson some of us need to learn over and over again.
2. Waiting reminds us that the present matters. It is easy to focus on what we have to do today, or what we have to do next week or next month. Waiting gives us the opportunity to remember that the future is in God’s hands not ours. The present is what we have and we need to make the most of it. Being aware of the present can help us recognize the grace that is always being offered to us at this time, in this moment, in this circumstance.
3. Waiting reminds us that all that we have and all we are is a gift from God. When we are caught in a traffic jam, we can choose to grumble and complain about the loss of our precious time. On the other hand, though, we can use those moments to thank God for the blessings we enjoy in our lives. And in thanking God for those blessings we are reminded of the gift that life is, and what it means for us.
4. Waiting reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. Now while none of us really believes we are the center of the universe, we sometimes act this way. It is just too easy to get caught up in our own plans and priorities. Without intending or acknowledging it, we can believe that every thing we do is of absolute and critical importance. Waiting can help us remember that we aren’t the center of the universe. That doesn’t mean that we are unimportant. Rather, waiting just puts us in the same boat as everyone else.
Now perhaps the above won’t give you a new perspective on waiting, I hope, though, that at least it will help you to begin to think of waiting in a new way, especially during this season of Advent. Most particularly, I hope it gets you to think that the waiting time of Advent is not wasted time. For in Advent, while we know for whom we are waiting, it is important that we allow our waiting to remind us that the birth of the Jesus is part of God’s plan and the fulfillment of God’s promises. And clearly celebrating the birth of our Messiah is something that is well worth waiting for.
When things get out of balance, you begin to hear a call for revolution. In any sphere of life, when things lose their original purpose, or a system we are invested in becomes corrupt, there are cries for radical change.
Revolution is a powerful word, full of assumptions and expectations. It may conjure up fear of violence or loss of power. Yet, the word also contains seeds of comfort and hope. So much depends of what drives the revolution.
Revolution can be described as rolling back toward an original purpose. It can initiate dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized. Pope Francis offers a provocative and inspiring paradigm of revolution. He invites us to recognize the incredible, radical, and all-encompassing power of the forgiving, reconciling, and redeeming love of God. In a call for renewal, he invites us to start a “revolution of faith.”
“Put Christ in your lives, put your trust in him and you will never be disappointed! You see, dear friends, faith carries out in our lives a revolution that we can call Copernican: it takes us away from the center and puts God there; faith immerses us in his love and gives us safety, strength, and hope. In appearance nothing has changed, but deep down inside us everything changes. When there is God in our hearts there is peace, gentleness, tenderness, courage, serenity, and joy which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Then our existence is transformed, our way of thinking and acting is renewed; it becomes the way of thinking and acting of Jesus, of God. Dear friends, faith is revolutionary, and today I ask you; are you ready to enter this revolutionary wave of faith?” (World Youth Day, 2013)
Pope Francis highlights an important truth for our day: As we put God first in our life, we come to know and become love. As we know and become love, we act boldly and compassionately in the world. As we act compassionately in the world, the world is transformed and healed.
This is, indeed, a revolutionary wave of faith—a revolution of love and tenderness.
Today, our world is experiencing pain, fear, hurt, misunderstanding, division, suffering, and violence. Rather than push these away, our faith calls us to the provocative response of encounter—we are called to stand in these hard places. The road of encountering human suffering, and the invisible and institutional dynamics that accompany it, is uncomfortable. Our faith gives us strength.
Together, through an encounter shaped by love and tenderness, we are called to see clearly all that needs healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We are called to see and stand with those experiencing grief, death, vulnerability, unemployment, disabilities, mental illness, and societal oppression. We face the questions as individuals and as a community.
Our faith in God, and the redeeming love of Christ, isn’t just for us. It is also for the transformation of our families, our communities, our Church, our country, and our entire world. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ invite us to reimagine and reconstruct human life and society once again.
Pope Francis states, “This is the moment of mercy. We are all sinners. All of us carry weight within.” At a time of great division, fear, and pain, he calls us to intentionally encounter God’s love and tenderness—and to act on it. This vision of the common good is a powerful invitation to engage in what Pope Francis calls a “revolution of love and tenderness.” Together, let us open our lives to this call.
I stood looking out the kitchen window having returned home from a funeral I attended that day. I was asked to cantor. The funeral was for the father of two girls who were friends of my sisters. As I stood there looking out, I thought, “What would I do if dad died?” I would have never considered that I would know the answer to that question that very day.
Since I was working the second shift at the Canterbury Hotel that day, I decided to watch a movie around Noon— The Devils, starring Vanessa Redgrave. (It was quite a disturbing movie but I digress.) My father had left to pick-up my aunt so I had the place to myself. I didn’t need to leave for work until 2:30pm. After the movie, I got ready for work. I passed the kitchen window and noticed that dad had left the garage door open. I couldn’t wait to reprimand my dad like he had done so many times to me for committing the same infraction.
I went out, closed the door, and noticed that his car was parked in the neighbor’s yard, three houses down. Thinking he was somewhere talking to a neighbor, I went back and finished preparing for work. As I got in my car, I thought, I’ll just go through the alley to make sure everything is okay. As I passed his car, I noticed that he was slumped over the steering wheel. He had had a massive stroke while pulling out of the garage. The car making a sharp U turn out of the garage ended up in the neighbor’s yard stopped only by a pile of rubbish. I got to the car, opened the door, and tried to wake him but my father was dead. He had been dead for a few hours at that point.
I ran into the house panicked. There was a message from my aunt wondering where my dad was. I called 911. The ambulance came. Dad was pronounced dead. I began to contact my brothers and sisters. Luckily, I got a hold of one brother. Unbeknownst to me my siblings were headed out of town; I had caught them just in time.
As the day turned to evening, family and relatives began to arrive. The air was thick with cigarette smoke as family gathered around the cluttered table chatting about my father. I was exhausted but needed to get away from it all so I volunteered to go to the local grocery store to pick up something for everyone to eat.
As I got to the store, I grabbed a cart and aimlessly strolled through the aisles, occasionally snatching something from the shelves. In my daze, I got to the check out line. Not paying any attention, I listlessly unloaded the groceries onto the conveyor. It was the sound of the cashier’s voice which brought me back to reality. I looked up. I can’t recall what she looked like but her name badge read: Hope. And from that point on, I did.
One of my favorite photos of The Basilica was taken by Mike Jensen. Positioned at Dunwoody College to the west of The Basilica, Mike photographed our beautiful building against the backdrop of the entire Minneapolis skyline. This photo not only affirms the importance of The Basilica’s physical and visual presence in our skyline, but even more importantly it symbolizes the role The Basilica plays in the day-to-day life of Minneapolis and beyond.
It may be surprising to know that before any religious service was held in the building, the city of Minneapolis and the greater metropolitan area came together to consider the importance of The Basilica for the city. This was done with a series of public lectures by local and national speakers in addition to a number of concerts given during November of 1914.
In regard to the civic dedication, Mgr. Reardon, long-time pastor of The Basilica, wrote in his 1955 book, Basilica of St. Mary of Minneapolis: “The general trend of the discourses was in harmony with the purpose of the civic celebration. The speakers emphasized the necessity of civic righteousness as the characteristic of the highest type of American citizenship. The learned and highly interesting lectures alluded to the new church as a center of civic betterment even before it was dedicated to the religious purpose for which it was erected.”
Today, more than one hundred years later, The Basilica of Saint Mary continues the legacy envisioned by the early members of our Church as we carry on their vision to seek “civic betterment” or in our current parlance as we “seek the well-being of the city.” This vision so near and dear to the heart of our community is inspired by the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (29:7) who encouraged the People of Israel saying: “Seek the well-being of the city to which I have sent you. Pray for it to the Lord. For in seeking its well-being you shall find your own.”
Much has changed since those first years in the life of The Basilica community, the city, and our world. However, our commitment to be good stewards of ourselves, our city, and our world has only become stronger.
Our calling to “seek the well-being of the city” is a microcosm and metaphor for our broader Christian calling to seek the well-being of the entire world and everyone who lives in it. This may seem like a daunting task, but we might be encouraged by all that we already do if we were to evaluate our personal and communal life.
This week we are called to cast our vote for the next president of the United States and many other civil servants. This is a task I take very seriously having just become a US citizen in 2008. This will be my third presidential election and I am anxious to vote. The image I will take with me in the voting booth is that of The Basilica against the backdrop of the City of Minneapolis. The words I will take with me are Mgr. Reardon’s call to “civic betterment” and the Prophet Isaiah’s appeal to “seek the well-being of the city.” I will let this image and these words guide my vote.
And when we awake on the morning of November 9, provided that you went to bed, may we clothe ourselves with the mantle of “civic righteousness as the characteristic of the highest type of American citizenship” no matter the outcome of the election.
“Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten our hearts and our minds.”
I don’t know if I am the only one for whom it is true, but I am positively dangerous when it comes to using super glue. When I attempted to use it a few weeks ago the task seemed relatively simple. I was at my cabin and had forgotten to bring my reading glasses with me. I found an old pair of glasses, but the plastic nose guard had fallen off and needed to be glued back on. I found a tube of super glue in my junk drawer, read the instructions, and followed them precisely. I painstakingly cleaned the surface areas that were to be glued together. I next made a small hole in the top of the dispenser with a pin, and then I attempted to squeeze a small drop of the glue onto the bridge of the glasses where the plastic nose guard would be positioned. It was at this point that things began to go awry.
Inadvertently, I squeezed out an extra drop of super glue, which landed on the kitchen counter. While I was able to quickly wipe it off with my hand, when I did so I hit the tube of super glue, which fell to the floor. As I picked up the tube of super glue, I must have squeezed it again because another few droplets oozed out. At this point my cell phone rang and startled me so that I dropped the plastic piece for the glasses which fell and stuck to my pants. As I reached for it, I discovered that my fingers had begun to adhere together. Realizing this was not a good thing, I pulled the plastic piece off my pants and turned on the hot water faucet in the sink.
While waiting for the hot water to make its appearance, I discovered that the plastic piece was now adhering to my fingers. I reached for the soap and began to work the fingers of my hand with hot soapy water. My fingers soon came apart, but as they came apart the plastic piece also came loose. It popped up in the air, and although I made two valiant attempts to catch it, it slipped out of my soapy hand, and as you can probably guess, went right down the drain as if drawn by a magnet. Realizing that retrieval was not likely, I finished washing my hands and turned my attention back to the tube of super glue. Unfortunately, it had adhered to the kitchen counter. With a scrub brush and hot soap and water it took me about ten minutes to remove the tube and the super glue that had leaked out of it, from the counter. That evening I used the glasses, sans the plastic nose guard. The metal piece made an indentation on my nose that looked like someone had taken a divot out of my nose. Fortunately, it eventually disappeared, but not until mid-afternoon the next day.
As I reflected on this experience later, I was struck by the idea that, at least in my life, super glue and sin have a lot in common. When I am using super glue, things that I never intended to stick together suddenly have bonded and become a single entity. In a similar way, often times without being aware of it, and certainly without intending it, I have discovered that sin has adhered itself to an area of my life. These moments of discovery are not pleasant and definitely not something of which I am proud. They remind me, though, how easy it is for sin to become a part of my life without my even realizing it is happening. Sin, like super glue forms a strong bond in certain areas of my life. And like my experience with super glue, once I am stuck in sin, it is not all that easy to get unstuck. I suspect something similar is true for most of us. Few of us intentionally set out to give sin a safe haven in our lives. What happens, though, is that sin begins to insinuate itself into our lives, and soon we discover that we are stuck.
While it is difficult to live with the fact that sin has attached itself to our lives, there is some good news in this. You see, unlike things bound together with super glue, the hold that sin has on us can be easily broken by the power of God’s grace offered to us most generously and most particularly in the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The power of God’s grace is no match for the hold that sin has on us. God’s grace breaks the hold of sin and restores us to right relationship with God.
Sin and super glue do have a lot in common in my life. The major difference between them, though, is that in regard to sin we are never left on our own. God’s grace is there with us and for us, and if we allow it, it will help us become unstuck. Now if someone would only come up with something that would do the same thing with super glue, I would truly be a happy person.
On the weekend that Mother Teresa was canonized by Pope Francis, I was listening to report on the radio it while I was getting ready to come to Church. As part of the report, an individual, who was critical of Mother Teresa being named a saint, was interviewed. In his comments he criticized Mother Teresa for what he termed her overly dogmatic views regarding abortion and other church teachings. As I listened I was incredulous that this individual would criticize Mother Teresa’s canonization because she believed in and adhered to our church’s teachings. It seems to me that in addition to living a virtuous and holy life, another important part of being named a saint in the Catholic Church is believing in our Church’s teachings. Since canonization is a specifically Catholic act, it would make no sense at all for our Church to canonize someone who didn’t believe in our Church’s teaching.
I believe that the timing of Mother Teresa’s canonization was fortuitous and probably not accidental. I say this because for many years now, our Church has designated October as Respect Life Month. During this month particularly, we are called to remember and give witness to our belief that because God is the author and source of life, all life is sacred. Our task—our challenge—is to seek to promote and enhance life at every moment and in every circumstance. Certainly this was something Mother Teresa did through the witness of her life.
Now in seeking to give witness to our belief in the sanctity of life I believe there are certain things about which we need to absolutely clear and unyielding. Six things come to mind.
- We need to be clear that there are not different categories or gradations of life—some that are more deserving of our respect than others. We need to be as respectful of the unborn life in the womb, as we are of the life that is being supported by machines. All life is sacred. There are not different levels of respect that we accord to the different stages or manifestations of life.
- Our respect for life is not based on what we are, or what we have, or what we are able to accomplish. Rather, our respect for life is rooted in our belief that we are made in the image and likeness of our God. The sacred image we bear exists from the moment of our conception. It cannot diminish with age. Created in the image and likeness of our God, and infused with a soul that seeks to know and love God, all human life is sacred and is to be respected.
- Our respect for life does not allow us to be disrespectful toward those with whom we disagree or those who do not share our beliefs. Rather our respect for life calls us to treat with dignity even those who actively oppose our beliefs. We cannot claim to respect life if we disparage those who don’t share our beliefs. And most certainly we cannot claim to be pro-life if we use inappropriate or inflammatory language, or worse, engage in acts of violence. The Bishops of the United States stated this clearly in a document they issued several years ago entitled: “Living the Gospel of Life.” In that document they said: “Our witness to respect for life shines most brightly when we demand respect for each other and every human life, including the lives of those who fail to show that respect for others.”
- Our respect for life calls us to seek dialogue and communication with those with whom we disagree. I am convinced that we are far more apt to convince people of the rightness of our beliefs through our words and actions than we are to coerce them to accept those beliefs. Through communication that is open, honest, and respectful, I believe we can engage people in dialogue, and they will come to see the wisdom of our words and understand the rightness of our position.
- Our respect for life does not allow us to sit in judgment on those individuals who have had, or who have participated in an abortion, or people who have shown disregard for life in any way, particularly in end of life decisions. As people who are pro-life, one of the things we must always remember is that judgment is God’s work, not ours. Where we have made judgments about others, we need to offer our profound and deepest apologies.
- Finally our respect for life calls us to invite and welcome back to our communities those who feel estranged from our Church or from God because they have made choices that were not respectful of life. Our task—our challenge—as Christians is not to make judgments about the worthiness of others to be at Church, but to do our best to make sure we are worthy to be there. To those who feel estranged from our Church or from God because they have made choices that were not respectful of life, we need to say clearly that we want and need them to come home—without exception or distinction, without reserve or hesitation, we need to invite them to come home. God’s love and grace await them.
Human life is indeed a precious gift from a loving God. Our task as followers of Jesus is to show our reverence and respect for life in all we do. To the extent we fail to do this, we fail to give witness to our respect for life. To the extent we do it well—like St. Teresa of Kolkata—we truly live up to our call as people created in the image and likeness of God.
Many years ago just after I was ordained I had a funeral for a young man who had died of cancer leaving behind a wife and small daughter. On one of my visits to the hospital as he was dying, his wife said to me: “Father, I must not be saying the right prayers or maybe I’m not praying enough because God isn’t answering my prayers.” I assured her that it wasn’t her prayers that were wrong, but rather it was our limited vision as to how God might be responding to her prayer. Sometimes God responds to our prayers in ways that are not evident or obvious, and/or not in the way we had hoped.
I have trouble with the notion that when our most sincere and heartfelt prayers go unanswered or seem to fall on “deaf ears,” that we are praying wrong or that we aren’t praying enough. I also reject the idea that God is capricious in the way God responds to prayer—answering some, but not others. Now certainly it is our firm and abiding belief that our God is all loving and all powerful. Given this, when our best and most fervent prayers go unanswered we are left wondering why.
There is no simple or satisfying answer to the question of unanswered prayers. I believe, though, that when we are talking about God and our relationship with God, there will always be an element of mystery involved. For as God has reminded us through the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, My ways," declares the LORD.” (Is. 55.8) The ways and work of our God are not always—or even often—comprehensible to the human mind. And while this can be frustrating, when you stop and think about it, this is the way it should be. God is divine and as such is beyond our words, our images, our imaginings and yes, our comprehension.
Now while God is beyond our comprehension, God is not beyond our experience. We experience God’s love and grace-filled presence in a multitude of ways in our lives. And because of this, while we may not understand the ways and work of God, we do believe that God abides with us and we are always held firm in the embrace of our God’s love.
While I wish it were not so, unanswered prayers are a mystery that I have learned to live with. I take comfort, though, in the fact that God has loved our world into existence, and that God continues to abide with us and shower us with God’s grace. I have also learned that in regard to God, “mystery” will always be an element of my relationship with God. And it is a mystery that will never be resolved or answered in this world.
In this “Year of Mercy,” we are called to choose love first. Active love, not passive. Personally, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt a time in my life when this concept has been easier to claim and admire but harder to live. Love? Yes. I’m on board. How can you argue against choosing love? It seems the hard part is living this calling in our full everyday lives. We live in a time when we feel like we have all the information at the tip of our fingers but instead of feeling enlightened, we are burdened by our realities. Perhaps this is why the knowledge that comes with age makes it difficult not just to choose love, but to even see it through these realities. Each day, when we read the headlines or face our own challenges, it can be really easy to become angry, jealous and bitter.
I find myself easily distracted, both by this busy life but also the heartache that surrounds us. I watch friends work tirelessly to give their families every opportunity they can afford but still come up short as they struggle to make ends meet. My heart breaks knowing of the inequity and the startling acts of violence that plague parts of our city. And as a parent, I’m terrified as school shootings are no longer shocking and we hear constant stories of children abused or abandoned. Day in and day out, Basilica staff members see the need as temperatures drop and our doorbells ring more often from those in need.
Yet in this grey area, and because of this, we must be active in choosing love. Our world needs it. When you witness those around you choosing to lead a lifestyle inspired by love, it creates ripples and inspires others to do the same. I see this everyday at The Basilica. Love is choosing to live a life of gratitude over anything else. It’s choosing charity over fear, giving of ourselves even when it’s hard, knowing that the fulfillment will make a difference.
I’ve seen this at The Basilica when a staff member shares their own lunch, a book or even some tissues with someone waiting outside as they make their way into the office. It’s the beauty of the human spirit when we see one another rise to the occasion, choosing love helping a stranger in need instead of passing by, or dropping everything to be there when a friend faces a loss. This is a lifestyle of generosity, and choosing active love.
This fall, The Basilica will ask you to participate in our Financial Stewardship campaign. This is an invitation for choosing active love as your gifts ensure that every day, our community will create justice and spread love through Basilica ministries that serve the unemployed, the grieving, the homebound, those dealing with mental illness, and those who simply need a caring, compassionate, listening ear.
We can do so much when everyone takes part. At The Basilica, stewardship pledges provide 81% of our operating budget. Every time we gather for Mass, send volunteers out with meals, gather children for religious education, and support families in times of grief or joy, someone’s gifts have made it possible. And each time these ministries or programs happen, love is spread throughout our community. And this love has ripple effects, and can make a difference as we face the real challenges we see each day.
I hope you will consider a 2017 pledge today, and be a part in this beautiful cycle of choosing love. You can pledge online, fill out a pledge form and mail it in, or bring it to Mass next weekend. You may also contact Stephanie Bielmas for answers to any questions you may have about supporting The Basilica.
Generosity truly is an act of faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
I wish God would be clear about what He wants me to do. These words were spoken by a friend of mine a few months ago when I was talking with him about a decision he needed to make. He went on to say that he had been praying and praying for guidance and direction and nothing was happening. He was feeling more than a bit frustrated. I knew there wasn’t anything I could say that would be very helpful, so instead I gave him a prayer by the late Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin entitled "Patient Trust." It begins with the words: Above all, trust in the slow work of God. I have used this prayer in my own life at times too numerous to mention. It has helped me to continue to move forward when clarity has been lacking, and I am feeling frustrated and confused.
I think clarity is something all of us have longed for at one time or another. It would be great if God gave us a clear set of expectations and directions for what we are to do in specific situations, instead of the generic: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Now certainly we also have the 10 commandments, but they tell us more what we aren’t supposed to do, rather then what we are supposed to do. Many times, though, and in various circumstances, the direction we should take or the decision we should make isn’t at all evident and we are left feeling confused, and praying for clarity.
Now, clearly knowing what we should do in specific situations would be much easier if we were faced with a choice between a bad thing and a good thing. Too often, however, our choices are between doing this good thing, or that good thing, or another good thing. In these instances clarity from God would certainly be welcome and would make our lives much easier. Why then, doesn’t God give us the clarity we often long for, especially when we are praying for this clarity with great sincerity?
I believe the reason God doesn’t give clear and specific direction to us despite our sincere and heartfelt prayers has to do with our free will. One of God’s great gifts to us is our free will. This gift allows us to make our own decisions and to set our own course in life. If we didn’t have free will, if God simply told us what to do, we would be automatons.
Our free will, though, allows us to make are own decisions both good and bad. Free will is one of the things that defines us as humans and sets us apart from the other creatures on our planet.
Does the above mean that we are left rudderless and on our own in regard to any guidance and direction from God as to how we are to live? Absolutely not. God is always offering us God’s grace. God does this, though, in subtle and gentle ways so as not to overwhelm us and negate our free will. And so, when we pray for clarity and guidance we need to trust that God’s hand is guiding us. Certainly it is not always easy to trust in the slow work of God. I am convinced, though, that it is the way that will ultimately bring us the clarity we seek.