Daily Email

Friday, December 31, 2010

End of Year Reflection

Tonight is New Year's Eve. Earlier today I walked the streets of Boston as the city prepared for its 35th First Night Activities. It has been years since I strolled the city's neighborhoods as I once regularly did. I recalled how I would walk 7 or 8 miles a day just to take in this beautiful city and to let my daily preoccupations settle down in my mind.

Today, I felt slightly melancholic. I realize that I walked the familiar route between 15-20 years ago. While some has changed, much more remained the same. I have lost my youth and I notice how much my mind has shifted in those intervening years. My priorities and concerns are different today and I am much more satisfied. I realize that, when my life does come to its natural end, the city and new generations will continue. I am far from the center of my universe as I once thought I was. My life has ceased to be about what I can do and is more focused upon what God is doing for the world.

My friend, Jim Martin, and I were talking a couple of weeks ago as he came to the retreat center where I work to guide a weekend retreat. I had just seen "White Christmas" for the first time and he watched it just before he left New York for Gloucester. He downloaded some songs from that album to his IPod. His favorite that weekend was "Snow." It is light and airy and the quartet sings it as if snowflakes are falling to the ground. It is remarkable.

My earworm, that is, the song I cannot get out of my head, is "Count your blessings." I admire Bing Crosby's voice for its smooth mellowness. "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings." This song tumbles through the mind like a sheet of Bounce fabric softener in an empty washing machine.

As I end this year, I do count my blessings on this incredible year. I have mentioned before the ways I appreciate the graces I received in Australia. I'm grateful for the Jesuit community of Maine who supported me with their prayers and by forwarding my mail to me. I'm grateful for my province that prayed for me and wished me well through my last stage of formation. I'm grateful for my provincial for many reasons - and especially for asking me to assist the Jesuits by serving at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester.

We are a small community with four priests, a religious sister, and a devoted laywoman on staff. Our community is large because we have an extensive group of guest directors who form a tight network of spiritual directors dedicated to the Ignatian ministry. The community is ever expanding because more inquirers are making retreats for the first time at our place. I feel closer to my province because many Jesuits have connections through the retreat house.

Each time I give retreats or participate in the sacrament of reconciliation, I feel changed. My heart continues to have conversions. As I listen to others, I feel great compassion for them and I feel like I am their coach on the sidelines just urging them to give their all and do their best and to be satisfied with who they are. We have to learn to love ourselves. We are all very far from perfect and this is what makes us lovable. Each of the people I meet are striving to do what is good and right. It gives me great hope to come to know many people so well. I am honored that they entrust their stories to me.

God is good. God wants to be close to us and oftentimes we do not know how to let God come closer. Too often we sense that God is distant and does not have enough concern for us. Sometimes we suspect that God is absent. We think God is not trying or does not want to know us better. We try harder and we think we fail because God is not approaching us when we need God's closeness.

We forget that God chose to die for us. God took on our life in the person of Jesus. God has to have great love for us to want to do that. Being human can be painful. Christ has died for us, is doing so right now, and will choose to do it again and again and again because he wants us to be closer to God, the Creating One.

We pray with our head and our heart and we often make progress when we pour out our emotions to Christ. We have to know how we feel. We are to behold our feelings and present them to God who is beholding us. Once we have done that and settled down, we can then learn to listen to God's desire to tell us how he feels. It is good for us to pay attention to the emotions of God.

We have to be careful though. Our image of God has to be secure. Typically, if we have a poor image of ourselves, we have a poor image of God. We need to allow God to become multi-dimensional and alive for us. God will show his personal concern for us when we beg God to be merciful to us. We start by asking for this grace before each prayer we say. When we receive his mercy, no matter how broken we see ourselves, we become settled and secure in his steadfast, ever-reaching love.

It is good for us to ponder God's presence in our life. When we look at God more, and less at ourselves, the world somehow becomes different and more joyful. We will realize much hurt and sorrow remains, but we reframe our lives with a more constant assurance that God will not abandon us. God will make sense of our sufferings. We can live in greater freedom and contentment. We'll feel great empathy for the suffering of others, but we'll find that we come to a point of balance that holds all things steady. God is that fulcrum upon which we balance.

Tonight, I marvel at what God has done for me and for others. We've suffered loss and hardship and we see God's blessings in unexpected areas of life. As the years pass, we remember how quickly time moves - whether we are ready or not. Life moves forward. Let's do our best to move forward with as much gusto and joy that we can muster. May 2011 be a time when we meet God each day and we can celebrate how much we mean to one another. God is love and we need to choose to love each day so we can meet God. We can have a splendid time as we embrace the world God has given us.

Happy New Year and count your blessings each day.

No comments:

Post a Comment