“‘If God had not been on our side.’ This is Israel’s song.” (Psalm 124)
This little ditty from the Psalms is a great example of why it is so important to contemplate, reflect and meditate. Often when all we look at is where we are going, we only see the challenges ahead. (Pharaoh wont let us go, the Red Sea is in the way, we are running our of food . . .) But in reflecting back they can see how God has been with them every step of the way, through miracles, releasing them from their slavery, parting the Red Sea and removing the Roman soldiers as a threat, gaving them manna in the desert.
Parish life can be like this too. We can get caught up in all of the work that needs to be done, all of the challenges ahead, all of the programs that the diocese wants implemented and it can be overwhelming. But as pastor of this parish, I can look back over the past ten years and realize that we have been seen through everything that set us back on our heals when they first appeared.
You can see this with older and wiser priests. Fewer and fewer things ruffle their feathers. Something comes down the pike - something new that must be implemented immediately or else the end of the world will happen, and priests and parish staffs and volunteers start going wild like chickens who have a wolf knocking at the door of their straw houses. But the older priests take it in stride. Most things will pass. Many will be replaced by the latest and greatest before the old is even fully implemented. All that it takes is a new person in political office or a change in Church administration. So the older pastors roll with it not getting too excited following gate advice of Alexander Pope, “Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.” This can only come by experience and by reflecting/mediating on that experience.
The spiritual life is the same. The one who doesn’t meditate sees each new trial as the end of the world and wonders why God has abandoned them. The one who sees God acting in his past knows God will see you through one way or the other - even if that is saving you at death and bringing you into heaven.
In opening the new Catholic school in Akron we hit a lot of walls and often thought the project was over. Feeing sad at that but entrusting it to St. Sebastian or St. Julie, we would go our way wondering what would happen next. Every time, seemingly impossible obstacles were removed and we could only attribute that to God and the intercession of our saints. “If they had not been on our side,” This is our song - and our encouragement to face the future.