By Father Joseph Breighner
I’m writing this column in October, the day before the prediction of the big storm. Because of publishing deadlines, I typically write my columns well in advance of their publication, either online each week, or printed every other week in the Catholic Review.
The reason I’m writing at this particular moment is that I don’t want to lose the effect of the apprehension of the coming storm. God willing, by the time you read this, the storm will be something of the distant past, with minimal damage and destruction – ideally, no damage or destruction.
A very holy man, when I shared with him my fears and anxieties about future events, said very simply: “Hold in mind what you want, not what you don’t want!” Anxiety comes from holding in mind what I don’t want to happen – usually some fearful outcome. Peace comes from holding in mind the best possible outcome – the best possible retreat, the best sermon, the best counseling session, the best weather conditions. Fear is the engine of anxiety. Peace comes from God.
The challenge, of course, is that we are social creatures, and we hear dire predictions and forecasts. In one sense, they are a service to us. We want to prepare for the worst. As a friend of mine said about past storm predictions: “Rather than bashing the media for hype about storms that really turned out not to be as severe, I’d rather just give thanks to God for a happy outcome.”
All fear is based, at some level, on the assumption that you and I strictly identify ourselves with the mind and the body. We think we are only this body. We think we are only this mind. When we lose one, or both, we think we are gone, destroyed.
Our Christian faith, however, tells us that we are so much more. Our faith tells us that we are body, mind and spirit. There is an eternal part to us. There is a part of us that is not limited to time or space. There is a part of us made of the very spirit of God.
Interestingly, at the Last Supper, in his farewell discourse, Jesus says: “Peace is my farewell gift to you. My own peace I give to you.” Remember, Jesus is saying this the night before he will be crucified. That’s quite a storm to prepare for!
The day of the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, I was invited to go “live” on the air on WPOC radio. I was touched by the many comments I received from people who said just hearing my voice helped to restore their calm and confidence.
So, I’m sorry that I can’t get this column to you “live” before the storm. Just remember that there is more to us, and a God always with us. When we look away from the presence of God, there is fear. When we look toward God, there is love. I don’t intend in any way to pretend to be without my fears and anxieties. However, I know where the source of love, peace, hope, joy and eternal life lies. They lie in God, and God is with us in life, death and eternal life.
Allow me to close with one of my favorite quotes. It hangs on the wall of the counseling center on St. John’s Lane: “Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of them and still be calm in your heart.”
“Author Unknown” is printed at the bottom of the quote. To me it sounds like something God would say. It was the way Jesus lived, and the way Jesus invites us to live.
Someone summed it up another way: “Don’t tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is.”
Sometimes I do both.
Copyright (c) November 15, 2012 CatholicReview.org