Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Find Time for God in Your Busy Lives and He will Give you Peace

Father John J. Lombardi

Notes from a retreat at Mary's Mountain

Part I: Find Time for God…"Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" -Mk 6:31

Three heroic stories of "finding time for God": My friend Fr Jim Farmer went on pilgrimage to Lourdes and the most important part of the itinerary for him was daily Mass and holy hour….Some friends, Michelle and John, are getting married in the Fall and they are now planning a retreat at Mary's mountain the week before the wedding in preparation, and for all the excitement…St. Thomas More awoke every day at 3am to pray, meditate, read the Bible and attend Mass.

Many today are looking for peace, and sometimes in wrong ways. The cover of New York Times (Aug 20) recently reported World Class sprinter Marilyn Jones testing positive for taking illegal drugs. Another story reported child pornography is on the rise and pervasive. And in "alternative lifestyles," transgender sexual changes of persons are occurring more frequently and gaining acceptance…All persons are looking for peace (consciously or not) and some are, as just noted, thru wrongful ways-signs of our times-and so we need the Truth of the Gospel and Jesus to lead us aright.

Last week I went up to the Grotto with the head of Mt St Mary's Security and he spent time in Corpus Christi Chapel praying-kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament, with his head bowed in deep communion before the Eucharistic Lord-a sign of seeking peace amidst storms of busy life-finding time for God and embracing the Prince of Peace.

We all need times and places for retreats to review our hectic lives and refresh ourselves in Christ's values, meaning and mystical love, and you need to do this in your special charism (of teaching). We need to remind ourselves of our "charge" in life-what our Mission is: to fully embrace the Lord and His Gospel and to spread it everywhere we go. Last Wednesday, Msgr. Rolfs, Rector of Mt St Mary's, gave "charge" to the seminarians, reminding them that the Lord Jesus called His Apostles away before entering public ministry. We ourselves likewise need this kind of "retreat-for-preparation" frequently in life. ..So, reflect upon this: God has His Plan and Will for me and my life-what is it? How can I discern it more thru prayerful thought and reflection?

I recently went to a drug treatment center to give a talk. Thing is, I didn't know what to talk about! So I asked the clients there what they would like to discuss and one lady responded, "Talk about serenity." Yes, serenity-what we all want -and need! Serenity, I recalled, comes from the Latin, serenitas, meaning clear. When we are clear-in the head and heart, mind and emotions, then we can be peaceful. Oppositely, when we are cloudy (within) we are agitated and anxious and cannot be pure instruments of the Lord's Love and Light.

Peace means absence of war, yes, but also non-existence of anxiety and the "zero presence" of worries, and, positively, the loving union with God which He alone can give. Tranquiiltas ordinis, from the Latin, means the inner rest which comes from the proper ordering of various parts. Do you have this order in your life?--morally-by obeying commandments; mystically-by a regular prayer and meditation life? Oppositely, the Devil wants us to live in chaos and confusion (moral, emotional), and anxiety. Which one are you choosing-or allowing to happen?

As teachers you must first have this Peace within so as to give it to others. There's a Latin maxim that's helpful to ponder: You cannot give what you do not have. Do you have Jesus' Peace within you? Are you assured in your charisms/ministry/vocation? Can you pass this on to your students, co-workers, others?

Finding time for God means embracing the "Two Spiritual D's" in your life--Discipline and Desire. Desire means affective, emotional love and heart-felt energy for your vocation and being an instrument of God's Love and Mercy. This means cultivating our heart's passions to the fullest-spiritually, in conformity with God's Will and Commands. Discipline means making the time for the holy habits of prayer-talking and listening to God speak in your heart-knowing He wants you to have and extend peace to others. Do you take and make time for Mass, receiving His Most Precious Blood and actually becoming like Him. Notice: He gives us His very Blood. We sometimes say or think "we are our blood," and sometimes may be controlled by it-by our DNA, blood type or gene pool-driving us to do certain things. So, what does Jesus give us to overcome these "blood-driven" faults and sins? He gives us blood-that which is most essential to us, within us, to make us human beings, enlivening us. He replaces our sometimes-controlling earthly blood with Divine Blood to give us new opportunities, and a holy way of life. Do you make time for Confession - ex-haling the toxins of sins and receiving His Divine Mercy and His reconciliation? Take time for Bible and spiritual reading-His word enlightens and leads us-we need this steady diet to replace all the mental and physical pollutants we take in, and so by being emptied out, to think on "eternal things." Do you make time at night for a daily review-examen? How did I follow Jesus and His Will today? How did Jesus grace me with many blessings (name them)? Reminding yourself of them will help you gain support when you are weak, forgetful or weary. Remember, one large and looming enemy today against finding time for God is the treadmill-just going thru life doing what you've always done with unexamined eyes and heart-repeating the "same-old" without God as part of our lives. Do you have and cultivate sacred Desire and Discipline in your life or let them wane?

To go back to the three examples above from newspaper-people who have gone off course from the light of the Gospel and seek peace and power thru wrongful means-this can happen to all of us if we do not spend time with God. Oppositely-think of the "security man" Vince who took time to pray in his busy job to seek the Lord's counsel and help. Do you? So, ask: How can I make more time for God in my life? How do I sometimes shortchange this quality spiritual time? How can I re-commit myself to Him more?

Part II: He Will Give Peace…"Be not conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind by the Spirit" (Rm. 12:2). "Anyone who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him (I Cor 6:17). "Have no anxiousness about anything but offer up your prayers in thanksgiving… Whatever is true, lovely, beautiful holy…. think on these things" (Phil. 4:6,8). I recently went to see a lady in the hospital who is very sick and she remembered and quoted the verse about "being not anxious" and "thinking of holy things" and immediately a smile came upon her face-and her husband's too.

I once went to confession with Fr McCarthy, a visiting priest here at the Grotto-and after hearing my confession he took my hand and did something very unique and healing: he spoke to me in the person of Christ-and I found this very consoling and peaceful. Another confession I once made brought me to Fr. Steve, and he took his busy time to pray over me and give me compassionate counsel-and even invited me to supper with him! Both men became instruments of God's Healing Mercy and concrete compassion. He-God-heals us thru so many, unforeseen ways.

We may observe there are two kinds of peace. "Outer Peace" may mean that our external lives are ordered and rhythmic (at times!) and that the surrounding things, people and events in my life are not quixotic or chaotic, not impressing and impinging upon me in vitriolic ways. So, ask: do I order my life as best I can (in an uncontrolling way, but orderly nonetheless) according to God's commands and way of life?

"Inner peace" may mean I am in union with God frequently, or, like the saints, at all times and no matter what is happening on the outside-I am calm amidst storms. I once received a meditation from a priest to meditate upon Christ before Pilate: think of Christ's peace and calmness even though the external world and powers around Him were evil and destructive, and yet Jesus remained self-composed. He didn't let people "press His buttons" and thereby lose His Divine peace. We need to make conscious efforts to receive God's peace-and this happens most and best precisely when we are in the storms of life: no pain, no gain!

Think of your options, now: give in to confusion or embrace divine profusion. You cannot always be caving into anxiety and chaos and expect peace in your life. Your first response to stress of difficulty should be asking God to help you, and then act. Don't react, but respond! Alternatively, to "embrace Divine profusion" means consciously and consistently immersing yourself in God's profuse, immense Peace and tranquility which is, and is offered, eternally.

God gave us His peace. Remember Jesus' saying when encountering trouble: "Do not worry what you are to say, the Father will give you the words." Do you allow Him--God, to speak thru you-or do you try to over-plan what He should and would do? Do you choke off God's Providential Plan and actual grace in untrusting ways?

Last week a news story reported a Muslim who converted from Islam to the Catholic Faith in Malaysia and is now under threat of murder for this and her attempts to seek marriage. However, amidst this turmoil-amazingly!-- she takes solace and peace in the sacraments she is now receiving, which we may sometimes take for granted. God is giving her peace in troubles: are you receiving God's peace in difficulties? St Thomas More--before being beheaded by the King's man, said, "Remove my hair away from my neck so it won't cause too much blood and trouble." St Thomas, because he was a God-fearing man, attended daily Mass and prayerful guy, could be light-hearted even in this most perilous time. If he can, so can you!

God will give us peace. Now God is all perfect being-His Trinitarian relations of Perfect Love are overflowing-ready for us to tap into-do you? Let Him, God the Most high, absorb you into His perfect Being-make a practice of this regularly esp. thru prayer, like St Catherine of Siena, who said our souls can be like a drop in the ocean of Infinite Being of God if we have desire and discipline

Sacramentals can help us to God's peace by being reminders in front of our faces: A Crucifix nearby, or a statue of the Virgin peacefully holding Jesus, can help you if you glance at it-place these reminders around you to pervade your mind and heart and receive God's healing peace. Let His peace penetrate your soul-rest in Him: not just in your head alone, nor in your heart alone but in both-permeating you with His life and Love. Think of a sponge (your soul) being placed in a bucket of water (God's love)-now let it soak therein…We need to become more attuned to our souls-the spiritual animating principle and life energy of our very real selves so as to give all of ourselves to Him.

He gives peace not as the world gives it: Jesus' Peace is within, in the soul, from His divine Being and in attunement with Him. Seek this most especially in the Blessed Sacrament, in Mass, Holy Communion and Eucharistic Adoration-He is the Prince of Peace …There is a priest-pastor who defended the Church's teaching on receiving Holy Communion and some teachers rose against him. To gain strength he prayed daily in front of the Eucharist in holy hour for His peace in this troubling situation -do you?-and he was exonerated. St Francis de Sales once counseled in receiving the Lord's Peace: "The same God who took care of you yesterday and today is the same God Who will be there tomorrow before you arrive." Mediate upon this in your trials and take comfort in it.

Fr Restreppo-all his life is a series of detachments-his mother died, he moved from one parish to another, his best friend died and then he was moving again to where he did not know. What helped him? God's plan of Providence, which is sometimes mysterious, but the priest trusted in the Lord's providing for him.

He will give you peace: are you opening the door of your soul thru prayer, thru little acts of abandonment, thru heroic love? Most likely we will have to do this often-abandon to him and re-learn the Ways of Providence.

Also, know your enemies of peace which compromise God's action within you-the "treadmill," not enough sleep, cravings and bad habits, resentments, your temperament which may sometimes be clinging to past hurts or current harms. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be purified of all these to receive peace and be a peacemaker!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi