Contemplation As A Key To Calm. Homily for the 3rd Week of Advent
In the RELIGION section of the Huffington Post on 11/17/2014 was the article, “What Philippians 4:6-7 Bible Passage Can Teach Us About Managing Anxiety Today“ By Antonia Blumberg. She wrote,
People turn to the Bible for support with many challenges, and chief among them is anxiety. According to data released by Amazon on the most highlighted passage in Kindle ebooks, the most popular passage from the Bible is one on reducing anxiety and finding trust in God. The specific passage is Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version), which states:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Some other passages were: 1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Philippians 4:13 is also worth reading – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
And then there my personal favorite, Jeremiah 29:11-13 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for woe, to give you a future and a hope. You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
In Luke’s Gospel today we hear John the Baptist saying,
“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
What is the chaff in your life that God wants to burn away? Why is this important? Anxiety is the chaff in your life. God wants you – to give the chaff in your life – to Him. Why? Because it’s robbing you of your peace.
December 10 was the anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton. To commemorate this occasion, Bishop Barron spoke about Merton:
As Bishop Barron says in the video, “What is the central theme of Morton’s writing? It’s contemplation. That might seem above or intimidating to the normal Catholic parishioner-in-the-pew. But understand what contemplation is to Merton. Contemplation is “finding the place in you where you are – here and now – being deeply created by God.”
That not about solving problems. That’s about transformation. That’s about suddenly finding yourself in a totally different place not because the situation has change – YOU have changed, you are different.
The Third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete [gow-DAY-tay] Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing. Today’s readings mention the word “joy” twelve times. But we can only rejoice “always” if our joy is based on something that goes deeper than pleasure or happiness. What is that deeper thing? Salvation. Being saved or rescued from some intractable something from which you cannot free yourself. In the First Reading we see, “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst. A mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love.” This is all about a friendship with a God who can change things.
What would that look like? Let me propose a homework assignment to you. It’s a contemplative exercise based on the “Examen” of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
What’s Good – What’s Bad – What’s Hurt – What About A Miracle
- Think of one thing in your life that’s really good – thank God for it.
- Think of one thing in your life that’s really bad – ask God to do something about it.
- Think of one person in your life who is really hurting – ask God to heal them.
- Then … ask God for a miracle. Think of something ridiculous, something totally out of your pay grade. Ask God for it.
Audio version of the homily is here: