Thursday, October 11, 2012
A Year --- To Do What?
I had thought to title these reflections “Post-Election Year Plans” or “The Year of Faith,” both things are very important, and overlap in this next year. I expect this next year will be one very different from years we have known in the past. Some say the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world in 2012. As a matter of faith, I don’t believe that because Jesus said: “Only the Father knows the day and the hour.” So certainly the Mayans didn’t.
I don’t believe the world will in end in 2012, but perhaps just the world as we know it. And I think we should make plans. This is a year to prepare.
The election talk, posturing, and lies just seem to go on and on. This guy will reverse the last guy’s policies and things will be great, or some other guy will do his thing and things will be great. If we are to believe them, things will be great no matter what. I think I’m more likely to believe the Mayans. But regardless of who is in charge next year, in four more years we’ll do the same battle, with two new politicians promising things will get better, and worrying things will get worse --- but less so, if you vote for them. Each isn’t really sure what to do --- and even if they were they won’t say so, because there are many voters who want things fixed, their situation first --- and as long as the other guy pays for it. It all seems like a game of King of the Hill, but yet we know that if some things don’t get fixed soon, it will be king of the dunghill.
Some despair: “We are beyond hope.” But St. Paul says: “Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude --- pray “full of gratitude,” he says, knowing what you ask will be given you as by a loving Father.
So, what are we to do in this Year of Faith, this political year of more “hope and change” or “hope for change” or perhaps: “hope we have some change left?” I’ve been thinking and praying on that for some weeks, and here are my plans, for I think plans for this next year are essential.
First (although not necessarily the most important) I will look my finances. The stock market is recovering; or --- there is another depression coming. The world will be devastated for 20 years; or --- the world is finally addressing what must be done. Or the world is going to hell, and we may be dragged along with it. That’s just some of the panic-type stuff I get in the mail or read in the papers almost daily. (And someone actually said the Cubs will win the World Series next year. Talk about weird predictions!) Quite frankly it is beyond me to figure out what’s happening, and so this next year I will resolve to stop trying to figure it all out – or worrying. I plan to spend one day with a (hopefully good) financial advisor, make some best guesses on what to do with him, and then turn my finances over to him, a supposed expert with talents in those areas, for a year. And then I’ll pray for him. And I will not be anxious.
Relative to matters of faith: I suspect it may be a year which challenges my faith. Difficult times tend to do that. And I’ll want to do something, and I may be anxious. More than ever I’ll want to really trust in God --- and I’ll find myself challenged to do it. But I know I can more easily trust someone if I know them, so I will spend the year trying to get to know God better. If I am to pray to know and do His will, I need to understand Him more, to better predict His will, and understand it, and accept it. So this year I will focus on reading about Him in the Gospels.
I told the local bookstore that I wanted a copy of the four Gospels in a book designed for study. I wanted commentary, thoughts from people more knowledgeable than I. I wanted cross-references to other areas of the Bible to help put the words in context of the bigger picture. And I wanted large margins, so I could underline and write comments as I go. I really want to learn and understand this man Jesus, and WHAT He said and did, so I can copy it in my life. And I really want to understand this God, Jesus, and WHY He said and did things, so I can fully accept His spirit within me.
I ended up buying the Navarre Bible, with separate copies of each of the Gospels. After I had purchased them, a few days later I read that they were the study choice of many saintly men (dumb luck on my part to have selected it). With the four Gospels having 89 chapters in total, reading one chapter a day I will go through these books 4 times in the next year. I think the first time I shall read the traditional Catholic way, lectio divina – read, meditate, pray, contemplate, basically reading for a greater knowledge of Christ. I expect I will have numerous underlines and insights commented from this method. Then I will re-read focusing on the commentaries --- what do others say, and considering the Gospel times, what differing insights are there to be found. The third time through I will focus on the cross-references, giving, I expect, some greater insights as to WHY Jesus did what He did. And then I will read yet a fourth time, focusing on all my underlines and commentaries --- and what have I learned it is saying to me about Jesus. I hope in this way to grow in faith, in this year of faith.
Separately, I’ve already begun a study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the explanations of the doctrines of the Church. I’ve done that because it is a great document for making sense of the Catholic faith. Yes it dispels and explains away many misconceptions about the Catholic Church (no, we don’t worship Mary) but it also puts the whole faith --- the Creed we profess, the Liturgy we worship at, our Prayers, and how we life our Life in Christ, --- all together. It is a holistic way of life, the way Christ taught us and, I believe, meant for us to live, to live our lives fully. Reading about 10 pages a week, I will have finished the Catechism by this time next year, and I expect I will understand much more, not so much of what I believe, but WHY I believe it. If interested, you can see my learning and commentaries as I read each week at Catechism-Study.blogspot.com.
One final thing I plan to do this year: I will start saying the Angelus prayer each day at noon and 6PM. I can recall as a youth how we would be playing baseball in the park when the church bells began ringing at noon and six, and the game would stop, as we all stood and silently prayed the Angelus. I fondly recall that. The short prayer is a reminder of what God has done for us. I used to know it by heart; I recently bought a small prayer card which I will carry with me until I know it by heart again, and then, like my three Hail Mary’s at night, I hope to make it a small but significant part of my life, of living my life fully.
I’m sure you are thinking: “Gee, it’s nice you have the time to do all these things, but I have a busy life.” Well, I suspect that I probably spend more hours each week caring for my mother than you do at the office. And while you may have a house and kids to care for, I have two houses (and bills to pay for three). And I do volunteer work regularly. I don’t really have time for this either. But I’ll make it. For the Bible study, I’ll arise a half hour earlier each morning. The catechism study I do on one night a week, the one night I have off from caring for mom. And besides these things, I plan to force myself back into an exercise program for a half hour each day; so I’ll get up a half hour earlier for that, too.
But “I need my rest,” you might think. So do I. Which brings me to a final fallout resolution for this next year: this will be a new year for me --- no re-runs. I resolve to watch no re-runs of whatever: no CSI, no NCIS, no Law and Order, no late-nite 1950-ish re-runs of George Burns and Gracie Allen. If I’ve seen it before; I won’t watch it again. My late night wind-down time will wind down a bit sooner each evening. That will free up time for sleep, and early rising. It will be a year-long regimen, preparing for whatever might come.
So while the sky may be falling economically in the country, I’ll try and deal with it as Jesus would. I will not be anxious. I will say I trust in the Father. I will have faith. In this Year of Faith, I shall have faith.
And if Chicken Little proves right and the sky does fall, I shall not worry. I trust the soup kitchen downtown will survive any disaster, and I will not have such pride that I would not stand in line, if it came to that.
So, what are your plans?