Where Are We?

Where Are We?

A website devoted to the discipline of psychology reminds that when we lose something, we should embrace a three-prong approach: first, calm down and don’t panic; second, carefully look around; and third, if necessary, trace our steps.

After considering these, many Catholics have long recommended a fourth option; that is, a quick shoutout to St. Anthony of Padua. For Anthony, the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church and patron of the poor, is also known for his assistance in finding missing things.

Now, while it is true that things (e.g., housing, food, etc.) assist us during our earthly journey, it is equally true that in heaven, where we will encounter the beatific vision and see God face-to-face, such earthly things won’t amount to a proverbial hill of beans. Which is why I like this prayer to St. Anthony:

Wondrous Saint Anthony, glorious for the fame of your miracles, you had the happiness of receiving in your arms our blessed Lord as a little child. Obtain for me from His mercy this favor that I desire from the bottom of my heart.

This petition differs slightly from others intent upon finding something. Rather, it is focused upon finding someone; that is, you and me, when we are lost. And no, I’m not speaking of missing the exit to Cincinnati and instead taking the one bound for Los Angeles. What I’m speaking of is bypassing our relationship with the Lord and missing the exit ramp that Jesus has destined for our lives—both earthly and eternal.

A Catholic woman once told me a story of her brother-in-law. Having been raised in the Catholic faith, he veered from it after high school. Over the course of many decades, when confronted by family members about why he had left the Faith, his response was always the same: “I don’t need the Church to tell me how to live my life.” Regarding his “life philosophy,” he remained committed to it until the final days of an illness that would take his life.

Throughout those final days spent in the hospital, she recounted that family members visited, and stories were told. But then, something remarkable happened. For on the day he died, her brother-in-law turned to her and asked that she find a priest. In her mind, she thought: “A priest! Really?” And shortly thereafter, a chaplain arrived, family exited his hospital room, and her brother-in-law made his final confession and received the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick.

And an hour later, with a smile on his face, he died.

After years of separation from that moment, she shared with me her analysis of what had happened. First, she believed that her brother-in-law, in the moments before his death, had a profound encounter with the Lord and received His gift of forgiveness and mercy. And further, despite the many years he had turned his back to Him, the Lord continued to seek him out.

This morning, I mention all of this because on this Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time our first reading (Genesis 3:9-15) begins with the first Sin, which theologians describe as “The Fall.” Before this, however, we know that there was harmony as, daily, Adam and Eve walked with the Lord.

But from that moment, that one act, everything changed. In its aftermath, to use a modern phrase, our first ancestors proceeded to “ghost” the Lord and believed that by hiding themselves that they somehow, some way, could escape His thoughts— of them. However, from Psalm 139, we know that this is impossible…

Lord, you have probed me, you know me; you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar… You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb… My very self you know.

So, in Genesis, we hear those memorable words spoken to Adam. In the Garden, God asks him:

Where are you?

I don’t know about you, but whenever this scripture is proclaimed, I imagine God speaking these words and His voice echoing through time to the present moment, where today, His voice (and question) rests upon you and me!

In our relationship with God, just where are we? In our relationship with our brothers and sisters, just where are we? In our keeping of the Greatest Commandment that Jesus has given us to uphold, just where are we?

Wherever we are, we should know that God knows! For He knows everything. And like the Hound of Heaven, He continues to seek us out and never gives up on us!

So, at this moment, with these life-changing questions resting upon us, what should we do? What should be our way forward?

St. Mother Teresa provides us the answer: 

Do not let the past disturb you. Leave everything in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and begin again with joy.

Years ago, I read the testimony of a priest who joined a group of Catholic speakers on a “Catholic Cruise.” One evening, after he had spoken, a young man approached him and thanked him for his words. And then, he asked him a pointed question.

“Father, I feel that God may be calling me to the priesthood, but I feel unworthy.”

To which the priest replied: “Have you ever fathered a child out of wedlock?”

To which the young man said: “Oh, no.”

And the priest replied: “Well, St. Augustine did.”

And then the priest asked him another question: “Have you ever murdered or consented to the murder of another person?”

Flustered, the young man, said: “Father, of course not.”

To which the priest replied: “Well, St. Paul did.”

On this 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, God does not ask us about things that may be lost; rather, He asks us a question about ourselves. And He reminds us that wherever we are, we are never lost. He is always there at our side, loving us, leading us to Himself and the brightest future.

And regarding our past, whatever that may be, He invites us to lay it out before Him. For as the Psalmist (130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8) intones: “In God, there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

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Written by
Deacon Kurt Godfryd