Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Matter of Focus

My husband and I went out to breakfast this morning. At the restaurant, there was a couple there with their young son. No more than two, this little one was obviously the apple of his parents’ eyes. He was intrigued by the waiter’s bejeweled face mask. He was curious as to the hustle and bustle at the drink station located by his highchair. His exuberance was a joy to behold. The older gentleman sitting near him happily told the young couple about his own newly born grandchild. The wait staff became more animated every time they passed the table. This little one lifted everyone’s spirits.

When we left the restaurant, there was joy in my heart, and it got me thinking.

Without saying a word—that little one captivated everyone he encountered. His awe and curiosity were enlivening. The love his parents showed for him (and each other) was uplifting. There was a palpable joy in everyone who was there. The world was ordered to happiness, in that moment of time and space, in that restaurant today.

It made me realize that what we focus on directly impacts our attitudes, thoughts, and interactions with each other.

We live in a world that is fixated on chaos, negatives, and hopelessness. Turn on the news, run through social media or pick up a newspaper and you will get hit with this reality. From the Pandemic to racial tensions, from politics to natural disasters, we are fed a continuous line of tragedy, upheaval, violence, and turmoil.

As human beings, however, God has wired us to seek beauty, joy, truth, and happiness. When our environment is in direct conflict with how we are wired, we will experience an inner-disconnect that wreaks havoc, both interiorly and exteriorly.

The little boy in the restaurant made me realize that what we focus on is truly what we see. In his world—everything was new and fresh. There was a bounce in his step and a curiosity that was enlivening. He was filled with joy and the world was his.

You may say—but he’s only two. He doesn’t have bills to pay. He isn’t confronted with the realities and hardships of life. And yes, that is true.

But there is another truth at work here. And it has to do with our choices to notice what we notice.

If I choose to focus on the negative, that is exactly what I will find. I will gravitate toward the chaos. I will seek the imperfections—in others and myself. And when I do, I will be swallowed up by the hopelessness that is consuming us individually and as a nation.

If, however, I choose to focus on the good and the beautiful, I will be drawn to it. I will see the little child. I will be lifted in spirit—just as I was by everyone in that restaurant. When I change my focus, I will see the world differently. That focus has the ability to unite—just as it did the people of all ages and races, in that moment in time, in that restaurant.

What we focus on in life is our choice. This does not mean we sweep problems under the rug or ignore issues that need to be addressed. But, if we seek the good in each other, if we seek what is beautiful and true, we will have peace in our hearts. We will be motivated by hope. Love and joy are the fruits of such focus, which builds unity—and isn’t that just what this world needs now?

Thursday, April 9, 2020

A Time for Contemplation and Mercy

In these days of quarantine, we watch the television for the daily updates on the spread of the Corona virus. As we watch the death tolls rise and pray that the curve flattens, fear and anxiety take over. 

We miss seeing our families, the hugs and kisses of grandchildren. We mourn for the anticipated loss of family gathered around the Easter dinner table. We grieve that we will not gather for the grand liturgical celebrations. Relegated to a screen to watch and pray, the trappings of worship may seem flat. We long for the time when we can join together again. 

It seems to be all the more difficult as we enter into Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter.

But there is another thought that has been emerging in the silence of my prayer as I take notice of my longing for the crowds, the sights and smells of Liturgy, to receive the Eucharist, and the joys of family. It is a small voice, but I do admit it is getting louder, especially as we enter into the Upper Room, the Garden of Gethsemane, the prison, the Praetorium, Calvary Hill and ultimately, the Tomb.

What has come to me in this time of quarantine is this: Do I love all the trappings more or is my desire truly centered and focused on the love of my Savior?

Jesus walked alone. While His Disciples were gathered around the table and He prayed that they all may be one, their hearts were not unified. One betrayed Him. One denied Him. Most ran away and hid. Only the Beloved Disciple, Mary, His Mother, Mary Magdalene and a few other women stood in consolation and unity with Him in His suffering.

But what if this time of quarantine, rather than a time of mourning the loss of what was, was a time to listen to that small voice and ask ourselves, "Who or what is truly the focus of our life and love?"

Do we love the Lord of Life or are we caught up with the feelings and emotions of the crowds? Are we swept away with the liturgical music, decorations and robes, or are we consumed with the love of the One who walked the solitary path of His Passion, Death and Resurrection? Are we swept up in the busyness of life or are we content to sit solely in His Divine Presence?

What if this time of quarantine is a time of God’s Mercy? What if it is an opportunity to sit in the stillness and solitude of Jesus and reflect on what truly moves our hearts and actions? What if it is a chance to consider what we think is critically important in our lives and ask, “Does this lead me ever closer to Jesus or is it an obstacle to that relationship?” What if this is a time for us to take account of who or what we are truly in love with? What if it is a time to let go and be swept ever more deeply by the Holy Spirit into the love that flows between Father and Son?

Let us give thanks for this time of quarantine as a time of quiet reflection, stripped of the distractions that often cause us to lose focus. Jesus walked the path to Calvary alone, confident in the love of His Father. Let us walk with Him. Let us give Him our anxieties and fears, knowing that despite what looks like a hopeless end—the Cross and tomb and yes, even this time of quarantine—are doorways to New Life.

Let us look at this time of isolation as an opportunity to create a new normal, rich in mercy and love, forgiveness and peace as we grow ever closer to Jesus.