Dear Parish Family of Good Shepherd (aka: Followers of the Way of Jesus),
At Good Shepherd every mass begins with the greeting “Know that the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s love, and the power of the Holy Spirit is with you always.” This statement about power, presence, and love is not just something that sounds nice; it speaks to an experiential reality within each of us. It is so important during this difficult time to remind ourselves of this truth.
In the Gospel of Matthew 7: 24-27, we read the following from a parable that appears at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t do them would be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell.”
This parable emphasizes the need to put Jesus’ teachings into practice and speaks of two sorts of people whose hearts are revealed in their actions. Let’s understand the deeper meaning of this teaching. As we have mentioned many times at Good Shepherd, the essence of the teaching of Jesus is to find the Kingdom of Heaven, which is inside each one of us. Therefore, it can never be found anywhere outside of us. The call is to find the transcendent dimension that resides in each one of us. This Kingdom of Heaven is available to everyone. The people who venture within find an inner strength beyond their wildest imaginations, while those who live externally are overwhelmed when difficult circumstances arise. The rain that beats against the house is whatever adversity we face. That adversity is something we will all experience at different times in our lives, whether it is personal or, as we are experiencing now with the coronavirus, on a collective level.
If we do not go deep within ourselves and find this dimension inside, we will be run by our thinking minds and external situations. The thinking mind can be devastating. Fear can be consuming and more contagious than a virus. Let us realize that fear is just a thought that “pretends to be necessary."
Take a moment to become aware that you are breathing. Become aware of yourself, not as a self of personal history but, rather, as a "conscious presence." Notice that in this moment there is nothing to fear. Notice that you would be fine if you did not have a thought that was fearful. When we live in our minds, we become like a house built on sand. Our emotional states of being become determined by the outside rather than the inside.
The adversity we are experiencing can become a wonderful opportunity, an opportunity to awaken, an opportunity to realize we are much deeper than we ever imagined. There are many times in our lives when we cannot change an external situation, but we do have at our disposal this dimension within that we can choose how we respond. We all want things to go well. We all want to live in our comfort zone, but ironically, when everything is going our way and falling into place, no growth or awakening occurs. When things are going well, we tend not to go within. This time of adversity, however, can become a time where we can travel deeper into that Kingdom of Heaven.
French Philosopher, Blaise Pascal, famously stated, “The biggest problem in humanity stems from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” As we practice “social distancing,” it is a perfect time for us to create a private retreat within ourselves. As we go within, we become aware of who we truly are. We can begin to discover within us a foundation of rock that is unshakable.
Please know there is not a single passage in sacred scripture that tells us to be afraid. Our faith in Jesus Christ tells us that we have the power inside of us to overcome all difficulties and heartaches. In Philippians 4:13 we read, “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” Know that today, each one of us is called upon as never before to really live out our beautiful, life-transforming faith.
Peace and love,