Look at the modern pagan’s case at its best. It claims that we ought to reverence nature because it gives us life, as Pagan Artist said. You can easily think of all sorts of wonderful things to be found in Nature with a capital “N.” The Christian would say that the wonderful things we find are wonderful gifts given us by a loving God, but let that go for a second. The first thing to be said about this modern nature worship is that it is very, very dim. Dumb, even. Sure, we find in nature pretty sunsets, and cute little bunnies and kittens, and warm sunny breezy spring days, and the awe-inspiring mechanics of life on earth and the equally awe-inspiring movement of the stars and galaxies. But we also find physical decay, cancer, earthquakes. Those cute kittens grow up to eat the cute bunnies. The weather that produces the beautiful spring days will also produce killing cold snaps and hurricanes that destroy everything in their path. The mechanics of life on earth produce death as much as life, and indeed depend on death to maintain the balance. What is to you a horrible death from cancer is for Nature simply a way of adjusting the population. I don’t know why anyone would want to worship this. The real pagans worshiped nature because it could kill them. They wanted to try to make Nature like them and spare them its worst. It was a bully they had to pretend to like. That’s not worship as we understand it. It’s bribery, and desperate bribery at that. Some of the ancient pagan religions would do almost anything to bribe the nature gods, including sacrificing their own children. Think for a moment what fear men would have to feel to toss their own infant children into a furnace. That is how frightened of nature were the people who knew it best. Not for them the cheery “Nature gives us life” and the chipper question, “What is wrong with worshipping God’s creation itself?” That’s the talk of someone who lives far removed from nature, in a modern city in a modern house with modern heat and modern plumbing, with modern medicine and everything else that protects us from nature as she really is. If he really met mother nature, he wouldn’t like her. As my grandmother said about a bad man she knew, he’d crush just as soon as look at you.
Be at peace
In the Gospel, Jesus gives us an antidote for fear. Whom or what are you afraid of? That is a very important spiritual question. One way to understand our life is to look at those things that we seek: wealth, power, privilege, honor, pleasure, friendship. But another way is to turn that question around and determine what or who it is that we fear. We might fear the loss of material things, the loss of a job, the loss of physical health, the loss of the esteem of others, the loss of personal intimacy, and ultimately, the loss of life itself. We are afraid of many things, but I’d be willing to bet that there is a primary or principal fear. What is it for you? Now after identifying that, listen to Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Any and all of the things that we customarily fear—loss of money, fame, pleasure, and power—have to do with this world. What Jesus is saying is that we should not let those fears come to dominate or define our lives, for he is with us—and with him, his peace. (Bishop Robert Barron firstname.lastname@example.org)
Peace in the midst of sorrow
For many of us, the circumstances that life brings can oftentimes take away our peace. If we allow it, difficult situations can diminish our joy and even lead us into despair. The song lyrics above bring such amazing clarity and truth! We cannot allow the storms of this life to rob us of our joy, but in our trials trust in the Lord as he promises, “The joy of the Lord will be my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
This recalls to mind a story of one of my close friend’s father. Michael Morton was wrongly incarcerated in the 1980s for the brutal murder of his wife. He lost his spouse, his three year-old son, and his freedom for the next quarter century. Moreover, practically everyone he had ever known or loved presumed he was guilty. In prison, this man went through all the emotions of anger and hatred, but several years into his sentence he had a radical conversion. As he grew in his relationship with the Lord, he came to an understanding that even if he never got out of prison, he was content with his life. Why? How? Because he came to understand in the depths of his being that:
Mr. Morton says in the documentary, An Unreal Dream, “If you understand these three things, what is your problem?” Twenty-five years after entering prison in the most miraculous of circumstances, Michael Morton was finally vindicated and exonerated of all charges. DNA testing had proved his innocence and life in prison was no longer. He was set free! I have seen him dozens of times, and he is never without a smile. He literally radiates joy. My good friend, now an adult, was the three year-old who lost his mother to murder and his father to prison. He, too, has found the Lord and lives with great joy.
I have heard more than a few priests talk about the three rings of marriage. The bride’s ring, the groom’s ring, and suffer-ring. When Mary and Joseph brought their newborn son to the temple, a new concern was brought to their attention. Simeon prophesized to Mary, “Your heart will be pierced by a sword” (Luke 2:35). Can you imagine what it would feel like to hear that your wife’s heart will be pierced by a sword? From a human perspective, that news would certainly leave you uneasy, whether you are a saint or not. I, for one, would probably think it about and worry about it every moment of every day. Spouses take on the pain of their beloved even more than if it were their own!
Sometimes we are tempted to think that the Holy Family just had it easy and that the circumstances of their life must have been so peaceful. The truth is that the storms surrounding their lives were an all-out war. From the very beginning, Herod tried to kill their child, and we all know how the story ended 33 years later.
How could Joseph and Mary live with joy under these difficult circumstances in life? The joy of the Lord was their strength!
St. Joseph lived with Jesus for approximately thirty years on this earth. He came to a deep understanding, just like Bart Millard of MercyMe and Michael Morton, that circumstances cannot possibly change who he was in the heart and mind of God. This truth prevailed over any and every circumstance of life…even knowing that a sword would soon pierce the heart of his spouse.
“Bring the Rain” continues:
I am Yours regardless of
The dark clouds that may loom above,Because You are much greater than my pain.You who made a way for meBy suffering Your destiny,So tell me: what’s a little rain?
Difficult things have happened in the past, and you can worry about what is to come in the future. However, if you live with Jesus in the present moment, he will give you a peace and joy that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). That is his promise. It won’t always be easy, but he will always be with you. If you lose sight of him, desperation may come but if you stay close to him and truly intimate with him like St. Joseph, then he will be your strength even in the midst of your weakness. It’s precisely when we are weak that he is strong (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10).
Heavenly Father, help me to seek union with you through each day of my life. If I find that our union is lacking, may that be my reminder to unite myself to you once more. I lay all of my burdens at your feet. May your grace be sufficient. Help me to continue to live a life of peace and joy no matter what storms come my way. Give me the radical faith and trust to allow you to remain asleep in the boat while a storm raged! If I ever find myself sinking in the darkness of the night, I will call out your name, and you will calm my distress. Father, I lift up to you all those who have very heavy crosses to bear in this life. Run to them, Lord, and be their Prince of Peace. Restore them to your joy. In their weakness, be their strength.
St. Joseph, unveil for me the love of the Holy Spirit present in my spouse. Amen. (https://stjosephnovena.com/day-12/)