Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Keeping a Holy Lent - 13


Hindsight is always 20/20: photo by Suffe

Look Back

Sometimes things come together in surprising ways.

This week marks 16 years since I came to Concord. I've been wondering what I might write about this anniversary but hadn't come up with anything I thought worth posting.

Then I came across a quote from Cardinal Newman over at Todd's Catholic Sensibility in a post titled Look Back.

That Todd happens to link there back to an earlier Lenten post of mine was a sure sign that I should pay attention to what he was writing.

Here's the quote from Newman:

God’s presence is not discerned at the time when it is upon us,
but afterwards when we look back...

Afterwards... when we look back...

And here's the beginning of Todd's reflection:

Every so often, I turn pages back in my journal. It’s more than an exercise in spiritual nostalgia. I hope to see threads of God before they are actually tied together and woven...

Looking back on these 16 years I see the wisdom in the words Todd shared with us from Newman.

It's likely a good thing that we don't get to look ahead!

What if I'd seen in the first week of March 1994 that just a few years later, during my first pastorate, the Church would be shaken by the first tremors of the crisis of sexual abuse by clergy and that the Archdiocese of Boston would be what came to be called the epicenter of that quaking of trust and faith ...

What if I'd been able to see back then that my first pastorate would entail the closing of a parish I would come come to love...

What if I'd been able to see into the future to my appointment as the first pastor of a reconfigured Catholic community in a new parish Concord...

Of course, I didn't see any of that. No one did. No one even suspected any of this.

And through it all there were many times when it was difficult to discern the presence of God in the times that were upon us all. It was difficult "to see threads of God before they were actually tied together and woven..."

But looking back, I see God's hand --not in the abuse, not in the cover-ups, not in the failing structures of an institution-- but rather in the truth being brought to light, the wounds of so many being exposed, and small but sure taken towards the truth and towards healing...

Looking back, I can begin to "see threads of God before they were actually tied together and woven," especially in the coming together of the communities of two parishes...

Looking back and even now, I can see the hand of God beginning to guide his people with the light of truth towards honesty and healing. That work is not yet done - so very much more remains and our small, sure steps have often been too small, unsure, slow and stumbling...

But if, when "looking back," we can see the presence of God even in the most tragic and troubling of times, we can learn to trust that God's presence will be there for us in the days ahead... That even now, in today's problems, there run the threads of God, waiting to be tied together and woven...

Todd continues:
We’re about a third of the way through Lent right now. We’ve heard Jesus preach the three pillars. We’ve encountered him in the desert and on the mountain. It’s a good time to take stock of what we’re doing and where we’re headed this season. If Lent is an encounter with God, has it been a joyful experience? It’s easy enough for it to be a time of self-denial, and of penitence. The two hardest aspects of this season–at least for me–are to find joy and to find solitude.
So often, in the moment, we miss not only the presence of God but also the joy of God's presence. Might not Lent be a time to "look back" and discern the presence of God in the steps which have brought us to this day? Might we look back and see how those loose threads became a tapestry of mended beauty?

It's all too easy to sit in solitude and nurse past pain. The solitude of Lenten prayer can be a time to review the past, to "journal back" even through the hardest times and to see where and when and how the gentle hand of God, and the hands of those who love us, guided us through even the valleys of the shadow of death to times of healing and peace we once thought we'd never find again...

As I look back over these 16 years, the troubles of those days loom large but larger and greater by far is the presence of God which has helped us to this day -- and this is the day the Lord has made!

Perhaps a Lenten exercise for all of us might be finding the time and the solitude to "look back" and to find where the presence of God was above, below, beside, behind and within us - especially when we might have thought God had abandoned us... In this season of Lent might we look back to see where were the threads of God before they were tied together and woven...

And none of us need wait until Easter to celebrate the joy of knowing the presence of God, in good times and in bad...
lent2010

3 comments:

Jamma said...

It is hard to believe that 16 years have gone by since you came to Concord! Please know how much your leadership and guidance have meant to us through all the turmoil of closing OLHC and coming together to form Holy Family Parish. Thank you also for your leadership and honesty thru the continuing crisis of the sexual abuse scandal.

You are truly doing God's work. I hope and pray for your continuing leadership in our Parish.

Thank you, and God Bless!

Anonymous said...

As I have said many times, I don't believe we could have come as far as we have without your leadership, CP. I must say though that I do think your parishioners are a rather resilient People of God!

Congrats on your 16th anniversary of coming to Concord!

Rosemary

anonymous ii said...

The best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans.....