1 Corinthians 15:12-20
When reading this section of St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, a memory of years gone by when I was working as an assistant pastor with Fr. Denis McGowan, C.P. at our parish in Ikeda, Japan, came to mind. Every Thursday evening we would go to visit and have supper with our Retreat House Community in Mefu. In the midst of our busy lives in the parish, it was a chance to have some peace and quiet together.
When we went through the main gate and continued up and around the long shaded driveway leading up to the monastery entrance, we passed a simple statue of the Sacred Heart that was covered with a blend of soft green moss and the chalky white of the stone. It was a natural place to stop and rest, with perhaps a quiet sigh of relief. Often as not there would be a Japanese couple, young or old, a family or an individual, quietly standing in front of the statue in quiet reflection with head bowed. This presence continued year after year, season after season.
As time passed I came to realize that the people I saw at the gate were almost never Catholics or Christians. Sometimes they didn’t have any particular religion at all. Like St. Paul mentioned to Timothy, they seem to have found great contentment and gain, in a moment, a presence that they identified as holy and peaceful. In one sense they hoped to hold onto that solitude for awhile and yet in another sense they brought it with them in the disposition of their hearts.
Sometimes we become too focused on our position in, or our relationship to, the turmoil that we find ourselves surrounded by. The nature of the commotion might be political, religious, or social. In any case it can be easy to be distracted by what is on the surface or by what is really optional rather than essential. Many of us would surely benefit by avoiding the squabbles of daily life in whatever the area of distraction might be. Pausing long enough in the quiet solitude within the presence of God just may bring us the faith, love, patience and gentleness to recognize who we are with and who we really are.
Fr. John Patrick Day, C.P. is pastor of Holy Martyrs of Japan Parish, Sullivan, Missouri.