Being Prepared Through Prayer and Trust in God

Police officers and firefighters hold September 11 flag during a memorial ceremony. The flag flew atop a severely damaged building across from ground zero and was left tattered by debris from the fallen World Trade Center. In 2008 a group of tornado survivors in Kansas stitched the flag back together, and it has been touring every state since then. In each stop, local service heroes stitch pieces to it to help complete its stripes. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

Life as you know it, as you had planned it, can change in an instant.   In recent years, we have witnessed homes and entire communities devastated by natural disasters, as well as school shootings and other acts of criminal violence.  Many have experienced the death of a loved one, the personal diagnosis of a fatal illness, the break-up of a marriage, or a job loss.  Any number of bad things have happened to affect radically our lives at any time.

One such moment was September 11, 2001.  On that day, I was attending an annual bishops’ meeting in Washington.  Upon hearing news of the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, and the plane crash in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, we adjourned, prayed, and went over to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for Mass.  We were not alone.  Thousands of people gathered with us to join in prayer for solace and in solidarity with those who had died, been injured or lost loved ones in the terrorist attack on our country.  We could sense a palpable level of unease with the Air Force interceptor jets flying overhead, but it was also a grace-filled moment as many people turned to the Lord.  Recognizing that God can bring good out of the most evil of situations, placing our trust in him, our prayer was hope in action.

We often will not know the time or the hour of life-changing events.  Thus, we are cautioned always to be vigilant and ready for life’s inevitable trials.  Following the attacks of September 11, there was talk about disaster preparedness – having a stockpile of water, food, medical supplies, etc.  This is prudent from a worldly perspective, of course, but these material possessions could also be lost in an instant.  Thus, Jesus instructs us to prepare by storing up treasure with God, to seek first his kingdom, to seek his grace and build our lives on the rock of the eternal things of heaven, rather than on the sand of temporal things which are washed away when the storms invariably come (Luke 12:16-34; Matthew 7:24-27).  He tells us not to worry, but to take comfort in the providence of God, who never ceases to care for the world with great love.

“Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you!”  Pope Francis, reminds us. “Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The ‘dragon,’ evil, is present in our history (Rev. 12:13-16), but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope!”

Recently a young man told me of the death of his mother.  The feeling of loss was hard, he said, and yet, he and the rest of the family could still feel her loving presence.  Immediately at her passing, they said the Church’s prayers for the dead, and then there followed a prayer vigil and funeral Mass.  “It’s tough, but it would have been unbearable without God,” he said, “He has kept us afloat.  My dad especially would not be able to go on without God, without the knowledge that mom still lives in him.”

Yes, with Christ, in hope, we know we have been redeemed. Our faith sustains us.  By joining ourselves with him now, we are prepared and can thus endure life’s inevitable suffering, which is transformed by the power of the compassionate love of Jesus on the Cross.  Pain and loss do not have the final say.  Those who believe are guided by the hope of the resurrection, which means that they already have this new life within them, the Spirit of the Risen Lord.  If we share this Good News with others, they too can have the hope and consolation of a love that overcomes all darkness, wipes away every tear, and makes all things new.