As we begin the season of summer, I would like to share a few thoughts with you on a subject that should be implemented during every day of our summer season. You can call this the sermon on summer spirituality.
I recently came back from London after speaking to a group of Jesuit priests about how the Catholic Church was losing so many individual followers and people who had almost totally lost their faith in God or anything spiritual. The Jesuits were very definite that people can lose their faith because of materialism, because of pagan values, because of indifference, but the Jesuit fathers added one more quality that contributed to the real dark days of the Catholic Church in England. The quality they mentioned was the subject of complacency - just going on every day of one's life without any great attention being paid to God or the teachings of Christ or the values that have been taught in the Church for centuries. When we talk about summer spirituality, we have to make sure that what has happened in England does not happen here.
During the course of the year when you hear all sorts of statistics. For example, if you have never experienced the danger of battle or the loneliness of imprisonment or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of five million people in the world who have gone through these pains. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people in this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet or spare change at home in some dish, you are among the tope 8% of the world's wealthy. If you can read a newspaper, you are doubly blessed because there are 2 billion people in this world who cannot read at all.
Yet, we can hear these statistics year after year and oftentimes we almost ignore or become complacent about the gifts we have compared to others who lack so much. Why do we need a summer spirituality? A summer spirituality teaches us three qualities: to develop a closer relationship with God, a closer relationship with others and a closer appreciation with ourselves.
All of us slack off during the summer holidays. We don't have to go to Mass because we are on vacation and it is easier and God would understand. But when you think of that line of logic you are just rationalizing, you are just intensifying your complacency, you are forgetting the great statement of St. Augustine when he said, "you have made us for yourself, O God and our hearts will not rest until they rest in you."
God gives us 168 hours per week during the summer and I think you will find it very hard to explain to almighty God why you cannot give him one hour back every week concerning your spiritual obligation of staying close to God.
Each week I am in some nursing home visiting some aunt or uncle, bringing them communion, anointing them or hearing their confession. It is incredible to me why so few elderly people during the summer especially get almost no visitors from the immediate members of their families and God forbid that we who have so much would ever invite an elderly aunt or uncle out to a summer barbeque. God never gave us parents or grandparents that we could become so complacent about them that we justify our conscious that knowing that other people are taking care of the members of our own family.
Another aspect of a summer spirituality to avoid complacency is part of your own prayer life and part of your own life of meditation. Somewhere during the course of each summer day you have to wake up in the morning and recognize God has given me talents that he has given to no one else. God has given me abilities that he has not given to others and if my summer is to be spiritual, if my relationship with Christ is to become closer, then I have to reinforce myself spiritually by developing a closer intimate relationship with Christ in the Eucharist. From baptism you were given the opportunities to hear about the Catholic Church in sermons, to read about the Catholic Church in books and newspapers, that was part of your obligation to get closer to Christ through your reading and above all through the Eucharist. If you become lukewarm or a lapsed Catholic, please do not blame all the factors that you see in the newspapers, the scandals in the clergy, or the scandals in the lay persons life. You are responsible for your sense of accountability to almighty God regardless of what is done outside your life. You are responsible for you alone in the sight of God. You cannot use all these excuses and feeble reasons for allowing yourself to become lukewarm or complacent. You have to have a relationship that is grounded in God, anchored in your relationship with others and deeply fostered with yourself by your own talents.
A relationship with God, a relationship with others and a relationship with yourself, these help us develop not just a summer spirituality, but a spirituality for life.
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