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Lay Perspective: Life is the unexpected, but we can prepare to face it

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The night before The Lord’s passion, the disciples were seemingly (if you can infer this from the bible) having  a nice evening. Though Jesus had warned them of his passion and resurrection, they didn’t quite understand what was about to occur.

They had a meal, they were comfortable, they had their leader, and they even slumbered in our Saviors agony in Gethsemane.

Then in one brief moment, everything changed. The disciples fled, Peter denied Jesus within hours of pledging he never would, and their lives were upended and changed forever.

Often in our life there are those life-changing moments. It could be a simple phone call from a Doctor, being laid-off from the job, an accident, the list has many faces. Like the disciples, we’re tempted to flee: sometimes escaping from reality with alcohol or drugs, sometimes we shut down.  I’ve witnessed and been part of these moments in the last year. As a witness you desperately want to reach out and help someone. When you’re a part of these moments, you want control; you want to change the dynamic. The reality is we’re being called to dependence on our Lord.  That’s a difficult concept, especially since we’re taught to be independent. Even when we’re independent, it’s God’s grace anyway.

After the passion and resurrection of our Lord, the disciples were given the Holy Spirit. A simple prayer to arm ourselves is “Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth”. Calling on the Holy Spirit is crucial to handing over control.

Letting go is difficult but if we immerse ourselves in God’s love, the unexpected won’t be any easier, but it may help us get through the unexpected.

A visit to the Blessed Sacrament is another way to arm ourselves in the unexpected. Simply sitting with the Lord and praying and asking, how do I get through this? It’s important to listen. I have a tendency to pray (and rant), but listening to God’s instruction, arming ourselves with patience and perseverance helps us get through the unexpected.

Unburdening ourselves in times of crisis can draw us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Taking time to examine our conscience, praying on that examination, and going to confession is another way to arm ourselves in the unexpected. The saying that we let go of baggage that is weighing us down comes to mind as we get rid of those things that can weigh us down in the unexpected.

At times, we can’t pray in crisis. That is a time to hand over the baton to our family and friends and simply say I need you to pray for me. It’s the opposite of independence, where we think we can handle it, don’t bother others, we’ll take care of the problem: yet having others take over a little of our pain increases the Kingdom of God.

Even before the unexpected happens, the more we hand over to the Lord, the more the unexpected won’t be as bad. If we think of Jesus being stripped of his clothes before his crucifixion, we can relate to our own lives and would instinctively grab our clothing. The more we let go, the more we let God in. That doesn’t mean things won’t turn on a dime in our lives, it simply arms us to better handle those moments.  You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control how you respond to the unexpected.

Jesus teaches us in his prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done.” We often pray for what we want for an outcome, and when those outcomes don’t go our away, we can go into despair. God’s waiting for us to share the burden. St. John Paul II emphasized in Veritatis Splendor the dependence of man on God. He further wrote “Human freedom and God’s law meet and are called to intersect, in the sense of man’s free obedience to God and of God’s completely gratuitous benevolence towards man.”

As we ponder our freedom as a nation, we can reflect on our Religious Freedoms: the freedom as St. John the Baptist understood in John 3:30, “He must increase, I must decrease.” On the Fourth of July we celebrate Independence Day. In a real sense when we had over our freedom to God, we experience authentic freedom.  Happy Dependence Day!

Greg Hartman is the Circulation Director for The Catholic Telegraph.

This column originally appeared in the July 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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