“But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please men (and women), but rather God, who judges our hearts.” (1 Thess. 2, 4)
Mother Teresa is reputed to have said: "I do not pray to be successful, I pray to be faithful." Sounds very much like St. Paul in today’s passage from first Thessalonians. He is not trying to please the people he is serving, but God. What a challenge both these great saints put before us.
Soon I will be celebrating another birthday, a time for reflection and hopefully some renewal. But I always smile ruefully at times like this because I continue to rely too much on others' approbation of my life and ministry, even though I know it is silly, even childish. While this enduring fault may be a good exercise in humility, I would like the grace to let go of success as a barometer of my value, and enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s presence all around us.
Since some of you may be struggling with this same fault, let me suggest a few practices that might be helpful.
- Take a moment each morning to hand over the day ahead. Ask God to make it holy and to help you not worry about the things you can’t control.
- Pause during the day in an intentional way and thank God for whatever is happening. Sometimes I set my watch alarm to buzz at noon and 5 pm to remind myself of this.
- When troubled (or obsessed) with others' behavior, ask what it is like for others to live with you as you are.
- Develop some form of repetitive prayer throughout the day. The Jesus prayer might be fine way to begin: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
A gospel life must be very simple. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Cluttering life with too much to do, too many worries, too many things to say or think gets in the way of knowing the heart of God at the heart of all that is.