Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (5 March 2016)
Being shortsighted isn’t very much fun. The bother with the spectacles is bad enough without shortsightedness being used as an adjective to describe people who have no foresight or intention to plan for the future. It’s not a good thing to call anyone and it’s especially harsh these days where planning seems so important. Are there any redeeming qualities to the concept of shortsightedness? This might be a good time for us to consider both sides of the shortsighted coin.
The gospel this weekend is one that we’re very familiar with and needs no introduction nor too much explanation. The prodigal son and his generous father is well known to us but sometimes we don’t focus sufficiently on the elder brother. He strikes one immediately as being rather self-righteous but is also quite shortsighted in his approach to his father. His younger brother has already taken his share of the inheritance and that would mean that he stands to inherit everything that his father owns. His own father says this yet the elder son still insists that he slaves for his father without reward. Funny that he should still see himself as slaving for something that he stands to gain very soon. In his peevishness, he complains that he doesn’t even get a little goat to share with his friends. His concern for his current state shows that he’s pretty shortsighted, forgetting the future riches while concentrating only on the present. We too sometimes concentrate on our current comfort over the promise of eternal life.
That leads us to want to have quick fixes and perform shortsighted actions in our lives. It’s easy to get distracted by the world and focus on things that make us happy only for a while without concern for the life that is to come. We try to make more money, gain more power or influence without nurturing the inner selves. It’s small wonder that the Holy Father continually cautions us about rejecting wealth and power over a life of simple humility. The Holy Family shows us this as they were always concerned with being close to God and not worried about getting rich. Our Blessed Mother was able to keep the family together through her quiet faith.
Her quiet humility and simplicity of life allowed the Lord to grow up slowly, with love, day by grace-filled day. There probably wasn’t much planning done by them in the modern sense. Some might say it’s shortsighted but I take a different view. I’ve been wearing spectacles since I was nine and some years back, a stark reminder of my myopia occurred. I dropped my spectacles on the way home and the lenses shattered. As a result, I couldn’t see too well and had to rely on the kindness of strangers to tell me the bus numbers and if the roads were safe to cross. The shortsightedness helped me to realise my own reliance on others, the reliance on God and how it was grace that brought me home safe that evening. Shortsightedness is a physical difficulty that, while relatively minor, can also humble us if we realise it.
Humility is important and the Holy Family showed us why. They were reliant on the community, for jobs (as St Joseph and Jesus were both carpenters and workmen) as well as for help. We saw how they travelled to Jerusalem with a caravan, relying on others to keep them safe. That the Lord was known to the community which led to his rejection also showed that they were humble members of the community all the while. We don’t need power and should be content in our poverty, material or otherwise as that builds our faith and trust in the Lord.
This Year of Mercy is a good time to allow ourselves the opportunity to build our faith and trust in the Lord. That does not require huge efforts but just small changes in our daily lives. While we keep our eyes on the larger goal of eternal life as the guiding principle of all we do, we also become more aware of our weaknesses as we move through our lives. Doing this and relying on the mercy of God in all that we do allows us to be both aware of the goal (not shortsighted) and reliant on God (a little shortsighted or weak). Something that seems less salutary can also be something that brings us back to God. Be open in all things, and allow God to lead us in our lives. Then all things will indeed be well, shortsighted or not, as God’s mercy prevails.