One day my husband and I were taking a leisurely walk around our neighborhood when we saw two policemen standing on a corner. A couple of blocks away was a police car, just sitting there as if waiting for someone or something. We concluded that the first two policemen were spotters watching passing motorists to see if they were talking on their cell phones or texting while driving. The officer in the nearby police car would get the message from the spotters and pursue any perpetrators. Citations, anyone?
That observation brings to mind the importance of paying attention to what we are doing and thereby avoiding distractions that could lead to trouble. Paying attention usually allows us to perform our activity well, because our minds are focused on the task at hand. However, since we are creatures that can usually think of more than one thing at a time, we have to strive to keep our priorities in order and our distractions under control.
Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 14) reports that when Jesus was told about the death of John the Baptist, he went off by himself to a deserted place, probably to grieve as well as pray. He could not pay attention to his grief and prayer for long, however, because a large crowd followed him and wanted him to continue his healing ministry. Jesus was always taking notice of the needs of the crowds and so, in his great compassion, he found a way to heal their hunger for food as well and proceeded to feed five thousand of them.Soon after that, Jesus went up the mountain to pray while his disciples went off in their boat. The wind came up early in the morning, and Jesus came to the disciples by walking on the water. We know the story. Peter got out of the boat, and with his eyes fixed on Jesus, started to walk on the water towards him. Peter began to sink as he was distracted by the strong wind and, in fright, called out to Jesus to save him. His faithful attention to Jesus had waned. Jesus admonished him for doubting.
With the pandemic causing so much worry and disruption of our daily routines over the past year, we may have become distracted in our spiritual lives and practices, and not paid good attention to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus grabbed Peter by his hand and held him up, so he will do for us. As we progress during this season of Lent, let us do what St. Paul recommends in his letter to the Colossians (3:2):
Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
St. Peter, himself, gives us good advice as we rely on God:
Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (1Peter 5:7-8)
As each day is new and full of potential blessings, let us pray for each other that we may stay alert and be joyfully attentive to any opportunities to help ourselves, our family members, and our friends come closer to the Lord. No citations for distracted praying for us!
Painting: Christ Walks on the Water, Eero Järnefelt (1863-1937), Pori Art Museum, Finland
The scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.