Finding God in the quiet and not-so-quiet places of our lives
A reflection for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
by Gerard Gallagher
All around Ireland there are many holy wells, associated with local saints and with local traditions. I grew up with a family tradition of visiting St. Brigid’s well in the ancient parish of Urney on the Donegal-Tyrone border in Ulster. To visit the well you had to walk up a local road. The grass grew in the middle of the road. Then you had to jump a fence and then walk across the field. It was a simple place, with a statue of St. Brigid and the well.
It really was a place where you could to go to be alone. These wells were ancient gathering places. Some wells were places that Catholics visited during Penal Times when it was forbidden to attend Mass. Wells and Mass rocks were places visited during famine, war, and times of social unrest. They were places where people of faith had visited – to take water from the well, to pray and ask for cures. Sometimes as a family we visited the well, just to fill in some time. Older people often requested and were grateful to receive a small bottle of holy water from the well.
Going to a quiet place is something that many of us desire. Life can be busy. At times all we want is to go away, to be alone, and to reconnect with our self. Even in busy cities people can try to be alone in quiet corners of parks, churches, libraries, and even coffee shops.
Sometimes I need to be alone. But it is not easy. Interruptions can happen. It is the same with the hassled parent, who tries to take a moment of quietness and is disturbed by a child. For others it can be a phone message that pops in and then you feel you need to respond. Jesus certainly valued his alone time. However he was not an individualist. He can be found responding to the needs of the community.
Jesus’ love for people meant that he would pause his isolating moments to be with people and to respond. This is the love of God in action. When the disciples came to Jesus for his opinion, he challenged their opinion. The disciples would seem to have felt they could do nothing to help the multitudes of people. Jesus forced them to dig deeper and see what was in front of them. Despairingly, they only had some bread and fish. Jesus was able to work with minimum resources to achieve the maximum. Jesus was able to achieve and surprise everyone by his love for the people. We are told that Jesus’ pity was responded to by love. Hunger was replaced by a miracle.
We can reflect on this. Sometime when we despair, we turn to God and think we have nothing.
However, God can work with nothing and do something. God’s revelation is not the feeding of people but the reality that we need to turn to Jesus and believe. St. Paul was echoing this when he noted that nothing need come between us and God. This is an amazing thought. God is love. However, not everyone has experienced God’s love. Many have not heard about this. If God’s love is abounding, then those who follow God need to communicate this.
Our hunger for God doesn’t need to develop into a famine. God is there. No matter what the trials and challenges that life throws at us. We need to believe that God is with us. We need to keep paying attention to God.
To use contemporary images, we need to stay logged in to God, no matter how weak our communication or signals are! We have learned how to do this in new ways in 2020. When we could not gather in our physical churches we found new ways to be Church. Our digital faith became an important means to stay connected to our faith. Our churches empty of congregations became portals of celebration of faith at home. Our digital church exploded, and families and the domestic church found new ways of being Church. Being an online disciple has been a new experience for many. Yet we all adapted. While we might have been hungry for Church, we found new ways of being faithful. Many of our digital platforms became holy wells where our faith was sustained in a time of crisis. Opportunities exist to live your faith. Rather than despair like the disciples at the lack of food, it is just a case a raising our eyes to heaven to bless every moment that comes our way.
The readings for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, are
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Gerard Gallagher works as pastoral coordinator in the Archdiocese of Dublin. He is author of a number of books including
Are We Losing the Young Church? (2005) and, most recently,
Return to Me with All Your Heart (2020). He has directed pilgrimages to World Youth Day for over 20 years! He works mainly with young adults.