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Confined? Look within

Most of us remember the parable Jesus told about the wedding feast (Mt 22:11-13). Everyone was invited but one man showed up without a wedding garment. The head of the household told the servants to throw the man out into the darkness “where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

To make a point in his sermon, one preacher kept repeating the words “wailing and gnashing of teeth, wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Finally a man in the first pew raised his hand and asked: “But, Reverend, suppose you have no teeth.” The preacher responded: “Teeth will be provided.”

During this period of the COVID-19 confinement, most of us may not have been grinding our teeth, but most of us have been challenged. We’re not used to staying home. We Americans have always been people on the go. From the beginnings of our nation, we have sought new frontiers. “Westward ho” was the call of the early pioneers. Having our own car and being able to go when and where we want had been part of our tradition. I think we have a new appreciation of just how much people in prison suffer in their confinement.

We deal with our confinement in different ways. Sometimes we may drink alcohol. One drink may not be so bad. But keep it to just one. We may watch a lot of television or go online. But they, too, have their limits. In short, even our distractions have their limits.

But there is another way. In our time of physical limits, we can go within. There is a universe within us that most of us rarely discover. Jesus said quite emphatically: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21). If the infinity of God is within, then we do indeed have not only new worlds to discover but also a new place to go.

A simple phrase to repeat silently throughout the day is: “Be still and know that I am God.” When we can be still, we can discover the presence of God.

I’m reminded of the story of the man who was told by God that he would come to him that night. The man waited all night, and never saw God. The next morning he complained bitterly to God: “You didn’t keep your word. You never showed up.” God replied: “You forgot to look within.”

Closing our eyes and repeating, “Be still and know that I am God” is a simple, but profound, way to practice the presence of God. God fills the universe in all its parts. We need to remember that God fills us as well.

As you may have guessed, if you’re driving a car or walking or jogging, closing your eyes is not a good idea. The prayer that I use when I’m not still is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Or, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.”

We can spend our days being aware of God within us and praying for those around us.

Our confinement will pass. God will not.

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