HOMILY WEEK 34 06 – Year II

On Being Alert and Ready through Prayer, Hope and Trust

(Rev 22:1-7; Ps 95; Lk 21:34-36)


Stop, drop and roll! Over the years, children were taught these three words to help them remember what to do in the event of a fire. They were to stop running in fear, drop to the floor, and roll to put out whatever fire may have jumped to their clothing.

St. Padre Pio had a famous piece of advice that is just as simple to remember for when we are feeling burned by anxiety: “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” In fact, this advice of his frames the message from today’s readings – we are to trust God in prayer, live in the hope of God’s word, and let go of worry which is not helpful.

The commentary from The Word Among Us, adapted for this homily, equates this phrase of Padre Pio with the simple advice for children to stop, drop and roll as a way to avoid anxiety and enjoy greater serenity in our lives.

Stop and Pray: When anxious thoughts begin to well up in our minds, we can stop as soon as we notice them and turn to God in prayer. We can remind ourselves that God is with us, that God is in charge, and that God will help us release our burdens and concerns into God’s hands. God will even help us seek professional care if our anxieties become disabling.

Drop in Hope: Once we have stopped our frenetic coping activity, we can drop to our knees to pray – either literally or figuratively – and intentionally hand over our anxieties to the Lord. If it helps, we can raise our hands and open our arms wide, imagining ourselves dropping our worries at his feet and receiving his grace in return. We can pray, “Lord, all my hope is in you. Please come and help me.”

Roll and Don’t Worry: Although it is easier said than done, we can try to not let our concerns paralyze us. Instead, we try to roll with whatever comes our way. That is why we have been given the gift of faith that God will turn everything to the good for those who love God, even though it may seem practically impossible at the time. We need to exercise our faith in God’s love and providence by trying our best to keep moving forward with our lives, one day at a time, or perhaps even one moment at a time. Often, one or two steps may be all we need to break through.

In the gospel, Jesus encourages us to be alert and ready at all times, praying that we will have the strength to endure whatever comes, and to stand before the Son of Man. St. John, whose vision continues in the first reading from Revelations, stirs up our hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise to see God face to face, for the Lord is coming soon. Significantly, he adds that those who keep the words of this prophecy will be blessed.

This last phrase is a signal for how to be best alert and prepared for the end of time. Jesus is the Word made flesh, so to keep the words of biblical prophecy is to adhere to his teachings and to do his will. In a nutshell, we are to keep his commandments to love God, others, ourselves, even our enemies, and to love others as he has loved us. We are to live the Beatitudes, and do the corporal works of mercy outlined for us by the church. Do this and we will live without fear and with much less anxiety in our lives.

Another phrase by St. John is significant and helpful. The leaves of the trees of life on both sides of the waters of the river of life, contain healing for the nations. Jesus as the Messiah and Risen Lord who will come again, first came with a two-fold mission – to redeem and to sanctify, to forgive and to heal. One of the best ways to lessen our anxiety is to come to him for forgiveness of all our sins, and for healing of all our sinfulness, that which makes us sin (our painful emotions and negative attitudes). This will surely give us greater peace and lessen any anxiety in our lives.

An anonymous story captures the spirit of these readings. A surgeon preparing a young boy for surgery told him he would be cutting open his heart. The boy responded that he would find Jesus there. The surgeon, whose faith was quite weak, said with some annoyance that he would be seeing how much damage there was to the heart, to which the boy repeated he would find Jesus there because the bible and the hymns said so.

After the operation, which revealed a damaged aorta and pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration, with no hope for a transplant or cure, the surgeon prescribed painkillers and bed rest and wrote the prognosis: “death within one year.” Saddened by this reality, the surgeon questioned out loud why God had done this. A thought formed itself in his mind like hearing a voice murmur, “This boy, my lamb, shall return to my flock, for he has done his duty: I did not put my lamb with your flock to lose him, but to retrieve another lost lamb.”  Deeply moved, the surgeon wept as he sat beside the boy’s bed, with the boy’s parents across from him.  The boy awoke and whispered, “Did you cut open my heart?”  “Yes,” said the surgeon.  “What did you find?” asked the boy.  “I found Jesus there,” said the surgeon.

The Eucharist is our greatest prayer, and a source of hope and serenity, as it makes present to us the unconditional and eternal love of God for us. May it empower us to stop, drop and roll – to pray, hope, trust and let go of excessive worry and anxiety in our lives.


Updated: November 26, 2022 — 1:11 am

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