This will be my last weekly "Along the Way" before summer vacation. Such annual milestones help me to appreciate more deeply the adage I first heard — but never understood — as a young boy: The older you get, the faster time goes by.
That may explain why, with the passage of the years, vacation time has become more and more an opportunity to remember, think and pray about the events of the past year. That can sound like work, I know. But it really isn’t. Rather, I think of it as a relaxed and peaceful effort to understand more deeply what I have experienced; to explore what I might learn from it; to think about how I can build on it; and how I can learn from my mistakes.
I don’t sit with a calendar and do a systematic review of every meeting, encounter and event that filled the year. I just ask the Holy Spirit to touch my memory and make me aware of whatever it is that the Lord would like me to look at. Sometimes what comes to mind is a major event or a significant decision in which I have been involved. In other instances I might remember a short conversation or an awkward moment of silence.
Whatever comes up — large or small — I try not to dissect or analyze it. I just try to rest with it for awhile, and be aware of what the memory stirs up within me. Sometimes that can be a question: Did I really try to listen carefully to her or was I mentally formulating my response even as she spoke? Was I careful to hear both sides of the story at that tense meeting? What was the Lord asking of me or teaching me in the midst of that controversy? What do I need to learn? What are you trying to bring to life in me?
Sometimes the fruit of such moments can be a helpful insight, or a reminder of truths I know but can easily forget. A common reminder I receive at such moments can be illustrated by Pope John XXIII’s mantra after a hard day: "It’s your Church Lord; I’m going to bed." At another moment the Lord might favor me with the kind reminder that all I can do is to make an honest effort in a spirit of love. And, all through whatever effort I make, I need to entrust it all to God’s care.
It really isn’t work. It’s just a peaceful effort to remember, to listen to my questions, to be open to receive with a grateful heart whatever the Lord might wish to say.
Writing this makes me aware that the element of vacation I have tried to describe for you may be a special foretaste of what retirement years may offer — not just the opportunity to look back over the past year, but to review all of the years. I do believe that such moments help us to understand better what has happened in our lives and sharpen our vision for the future.
I hope that these coming summer days will hold for you some opportunity to reflect on your relationship with God and the flow of your own life. Be assured of my prayers as you do.
Peace to all.