Thursday, May 13, 2021

How to Deal with Our Losses in Life: ‘Look up’ and ‘Look out’


(This homily was given on May 13, 2021 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-9; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Ascension 2021]

Life is a series of losses.  I’ve come to realize that more and more as the years have passed.  (Of course, life can also be looked at as a series of “gains”—but that’s a subject for another homily!)  

Think for a moment this afternoon about some of the things that you lose during the course of your earthly life.  As time goes on you eventually lose your physical health.  You lose your youthful energy.  You lose your hair (some of us lose more than others).  Sooner or later you lose your job either through a layoff or a firing or through a retirement.

You lose your friends and family members because they die.  You lose your 20/20 vision.  You lose some or all of your teeth.  You lose your mental sharpness.

Losses are part of the fabric of this life—which is why it’s so important that we learn how to deal with them effectively.  If we learn to deal effectively with our losses, we can actually have a measure of peace and happiness on this earth in spite of their presence in our lives.  However if we fail to learn to deal effectively with them, those very same losses can easily overwhelm us and even drive us to despair.  

So there’s a lot at stake here.

In this regard, the apostles definitely have something to teach us.  Today we CELEBRATE the feast of our Lord’s ascension.  But quite frankly I don’t think the apostles felt like celebrating anything on the very first Ascension Thursday.  I say that because on that day they experienced the greatest LOSS of their lives: the loss of the physical, carnal presence of Jesus.  For three years these men had come to rely on our Lord’s wisdom, power and guidance in a very direct way.  He was there, with them—in the flesh.  They related to him as we relate to the people we have personal contact with every day.

But that all came to an abrupt end when Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after his resurrection.  And yes, he had promised to send them the Holy Spirit, that’s true, but I don’t think that meant much to them at the time since they probably weren’t too sure who the Holy Spirit was!

So what did they do?  How did they cope?  Well, if you read the Scriptures carefully you see they did two things in response to their physical loss of Jesus: THEY LOOKED UP AND THEY LOOKED OUT!  The Bible makes it clear that for the nine days between the ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost the apostles met together in the Upper Room to pray.  In other words, they “looked up” to the Heavenly Father for the strength and help they needed—and in the process they ended up making what amounted to the very first novena!

At the same time they also “looked out” to one another (and to Mary, our Blessed Mother, who was there with them in the Upper Room).  They gathered as a group not only to pray, but also to console one another, to encourage one another, to build up one another.

Based on my experience of being a priest now for 35-plus years, I would say that the people who deal most effectively and most successfully with their losses in this life are those who do what these apostles did: they’re the people who make the effort to “look up” and to “look out” every day.  They’re the people, first of all, who have an active prayer life—who take prayer seriously—who try to pray every day with their hearts and not just with a lot of words.  That is to say, they “look up” often.

They’re also the people who don’t make the mistake of trying to live their lives as “Lone Ranger Christians”.  Quite oppositely, they consistently “look out” to others.  These are people who do not allow themselves to become isolated.  They’re people who are humble enough to admit that they need the support of their brothers and sisters in Christ to deal with their difficulties.  And they’re people who are smart enough to reach out and actively seek that support.

If we’re not coping very well with our own personal losses at the present time, chances are we’re falling short in one of these two areas.  Either we’re not “looking up” or we’re not “looking out” as we should be.  May the example of the apostles motivate us to change that, so that in the midst of our losses we will be able to gain at least a measure of peace and happiness—the peace and happiness that we all long for in our hearts—and that God, in his love and mercy, wants to give us.