Appleton, WI

Jan 3: In Joy & Sorrow with Father Bill

At the moment of his appointment to lead the enslaved Israelite people out of Egypt, standing mesmerized before the bush that was on fire but not being burned up, Moses had the presence of mind to ask the Lord, “What is your name? It would be good to know your name if I am to carry out your mission!” The Lord responded cryptically, “I am who I am,” meaning something like “I am always with you.”

It is interesting to note that the Lord God declared “I am”, not “I was” or “I will be.” It is best for us to live our lives present to the present moment. It is difficult to always be looking back to the past, sometimes weighed down by guilt and shame. The Lord does not live in the past. Let it go!

Similarly, it is difficult to live our lives in the future, always anxious and even worried or fearful. God does not live in the future, so to speak. 

I suspect that in God, and this is even hard for us to imagine, there is only the present and somehow the past and the future are melted into the present. God is only present! I am not a philosopher so I am unable to explain the meaning of concepts like time but I know that it is best for us if we live in the present.

As we begin a New Year, let’s try to let go of the past. No use stewing or complaining about it. Let’s hear Jesus’ reassuring words, “Do not be afraid!” as we look to a New Year. Living one day at a time is the best strategy.

I would like to suggest to you a daily habit of prayer that may help you to do just that! It comes down to us through history as an insight of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Society of Jesus. It is called the “Daily Examen.” It is a way to reverence the gift of life lived in the present moment.

At the end of your day, open your heart to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit will lead you. Begin with a prayer of gratitude. Pause and reflect and bring forth into your mind and heart a moment during the day in which you felt great gratitude to the Lord. It can be as simple as feeling invigorated by the brisk winter chill. 

Then review the day in the light of the Lord’s closeness to you. When did you experience his touch upon your day? How did that make you feel? Did you miss something or someone today because you were too caught up in your own agenda? Do you need to apologize to anyone? Or ask the Lord’s forgiveness? How did you pray your day? What did the Lord say to you? Do look quickly at your tomorrow and place all that you have scheduled into the hands of the Lord.

It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I suspect that Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church, understood what Socrates was implying. Mary was a ponderer – always turning over in her heart and mind her daily experiences – feeling the closeness of her God to her.  

Praying with Father Austin Fleming ( in the New Year:

Lord, I offer you my heart for the year ahead and pray you’ll soften what’s grown coarse, warm what’s chilled and frostbit, smooth my roughened edges and mend by broken parts – and not so much for my sake – but more for those who count on me to be there with and for them…In the New Year, Lord, give me a heart for others and help me resolve to love my neighbors as myself…Amen.

Happy New Year to you and to those you love!
Father Bill +