September 23, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
September 23, 2018
Fr. George Smiga
Some of you might be fans of the Netflix series “Atypical.” The central character is Sam, a high school student, who registers on the autism scale. What this means is that a loud noise or a sudden shift in Sam’s routine can throw him into a panic. But when this happens, Sam has a way of calming himself down. He finds a corner, covers his ears, and repeats over and over the four species of Antarctic penguins: Adélie, Chinstrap, Emperor, Gentoo; Adélie, Chinstrap, Emperor, Gentoo. Sam loves penguins, and simply repeating these four names over and over allows him to gain control again and return to his scheduled activities.
We can call these four names used by Sam a mantra. World religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, have long appreciated the spiritual value of repeating a word or a sound over and over again. In our own Catholic tradition, the rosary uses this same technique. We recite 53 Hail Marys, and, in so doing, we release tension and focus our minds on God. Our responsorial psalm today provides us with five words that we can use as a mantra: “The Lord upholds my life.” We should be able to rest peacefully in these words, “The Lord upholds my life.” These words are true. They tell us that God is in charge, that God cares for us, and that God knows what we need and intends to provide it. Whenever we find the circumstances of our life swirling us out of control, here are five words we can use to ground ourselves in peace and in hope.
When we are in despair over the death of someone we love, or when we find ourselves in a panic after receiving a medical diagnosis of a serious disease, it is important for us to repeat what is true: “The Lord upholds my life.” When we become frustrated because a fault keeps tripping us up or paralyzed because we cannot forgive someone who has hurt us, it is important for us to recall why there is still reason for hope: “The Lord upholds my life.” When we become afraid because of the increasing violence of our society or angry because of the dysfunctional partisanship in Washington or the mishandling of the sexual abuse crisis by our bishops, we need to keep telling ourselves who is in control and who will give us strength: “The Lord upholds my life.”
Religious mantras do not answer questions nor do they make anger, depression, or discouragement disappear. But they can inject into circumstances that lead to panic a truth which can ground us and calm our hearts. “The Lord upholds my life.” These words are not only soothing. They are true. Repeating them over and over can lead us to peace in an often dangerous and discouraging world.