“This Time Next Year”, By Brian Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Flickr user Norbert Eder

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

When you were a kid, adults used to ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up.  As you got older, you may have looked ahead wondering “what will middle school or high school be like?”  You may interview for a job and be asked, “where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?”

I always had trouble with questions like that myself.  I don’t know if I took them too seriously or what, but I could never quite picture that far into the future because of all the unknowns.  How do I picture 8th grade as a 5th grader?  What if I’ve met the love of my life by then and we spend every moment together?  Or worse, what if I haven’t?  How do I picture college as a 9th grader – what if I do all this imagining and picturing myself somewhere, only to not even get into the school of my dreams?  I’m probably overthinking the question as usual, but for a lot of us it can be hard to see past the here-and-now.

In the First Reading this week, we hear about Elisha the prophet and a family’s kindness and hospitality toward him when he comes to town.  Elisha tells the woman that this time next year, she’ll have a baby son.  That must have blown her mind to hear something like that.  She knew Elisha was a holy man of God and that this was God’s favor being shown to her – and I bet despite all the unknowns, she was still able to trust in God that he’d be with her every step of the way.

I’d turn that question around slightly for us; where do you want to be, spiritually, “this time next year?”  Imagine it’s the beginning of Summer 2021 – where do you want to be in your relationship with God by then?  How about your relationship to your Parish community?  What sort of spiritual friendships do you want to build up in your life?

A question like that is a little easier for me to reflect on.  I may not know the particulars, but if getting closer to God as the goal, I can come up with some helpful steps that I’m pretty sure will get me there.  I might ask some “what if?” questions; “What if I made an effort to pray every single day over the next year, how much stronger would my friendship with Jesus be by one year from now?”, “What if I made a special effort over this next year to go to Mass on Sundays?”,  “What about monthly confession, if I worked on getting rid of obstacles in my life for God to come closer to me?”

Maybe it’s a concrete goal like reading the whole Bible over the course of the next year (audio book version still counts!)  Maybe it’s a year to get plugged into youth ministry in a consistent way, or to try some new service opportunities to the poor and the elderly.

And sure, unknowns will come up, but if you commit to any one of these things, I guarantee that you’ll be a lot closer to God by “this time next year”.

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