Recently, I was at a meeting and on glancing out of the window I noticed a bird sitting motionlessly on the balcony railing. What struck me was the tranquil manner with which the bird seemed to be observing all that lay below. In the midst of the towering buildings the bird was still, balanced and watching. What must it be like, I thought, to perch there, head held high, observing the swirling mass of activity below? To have no need to intervene, interfere or intercede, but to just hold all the anxieties of the times with a peaceful heart. Just being – a still point.
Daily life can be overwhelming. There are so many issues at play in these beautiful and troubled worlds of Australia, the Church and beyond. And this is before we face our domestic challenges: we may be worried about finances, perhaps we are struggling with a teenager (surely Year 12 must nearly be over!), perhaps we feel the grief of watching the deterioration in health of aging parents and, sometimes, even feel burdened by their need for care. And then there is the myriad of other things that stop us short: a health scare, work pressures, the Melbourne traffic… Maybe we are struggling with a change in our family or parish life. The worries of life can crowd in on us and our anxiety levels rise.
It appears this is not just a twenty-first-century problem, however. At this point in the liturgical year the second reading is being drawn from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Regardless of the discussion about authorship it always seems to me a joyful letter. It is thought that Paul is writing to the community from prison – and even from prison the author is able to encourage the people of Philippi not to worry. Paul urges the community in their efforts in prayer and thanksgiving and ‘that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.’ (v4:7). Perhaps we can learn from Paul’s advice to our ancestors about how to maintain a peaceful heart.
The bird on the railing also offered me a clue: it reminded me that sometimes the world of the unseen God is more present to us than we would like. That there are times when we need to accept that there are things in life that we cannot control – and maybe we don’t need to. And at the end of the day perhaps we can find a still point, confident that in our little corner of the world we did the best we could that day to be fair, kind and just. It is at that moment, perhaps that we can draw upon the words attributed to St Augustine and entrust our anxieties and those of the world to the Lord and allow the peace of God to enter our hearts: Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest your weary ones.
Bless your dying ones.
Soothe your suffering ones.
Pity your afflicted ones.
Shield your joyous ones,
and all for your love's sake. Amen.