Today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach begins with praise for those “godly men” whose memory lives on through the ages. They were “godly men” precisely because they recognized that man is not the master of life, but rather he is its custodian and steward. Today, as we begin another hurricane season, we unite in prayer – imitating those godly men (and women) who in ages past have always turned to God in their need with confident prayer and trust. Today, we ask God to avert any storms from inflicting any harm on us or our loved ones.
The forecasters predict an active season – and of course, given our lived experience over the past few years, our consciousness has been raised. After the three storms of 2004, and what happened to our neighbors on the gulf after Katrina and Rita, we recognized that we can no longer be complacent.
Prayer, of course, does not give us an excuse to return to the complacency of the past, nor is prayer some magical way to force God to do our bidding. Prayer brings us to place ourselves under God’s dominion and not the other way around. And recognizing God’s dominion – that he is in fact in charge of our lives – gives us confidence to face whatever challenges that lie before us with confidence and trust in his Divine Providence. As St. Paul was to say in his Epistle to the Romans, “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The catechism teachers that prayer “is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God.” And while we pray that God keeps the storms away this year, we, in the very act of prayer, also seek to keep our hearts turned to the Lord what may happen. In fact, if our hearts are sufficiently turned to the Lord, then we won’t need any calamities to teach us to keep our priorities straight. If our hearts are turned to the Lord, we won’t need the fury of nature to remind us of the brevity of life, or of the importance of person over possessions.
At the beginning of this hurricane season, we turn to God and pray that we will be spared from the ravages of nature this year. We pray for the safety of our nation, of our neighbors in the region. And in prayer, we ask that our confi9dence in his will inspire courage in us. Such courage will help us be ready to meet whatever challenges that lie ahead of us. Here, I must mention with some pride, the recent recognition by Governor Crist of the work of the Catholic Charities Agencies in the State of Florida in disaster preparation and relief. Catholic Charities of Central Florida responded well – and responded quickly to the challenges of the February tornadoes that hit central Florida. Catholic Charities is ready for this season – and so should we be.
And prayer is part of the readiness if only to remind us that we are never left alone on our own. We were created by God’s hands and we are always in his hands. Place allow me to quote a homily Pope Benedict gave last December. He spoke about fear. He said:
“This world of ours is a world of fear: the fear of misery and poverty, the fear of illness and suffering, the fear of solitude, the fear of death. We have in this world a widely developed insurance system; it is good that it exists. But we know that at the moment of deep suffering, at the moment of the ultimate loneliness of death, no insurance policy will be able to protect us. The only valid insurance in those moments is the one that comes to us from the Lord, who also assures us: ‘Do not fear, I am always with you.’ We can fall, but in the end we fall into God’s hands, and God’s hands are good hands.”
You know that there is a “tax holiday” – to encourage us to stock up on extra batteries and other hurricane supplies. You can even buy a generator tax free – so that you won’t be without power. And you can remember how many people without power in 2004 hear in Central Florida. Well, by praying here today, we wish to make clear that “hurricane preparedness” also means not neglecting the powerhouse that prayer represents for us as a community of faith – both to give us courage and to inspire within us the solidarity to help those in need.