"Weapons of Mass Distraction"
June 7, 2023, 6:00 AM

… a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him (Jesus) and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Matthew 9:20-21

There was only one thought in the mind of the woman who endured bleeding for twelve years. Her singular desire was to simply touch the edge of the coat of Jesus. She was not distracted by any other person, place, or event. The woman simply needed to focus on touching the fringe of Jesus’ coat.

St. Francis was not as focused in his early life. He was distracted by a multitude of things that included indulging in his family’s wealth, looking good in front of friends, and celebrating heroic efforts in the army. It took imprisonment by the enemy and a yearlong illness before Francis was able to remove the distractions that kept him from focusing solely on God. Like the woman with the bleeding problem, he found healing only in letting go of distractions.

Distractions are actually interferences with our focus on God. They occur when we miss the big picture of what we are called to do in life. Distractions emerge when we focus on trivial things, believing that these actions will make our life full in a way that Christ is unable to do.

We use distractions when we feel discomfort. Weapons of mass distraction complicate and destroy our lives. We look for something to take us away from our discomfort, especially electronic media. We engage in entertainment, fantasy, repetitive behavior, and illusions of intimacy. Yet, when we think we have become satiated, we still want more – something more to make us feel, not simply OK, but totally OK.

Conversely, how often are we distracted by God? Rarely. It is difficult to be distracted by God when we never spend enough time with God in the first place to be attracted to God. And, we forget that while God is constantly attracted to us, we are not a distraction for God.

Contemplative prayer is one way to counter weapons of mass distraction. It is learning to sit with God, instead of engaging in an intellectual quest. You and I can never grasp the nature of God by thinking about who or what God is. It never works. God comes most often as a direct encounter when we are not distracted. It is the experience of being one with Christ.

Why do we not practice centering prayer or any other form of prayer? There are many excuses. We believe that it takes too much time. We don’t know how to do it, and we are afraid to ask. We don’t believe in it, even though we have never tried it.

My response to not developing a prayer life is, “OK, don’t.” However, don’t complain about how messages from the weapons of mass distraction distort our world, make us anxious, allow us to blame other people, other places, and other things, and keep us in a constant state of anxiety and discomfort.

Remember again that our anxiety and discomfort rests with our violation of the First Commandment. “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Mark 12:30)  If you and I are going to do so, we have to separate from the weapons of mass distraction. If not, we will simply keep on suffering.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John