By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting the First Button Right

Have you ever had the experience, when buttoning a piece of clothing, of getting the first button in the wrong buttonhole? Of course, when that happens all the other buttons are wrong. When the first button is right, all else falls into place. When it is wrong, everything else is out of kilter.

I recently came across this analogy and find it very useful for discussing our priorities in life. The question of priorities is very much to the fore in the Gospel passages proclaimed at Mass over the past two Sundays. In them, Jesus is speaking about “getting the first button right”, so that our lives will be in proper order.

During the visit of Jesus with his friends Mary and Martha (cf. Luke 38-42), Mary sits at his feet listening while Martha is busy with many tasks. Jesus addresses Martha’s distraction, and teaches that “there is need of only one thing”. By this he means the choice made by Mary to focus her attention upon him and learn from what he has to say. “Getting the first button right” means listening to Christ as our first priority. If we do this and truly follow the path he marks out for us, all else falls into place as we go about the busyness of our daily lives.

As we listened to Christ speaking in yesterday’s Gospel passage (cf. Luke 11:1-13) we were led by the Lord to deeper understanding of what it means to “get the first button right”. He is teaching his disciples how to pray and gives the words which form the basis of the Lord’s Prayer.

At the heart of his teaching is a call to full trust in the love and providence of our heavenly Father. “Is there any father among you,” he asks, “who, if your child asks for a fish, will give the child a snake instead of a fish?” God the Father knows our every need, and in his love will not fail to provide it. We get the first button right when we place all of our faith in the love of the Father, live from his gifts, and trust the guidance He gives us in His Son Jesus. We get the first button wrong, and our lives get out of line, when we place our trust in ourselves and try to determine our own direction.

A couple of other thoughts.

In the Gospel for yesterday, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray after they had seen him at prayer. His example of prayer led them to want to pray also. Do you allow others to see you pray? If you are a parent, for example, when was the last time your children saw you in prayer? In a society that has grown individualistic and places great emphasis upon self-determination, the witness of prayer is vital. People at prayer demonstrate the universal human need for God and invite others to trust in the love of God and rely upon His gifts. In the face of so many difficulties today, let’s not hesitate to get down on our knees. The performative form of faith is prayer. If we believe, we put that faith into action first of all by praying and seeking God’s love, guidance, help and protection.

Today is July 26th, the feast of Saints Anne and Joachim. These are the parents of Mary, and thus the grandparents of Jesus. St. Anne in particular is held in very high esteem by our First Nations and Metis brothers and sisters. Not far from Edmonton is Lac Ste. Anne, a pilgrimage site to which the First nations and Metis people have been coming by the thousands since 1889.
This year’s pilgrimage has just concluded. On this particular feast day I would be grateful if you would offer prayers for our aboriginal sisters and brothers. Through the intercession of St. Anne may they know the joy, peace and freedom of God’s love at all times in their lives.