Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Are We Listening?

A few months ago, I used to make a habit of grabbing a blanket and cuddling up on the ground outside under the stars. This was my "me time" and my God time, often one of the only slivers of peace I could find in a stressful day.

It was beneath the stars one night that I had the crazy idea to start a blog. God made the sky. Look how glorious He is. How can I NOT share His greatness? I was in awe. The stars, up on "Heaven's Boulevard" were revealing His glory, fueling my new-found fire for Christ.

These stargazing sessions refocused my thoughts. They reminded me that my problems, however unconquerable they seemed, were in actuality, teeny tiny.

Look at these stars...God seemed to be telling me. I made them. I made this universe. And you are worried about that. 

I was reminded of the insignificance of my problems, and also of God's immense love for me. After all, He commanded each and every star in the sky, yet He still took time out of His busy day to have a conversation with me whenever I needed it.

But soon I got into the mindset that I didn't need it. How could I possibly find time to stargaze when I was up so late anyway? Test, quizzes, homework, relationships, phones, computers, sports, having fun, playing around....That began to become the priority. I was "too busy" for stargazing.

The end of these reflection sessions with God was just the beginning of a long list of ways I turned from God in the face of stress or trial. In retrospect, I can see myself becoming more and more jaded and bitter the less time I spent with Him.

And then I had the gall to ask HIM where He had gone. I failed to see that I had removed Him from my life. Maybe I was still a Catholic on the outside, but inside I was His rebellious teenage daughter going through a phase and looking for solace in all the wrong places.

I pulled away from Him and placed other forms of relief in front of prayer and communication with a God who wanted nothing more than to help me. Yet I was surprised that I felt distant from Him. I wanted a sign. I wanted proof that He was still there.

I had once sat beneath the stars and nearly cried of joy upon seeing a shooting star in the sky. Now here I was with no desire at all to step outside and try to talk to the empty sky.

Slowly, as I rebuild the relationship I tried to destroy, I've figured out what the issue was. I was hearing, but I wasn't listening.

I was going to Mass, talking the talk, but I wasn't believing it. Don't get me wrong, I still loved God and my faith, but I was holding a bit of a grudge, and doubting things that had once seemed like evident truths.

One of my favorite lines of a song reads, "I will tell you I love you, but the muffs on your ears will cater your fears."

I was living with muffs over my ears. I heard just fine, but the muffs blocked out my ability to LISTEN, to make sense of the jumbled "nonsense" I was hearing.

God was practically screaming at me, begging me to come back, to spend time with Him. He knew I needed it, and I knew in theory I needed it. Just like I knew in theory I was loved by Him. But when He had told me, "I have called you out by name and you are mine," I heard without listening. The words went in one ear and out the other, and I came not a step closer to finally getting it.

I began to get it the second I opened up, the second I agreed to letting God in and letting Him help me.

It's like waiting for a shooting star at night while you sit in the corner of your room alone. You can scream at God all you want, asking Him to send you something, anything, to show you He cares. You can wish for the days of shooting stars and tears of joy. But they won't return if you stay in that corner, yelling at God instead of listening. God can send you millions of shooting stars, but you can't see them because you never even bothered to leave your sad little corner.

He can prove to you He loves you, but you've got to remove those muffs from your ears. You've got to get up off the floor, grab your blankie, and head outside. Yes it may be cold and dark, but you've got to give God a chance. 

Only when you lie down and look up at the sky can God show you what you've been missing, what has been hidden from you by the confines of your ceiling.

Tonight, I sat outside to look at the stars, part of my attempt to refocus my life on this constant communication.

God, 50th post coming up next. What do you want me to write ab--- Before I could even finish, a bright shooting star flashed exactly where I was looking. And then, minutes later, another.

God knew I had missed those shooting stars, those reminders of His presence. He had probably sent me hundreds that past few months, but I never took the time to sit down and look up to see them. Wow. I thought, before I had connected the stars to my listening skills. Who knew so many shooting stars passed over us while we wasted time inside? I wish I had known to come outside more. I can't believe I've missed so many spectacular sights all this time...

And then it hit me, that I was missing out on God's presence because I never risked to put myself out there, to open myself up to Him.

God, I asked one last time. So what do you want me to write about?

My daughter, listen to these words....popped into my head. Then I waited, was God going to actually speak to me?! Give me words to relate like some prophetic vision. But then I realized....He already has. Listen to these words. That's all there is to it. God has given us words, proof, models of holiness. He's given us every tool we need to strive for sainthood. We've just got to pay attention to it all.

"Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:7-11).

If you don't hear God or feel God or believe that God loves you...don't blame God. He's calling every second. We are the ones with muffs constantly over our ears, unable to hear--truly hear--His beckoning.

Don't let God's words, God's witnesses, and God's love pass through your ears absentmindedly. Listen to what He has to say. Take that extra step toward Him and allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be present to Him. Then you'll finally hear and understand His voice. Then you will see the shooting stars He's been sending your way for so long.

Related Song: You're Beautiful by Phil Wickham

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Beauty of the Mass

"What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation."  St. Francis of Assisi

The other day, while at Mass, I noticed a girl about my age sitting in the pew in front of me. She was dressed like a normal teenager, but there was something different about her that drew my attention.

She was happy.

All throughout the Mass, she held her hands intertwined, clutching her heart as if it were on fire, smiling to herself as she spoke and prayed with the congregation. It was as if she was having a secret conversation with the Lord, her entire attention focused on the beauty of the Mass.

I did not even have to meet this girl to see her inner passion. I could tell by the way she approached the celebration of the Eucharist that she was devoted to her faith. I was truly inspired by the display of such joy.

Shouldn't we all share this passion, this uncontrollable joy? It seems as if more often than not, going to Mass is a chore. We know it helps us grow in holiness, but does it sometimes seem like old news? Something we've seen every week and therefore lose sincere interest in?

Reciting words can be boring. The same schedule every Sunday can get redundant. That is, until you stop and realize how amazing it truly is.

Think about it. Really think about it. Every time we go to Mass, we are united to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We hear words that Jesus Himself revealed and spoke to US. We spend a solid hour in the house of the Lord. We pray for those in need. We are reminded of our beliefs as Catholics. And most importantly, we receive the Eucharist.

The Eucharist. THE Body of Christ.

Maybe after receiving it so many times, we start to forget how significant this is.

Christ reminds us every time we celebrate the Eucharist that He died for us. He reminds us that despite any struggles we are facing, Jesus Christ is strong enough to conquer it as He conquered death. He shows us that we are worth it; we are worth a horrible death on a Cross.

Every time we take Christ's Body into our hands/mouths, we receive tangible proof of everything Christ has revealed to us. We come into direct contact with Him. How fortunate are we to be blessed with such a hands-on encounter with Christ, an encounter first established by Jesus Himself?

Yes, our minds will wander at times. But we must not forget the true beauty of the Mass. Going to Church should not be a burden, simply a requirement. God doesn't require it of us because He wants us to be falling asleep in His home. He requires it of us because He knows, if we approach it reverently, that the Mass will unite us to Christ and help us on our road to holiness. We should delight in the gift of this experience, taking pleasure in every opportunity we receive to grow closer to Christ through the Eucharist.

It is so easy to get distracted, to grow bored. Trust me, I know. However, we are called to try our best to remember each and every day the value of such a gift as the Eucharist.

"Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you - for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart...don't listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love."  St. Therese of Lisieux

I encourage you, whether you do so on the outside or privately, to smile in the presence of Christ at Mass. Smile at the opportunity you have to witness His love, to receive His Body, and to be reminded of His goodness. Remember that Mass isn't about going through the motions, but rather coming face-to-face with Jesus. This encounter with Christ is what will refresh your soul, encouraging you on your journey toward God each and every week. Jesus is in the tabernacle for you. Welcome Him into your heart with open arms and you will be surprised at the wonders He will perform.