LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
Each morning I wake with the words that Jesus taught us on my lips and a plea to His Mother, Mary, in the form of a prayer. This has become my habit and the words of these prayers race around inside my head until they escape through the barrier of my teeth and out into the quietude of my bedroom. I pray, repeatedly, until I am calm enough to focus on the words of Blessed Mother Theresa: “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” With this in mind… I am ready to start my day.
The soon to be Saint's words are a soothing balm for what ails me. Because, according to the world’s standards, I have not been successful at anything. So I am grateful that she has given me permission to erase the voice inside my head that insists: I need to be successful or I am nothing. I am also filled with gratitude for the grace and wisdom to have finally realized that, surely, it is far easier to be faithful in this life, than it is to be successful.
This realization, came in the form of God’s mercy, because I chose to avail myself to Him and He has been faithful to me in return. I tell myself and others: All I need to do is to just keep showing up: Take the time to pray, make the time to attend Church Liturgies, attend Mass as often as possible. I have discovered that if I just place myself in proximity to God…He will do the rest.
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian wrote: “Let us remind one another that what brings us true joy is not "successfulness", but fruitfulness”. He assures us that: “There is a great difference between "successfulness" and fruitfulness.” He tells us that it is the processes through which we experience fruitfulness, that enriches our lives and brings us joy. It is not the harvesting of the fruit that is most significant, but all that happens to us before that point-- as we learn to be self-less and cooperate with one other.
Being fruitful, instead of being successful, is not an easy concept for many of us to embrace. We have been taught, from the time we were old enough to identify the shape of a star, to desire one… either pasted at the top of our paper or on our foreheads. We learn at an early age that we must succeed in the things we do or we are not considered valuable. Few remind us that “the meek shall inherit the earth” or that “the pure of spirit are blessed”. Instead, every effort is made to convince us that we want to be Kim Kardashian or her male counterpart. To say that you wanted to emulate “the meek” or “pure of spirit”, in our secular world, would cause many an eye role or a chuckle. But that is exactly the path that I have chosen to take. I no longer wake up lamenting my failures, but am grateful for the "emptying out" of the false notions that kept me from being fruitful.
On this, Good Friday, I think of Jesus and how His being faithful changed the history of the world. Never was there a man who appeared to be less successful. “The Son of Man had no place even to lay his head”. (Luke 9:58) Jesus had nothing but the clothes on his back: no impressive job, no wife, no children, but He had Faith and he knew how to be faithful. Today, we are benefactors of The Son Man’s inheritance.
Many of us have been transformed through Christ's involvement in our lives, and our involvement in His church. It is here that many of us have discovered what we have been searching for most of our lives, and, as a result of this, we want to share this found "treasure" --our joy-- with others. And, many of us have joined committees and groups at our parish to spread this Good News. Thus, we find ourselves wishing with all our hearts that: those who are wandering and lonely will come home. Still, we must remember that wishing is not enough, that prayer enjoys action.
The hope for the "prodigal" return is all well and good, but what steps are we willing to take "as Church" to create an environment that invites the lost and lonely home? Are we willing, so to speak, to walk our talk? Are we willing to give of ourselves, to others, the way Christ gives himself to us? Are we willing to make that effort?
I look around, and I see people in our community have many needs. I see people who are unable to recognize their own talents and charisms...so they remain unemployed. I see children who are raising themselves, because their parents are not much older than they are and they lack the proper training and life experience to grow a healthy family. I see people who have real challenges managing money because it is a life skill they were never taught.
These are only some of the problems that fill one's heart with despair. Often people who cannot cope, turn to drugs, alcohol and seek love in the "wrong places". They want to get numb, and to forget their unhappy lives for a while. I feel that this is where the Church can help the most.
If people knew they could find the support they need (not only money, but also training and positive energy) at the church, perhaps they would begin to trust, and would suspend their disbelief. And, perhaps, they would open their hardened hearts, providing The Holy Spirit an opportunity to enter.
And, then they would find their way home.
If we, as members of the church, would love them as their "Father" in heaven loves them; and, if we were to illustrate this through our own willingness to give completely of ourselves to build a HOME for them in our parishes...people would come back to church and would realize that this is where they belong. Then the cycle of love could begin again. The once lost and lonely could become Christ for others, as we once were for them.
“People are looking for love in all the wrong places, and they're thrilled to hear that somebody cares for them. And that's exactly what I'm saying: 'I care for you…. Can we pray together'?”
Have you had the inexplicable feeling that you should be doing something…but you don’t know what? Are you honest enough to admit to yourself that you haven’t really made a difference in anyone’s life lately... but you’d like to?
As Mother Teresa said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Why not decide right now to do some small thing that will have a great effect on a person’s life: Invite someone today to be your prayer partner.
You can choose the day and a time to meet in a church, in a park, or even on the back deck of your home. Create a ritual… light a candle, read a Gospel passage, or recite the words of an inspiring Saint. You can sing a familiar hymn together, or scribble an intention on a slip of paper and place it in the other’s hands. Try sharing your memories of what church was like for you; perhaps discuss prayer with your partner, and how each of you experiences God. Share your triumphs and tragedies…share your time and yourself.
But, by all means: Don’t refuse another's invitation to pray with them. The point is to step out of your comfort zone and do something for someone who might need your encouragement. Someone who desperately wants to find her way back to The Father, but does not know how to begin the journey.
Become trusting--as a child would be-- in letting your guard down, and invite someone to join you in prayer much the same way as you would have invited another kid to come and play during recess. No expectations. No rules; just a desire to be together, joyfully, as you guide each other toward God.
So, before you leave the Church this Sunday, choose a person you think might like to pray with you... and then go and ask.