A Question of Trust
Probably the biggest question for most of us in our faith lives is do we really trust the Lord in our hearts. Do we really believe that He is in control, that His plan for us is good and that in all things He works for the good of those who love Him? If we really did would we ever be afraid?
If God is in control why are we afraid? We are afraid a lot. Fear hits every time we see another negative article about the economy. Our heart jumps every time we see the price of gas rise. We get frightened by acts of terrorism and rumors on the Internet. Even a weather forecast strikes fear in some. Too often we live our whole lives in fear of something bad happening.
But we are called to trust in a loving God who knows what is best for us. Unfortunately most of us don’t trust Him enough to wait on his perfect timing. We do things on our own and then wonder why God didn’t take care of us. One reason is we didn’t put our situation in God’s hands.
This was published in the Winter 2013 edition of Wellsprings, the newsletter of the SC Charismatic Conference.
Do we ever apply for a job and pray Lord, You know what is best. You know if this job will be good for me. I put it in Your hands and ask You to give me this job if it fits Your plans. Otherwise I don’t want it. How often do we pray like that? How often do we get turned down for a job and thank the Lord that He has a better job waiting for us?
How often do we pray? Lord, You know what my bills are, what the insurance will cost, how much it will cost to fix the car. You know every thing. I’m not going to worry about them. I’m going to trust You to provide the money I need whether through a new job or extra hours at work. Jesus, I trust in You.
How often do we start to worry when we see a headline and stop and say Lord, I place this situation in Your hands, and I trust You to do what is best? How often do we start to worry and turn the situation over to the Lord? Or do we dwell on the possibility that we might lose our job, our car might breakdown, our bank collapse or some other disaster happen to us?
Do we even trust the Lord enough to believe that He is guiding us spiritually? Do we walk into confession, see the priest and feel that this is exactly the priest you should be confessing to at this time? Do we trust in parishes with only one priest that the day we pick for confession is the day the Lord has prepared the priest to hear it? Maybe this day Father has some insight he wouldn’t have had last week. Maybe this day Father has little to say and it happens to be a day you really just need to confess and get out.
Do we trust the Lord to believe that even through priests we may dislike the Lord will speak to us? Do we expect the Lord to say at least one thing we need to hear in every homily or mass? Do we question why Father is assigned to our parish? What was the Lord thinking or do we trust that the Lord is in control and has something to teach us through this priest?
Do we ever stop and think there must be a reason for this to happen to me, that God has brought me to this parish on this day for a purpose? Do you ever run across a book by accident and feel that God wants you to read it? Do we really believe that God is directing our lives that He is working for our good and can use anything in our lives for good?
Do we trust the Lord with the salvation of our family members? Do we pray in faith believing that He will work it out in His time or do we pray frantically in desperation?
If you look back at your life you might be amazed at how often little miracles occurred, a check or job at just the right moment, the song on the radio that you needed to hear, running into just the right person on the street or at the mall. I’m amazed at how often in my life I had just the right priest for confession, not the one I wanted but the one I needed. There was a priest at a shrine in Jersey whose normal confessions ran over a half hour. I was rarely happy to see him when I walked in and usually glad I had him when I walked out. I remember getting a complete stranger just when I wanted one.
The same thing has happened with books in my life. I would run across the exact book I needed for prayer at just the right time. I remember finding in my basement the Islands in the Stream devotional, just when I needed it. This year I’m reading God Calling. This is a book I bought years ago and found this January when I most needed it. Day after day the meditation is exactly what I needed to hear.
How often have you read something or hear a song just at the right time? How often have you gotten one of those emails at just the right time? How often have you gotten a phone call just when you needed it?
How often does it tell us in Scripture that God knows what we need? He knows before we even know ourselves and promises to provide what we need but we need to trust Him and stop worrying. We trust Him. We stop worrying. That doesn’t meant we sit home unemployed waiting for God to give us a job. We apply for jobs but we do it honestly without padding our resume or compromising our principles and trust Him to do what is best.
What do you see when you look at a manger? What do you think about? Do you see a cute little baby and think about a sentimental Christmas story? Or do you see the all-powerful God of the Universe, Creator of Heaven and Earth for whom all things are possible? Do you see the God who loves you more than you could ever understand or imagine?
Do you see Jesus who came so that we might have life and have it abundantly? Do you see the Jesus who healed all those who came to Him in faith even raising the dead and who is the “same, yesterday, today and tomorrow”? Do you see Jesus who loved you so much as to go to the Cross willingly?
Do you see Jesus who practically begs us to come to Him with our burdens and who longs to give us rest? Do you see Jesus who loved us so passionately that He created the Eucharist so that we could come to Him? Do we see Jesus who waits longingly day after day in the Tabernacle for our company? Do you see the Jesus who longs to pour out His love, grace and blessings upon us? Do you see the God who ardently yearns to give us His forgiveness, to take us back close to His Sacred Heart?
What do you see?
Have you ever really thought about the journey of the Magi? How long was the journey? What did they have to go through to get to Bethlehem? Traditionally, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany around January 6, the second Sunday after Christmas. This leads us to believe that the Magi appeared soon after Jesus’ birth.
But if this was true why did Herod have killed every male child two years old or younger? If you remember he talked to the Wise Men and questioned them about the appearance of the star. It is more likely that the star had appeared over a year before the arrival of the Wise Men. The reality is that our quaint manger scenes are probably a bit inaccurate. The Wise Men probably didn’t arrive when Jesus was an infant but over a year old. They probably found Him living with Joseph and Mary in a house in Bethlehem.
Think about their journey. They traveled at least a year, maybe a year and a half to get to Bethlehem. Most likely they traveled on camel or horseback, hundreds of miles across rough terrain, deserts, rivers, even during the winter months. They endured rain, mud, sand, heat and frigid nights in the winter. Why did they endure all this, to worship a child, a baby one year old?
Think about what it must have felt like! They saw a star predicted by Jewish prophets, hundreds of years before. They thought it signified the birth of the newborn king of the Jews. Intellectually, they had no clue that this would be Jesus, the Son of God. Why did they embark on such an arduous journey? What difference could it make to them that the future king of the Jews was born? Palestine was under the rule of the Romans, the only Jewish king, Herod, was a puppet of the Romans serving only at the pleasure of Rome. Would you bother to undergo such a hard journey to see the future puppet of Rome?
Intellectually, their journey makes no sense. They traveled a great distance under conditions we can’t imagine with all our conveniences. The closest we could come would be to cross the country by horseback, camping every night. They had no convenience stores, Coleman stoves or lanterns. They probably didn’t even use charcoal but instead had to make wood fires. The roads were primitive and didn’t follow the shortest route but would follow the sources of water and food available. Then after they finally arrive to see Jesus they have to make the same journey to return home. Perhaps they were on the road for three years.
Why did they go on such a journey? Their spouses or families probably thought they were nuts. All that travel ate up a lot of money. What made them travel so far? Intellectually, they shouldn’t have known they were going to see the Son of God but there was a pull in their hearts. Maybe they didn’t quite understand themselves but they had to answer the call they felt in their hearts even if the journey made no sense intellectually.
We have to ask ourselves. If we were in the same position as the Magi would we answer the call of our hearts to worship the Lord? Do we now? How easy is it for us to go and worship Jesus in the Tabernacle? We don’t have to ride horses or camels. We don’t have to travel over a year. Most of us can reach a Catholic church in minutes. We know, intellectually that Jesus is present in the Tabernacle and at every mass. Yet most of the time our churches are empty.
God is still calling us to worship Him in the Tabernacle. He is still tugging on our hearts, still waiting for us to worship Him. Are we listening?
Be Filled with Awe
Several years ago I went to a Christmas Eve mass in Jersey and the priest was an old retired priest who seemed to ramble or maybe I was too tired to follow him. One word struck me and the word was awe. Can you imagine the awe the shepherds felt? Angels appeared to them to tell them that a savior was born.
They went to see a newborn baby and believed that this baby would save Israel. They went and saw a poor carpenter with his young wife who gave birth in a stable and worshipped the newborn king. Jesus certainly didn’t look like a king lying in a manger yet they were in awe. They saw beyond the appearances and believed.
This Christmas and everyday we get to see the same Jesus the shepherds worshipped if we go to mass. Every day, Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity appears at mass and is worshipped by the angels. If we look beyond the appearances and believe we get to be in the presence of God. Better than the shepherds we know that Jesus is God. They didn’t.
Shouldn’t we be filled with awe at this great privilege? We get to approach and talk to Almighty God. He wants to dwell in our hearts. Almighty God wants to dwell intimately in my heart and yours. Angels can’t receive Him in communion but we can.
How different things would be if we truly understood the awesomeness of the Eucharist? We get to be intimate with God. We get to hold Him in our hands, to touch Him and to consume Him. We get to tell Him about our joys and sorrows, our dreams and concerns. We get to bring Him ourselves as a gift and offer Him our lives. We are closer to Jesus than the shepherds were; even closer than St. John who rested his head on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper. All because He loves us!
On Christmas Eve I thought back to the Old Testament days and how the Hebrews worshipped in the Temple. Only a priest could enter the Holy of Holies. The people were separated by the curtain. Even the priest had to be purified and went in awestruck, often fearful of dying. It was no simple thing to approach Almighty God. Only a few were able to talk to God in the Old Testament, prophets like Moses and Elijah.
How different is it for us today! Even seven-year olds can approach Jesus and receive. What a privilege! Maybe we should take lessons from First Communicants. Many seem more devout and awestruck than the adults who received. As we grow up we tend to take Communion for granted, forgetting what an awesome gift we receive. Unfortunately, receiving Communion gets routine and we focus on other things and distractions. In a way it seems like Catch 22. The more we are distracted, the less graces we receive, the less aware we are of the privilege we have and the more likely we are to be distracted in the future. It seems like a never-ending cycle.
Somehow we need to get back to the sense of awe we once had, to focus again on the awesomeness of receiving Almighty God in Communion. The big question is how we do this. How have other people done this?
Many people have had their faith completely stirred by going on a pilgrimage. For some reason it is easier for us to believe at a place like Medjugorje or the Oratory of St. Joseph’s in Montreal. Maybe it is because we are away from the distractions of people we know. Maybe it is because of the devotion of many of the people who surround us at these sites. People aren’t there because they have to fulfill their Sunday obligation but because they want to be.
As tempting it may be we all can’t go on a pilgrimage. We have to find a way to awaken in ourselves the sense of awe we need. We shouldn’t need to go to St. in Montreal or to St. James in Medjugorje. The same Jesus in the tabernacle there is in our local tabernacles. Perhaps we need to start by prayer asking God to give us the sense of awe that He wants us to have. Probably the best place to pray for this is in front of Jesus in the tabernacle or exposed at Adoration.
The next thing I would do would be to pray before mass asking Mary and the Holy Spirit to help you to be as prepared as you could be, to help you focus on what the Spirit wants you to learn at mass and to help you focus on Jesus. Ask Mary to help you to pray especially after Communion. Father John Hampsch has a prayer that he distributes asking Mary to tell Jesus the things we should be saying.
Another thing I would consider if possible would be attending weekday masses at a neighboring parish where I don’t know anyone. That might help eliminate some of the distractions because we don’t know anyone. It makes it easier to focus on Jesus rather than who’s there.
Jesus, help me to regain the sense of awe at the awesome gift You give me in the Eucharist. Help me to focus on You and Your incredible love. Amen.
Originally published on Catholic Lane
This post was originally published by the Women of Grace Blog and Faithwriters.com.
I wrote it for an 88-year-old friend who I felt might be spending her last Christmas with her daughter in 2011. It was the last Christmas as her daughter passed away unexpectedly in April 2012. I believe that there are many people who need to read this message. Please copy it, email or post it.
Last December I heard a song once that I couldn’t forget, One Last Christmas by Matthew West. The title really makes one think. What if you knew you only had one last Christmas? What would you do?
What if this Christmas was your last Christmas to come back to the Church?
What if this was your last opportunity to tell people you loved them?
What if it was your last Christmas to spend with your Mom or Dad, the last one with your siblings, spouse or children?
What if this Christmas was your last opportunity to go to church with your parents?
What if this Christmas was your last opportunity to tell people how much God loves them?
What if this Christmas was your last opportunity for reconciliation with one of your children, parents or siblings?
How would this Christmas be different? What would be your priorities? Who would you see or call? What would you do? What would you say?
So often at holidays we waste time fretting about unimportant things, high prices, long lines, a perfect house, the perfect meal, decorations, the electric bill, traffic. We spend so much time preparing for Christmas Day that we’re exhausted. Rather than being the best we can be, the loving people we want to be we are negative. We complain and sometimes criticize. That dress is horrible, what did you do to your hair, you really don’t need a second helping, you’re already too fat. Why did you buy that? The color is all wrong.
Often at Christmas our concern is directed to what we did or didn’t receive. We pay more attention to the gifts than we do to the giver and the love behind the gift. We spend our day playing with the latest gizmo or watching sports.
Do we really want someone’s last memory of us to be of our complaining, negativity or criticism?
Do we want to let this Christmas pass without trying one last time to model Christ’s love, to share God’s love with our family and friends?
Wouldn’t we prefer to leave behind memories of the way we loved others rather than of our anger, negativity or self centeredness?
How can we be sure this isn’t our last Christmas or the last Christmas with our parents and other loved ones? We can’t be sure who will be here next year. I was fortunate to be with my Mom her last Christmas but I didn’t have a clue at the time.
We need to live this Christmas as if it is our last. We can’t count on next Christmas to return to the Church or to tell our loved ones how much we love them. We can’t put off to next year to tell our children and grandchildren how much God loves them, how much Jesus yearns for them to come back to Him. Now is the time God has given us. This Christmas is the time we have to do the things that are most important.
This Christmas has the potential to be one of the greatest. Thousands and thousands of fallen away Catholics will be in church once again. We have a shot to challenge them to think, one more opportunity to make the gospel come alive in their hearts. What can we say that might bring them back to the Church? What I would do is hit them with the Gospel as simply as possible?
Simply put Christmas isn’t really about a baby in a manger but God who loved us so much and wanted a relationship with us so badly He came to earth as a baby, being born in a smelly drafty stable. It is about a God who loves us so passionately He came to earth to live in poverty in a backwater province long before the invention of air conditioning, central heating and indoor plumbing. He chose to live in Palestine knowing He would be rejected and executed on the cross, the most painful form of execution ever invented.
He came knowing that most of us would reject His love and prefer the lies of the modern world. He chose to die for us despite the fact that He knew every vile, selfish sin we would ever commit.
It is about a God so approachable that He sent angels to invite the lowest of the low in Palestine, the shepherds to come to Him. It is about the God who reached out to sinners and invited them to follow Him. It is about a God willing to dine with the poor, the rejected and outcasts of society. No sin was too great.
Christmas is about God who came so that we might have life and have it abundantly who desperately wants to bless us, who wants us to be happy and knows what we really need to be happy. It is about God who wants a better life for us than the world offers, better than we can ever imagine and gave us the Commandments to protect us from the pain and bitterness caused by sin. He knew how much we would be hurt if we followed the world and longs to heal and restore us. It is about a God who ardently wants to forgive our sins and set us free from all that holds us down.
Christmas is about the God who knows what we feel when we suffer pain or feel afraid because He suffered and was afraid too in the Garden and on the road to Calvary. It is about a God who understands from a human perspective all that we go through.
Christmas is about Jesus who loved us so much He gave us the Church and Sacraments so that He could stay with us and guide us. He loves us so much He waits each day in the Tabernacle for us to visit Him. It is about the God who fervently longs for us to come home to Him and His Church.
Take another look at our faith. It is a faith that millions through the ages have found worth dying for. Ask yourself what have I missed, what they knew that they were willing to give up everything.
Open your hearts to the greatest love you can ever imagine. Come back to the God who loves you so passionately He gave you everything even Himself in Communion.
In the meantime we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the words of priests and to open the hearts of those who listen even ourselves. Maybe just maybe we too will be renewed.