Third Day of Lent: Friday After Ash Wednesday
-Maciej Rejniak, '11
It is easy to think that the Apostles had it easy. In today's Gospel, the Apostles come to Jesus with a question, and he replies. Jesus answers their question in a simple, direct, and understandable matter using nothing more than the spoken word. In the Old Testament God, too, speaks to his people: as a pillar of fire is a pretty direct message! We 21st century Christians are not so fortunate. While the Church and her leaders are seen as God's agents here on Earth, we do not seem to get the same direct communication that the Israelites and the Apostles must have had. When asked why Jesus was the Son of God, they could just find someone he cured and say, “here, here is your proof” and that would be enough. We cannot do that, and thus doubt is born.
Jesuit spirituality teaches “to see God in all things”, and do everything “For the Greater Glory of God” and, having attended a Jesuit school for the last few years, this mindset has been impressed on me and my classmates. Yet it is sometimes forgotten, almost always challenged, and questioned everyday:
How is God present in this Calculus problem?Why should I give this homeless man the change he is begging for?If God didn't want me to sin, why is it so pleasurable to do so?
We doubt God and his actions, and we in turn start to doubt ourselves and our actions. In the fast-paced world in which we live, where Facebook makes communication with people across the globe easy, where nothing is within walking distance, where life is dictated by the schedules within our planners or iPhones, it is easy to lose sight of God and to close our ears to His Word. We live in a blurred and noisy world, so how can one find time for a meaningful and intimate relationship with God?
When thinking about this, I always recall a homily that a priest gave at Mass years ago. It went something like this:
“A priest, after Mass, was walking around closing the church doors, when he saw a man sitting in a pew, motionless. The church was already empty and the lights were almost all off, yet this man just sat there. Thinking that he was homeless or lost, the priest went up to the man and asked what he was doing. The man, after a few seconds, turned to him and said 'I am looking at God and he is looking at me', and returned back to staring at the tabernacle. Then after a few more minutes, the man got up and left, and that was it.”
The man in this story, to me, represents the kind of relationship I, and I think, all would want with God. A relationship where one does not need to say 5 decades of the rosary to get the attention of God, where one does not need to make a pilgrimage to a holy site, where one does not need to wait for a miracle to give some kind of anchor for one's faith. It is a relationship based solely on taking some time out of one's day, opening one's heart and mind to God, and feeling his loving presence surround you. It is the kind of relationship where you do not need to do anything because you want to do everything for God.
This, of course, is difficult. We live in a world where efficiency and production are prized above all else. How can one it around, and, from the world's point of view, “do nothing”? How can one turn off the mechanical mindset we have developed to turn away from the clock and “look at God and have him look back”?
The answer is simply this: practice.
When first trying to sit in such silence, I recall that I immediately started to panic at how much homework I had to do for school next day, and thus my prayer session ended earlier then I expected. After some time, I tried again, and with much effort, I was able to put my daily routine out of my mind, but soon other problems, like a song coming into my cleared mind made it difficult to just sit there. It took many months of training, and still constant practice, but for at least a few minutes I am able to look at God.
After one of my rests with God, I often feel calmer and my heart rests at peace. The troubles that seemed to plague my mind and spirit evaporate and the hassle and pressure of daily life lessen. God truly knows our hearts, he knows our deepest fears, our desires, and the cross that each of us carries, and he helps us face them and carry them. God is always willing to do this…we have only to take the time to invite him.
Lent is a time of reconciliation and meditation. This does not mean that one should only go to confession, attend Mass every Sunday, and avoid eating meat on Friday. These are necessary but not sufficient. Each of us needs to seize Lent as an opportunity to find a personal and intimate relationship with God. And while I cannot point to something and say “here, here is your proof” of God's loving presence, I can at least testify to the feeling in my heart when I sit in Lord’s presence in silent adoration and marvel at what he has done for me.