Thursday, August 22, 2013

Neither Meaningless or Neutral

To live the faith is not to decorate life with a little religion, like a cake is decorated with a little frosting. No! It's not that. Faith entails choosing God as the fundamental criterion of life, and God is neither meaningless nor neutral. God is love!

Remember this: follow Jesus: no one else. To follow Jesus means to be involved, because faith is not something decorative. It is the strength of the soul!

~ Pope Francis
13 August 2013

Just about two weeks ago, I concluded my annual 8-day retreat. If I have still few words to describe how powerful this particular retreat was for me. Graced with a wonderful retreat director and the tranquility of a retreat house, I found it very easy to embrace the 8-days of prayer and reflection. 

The two quotes from Pope Francis resonate strongly with me, particularly in light of my retreat experience. Throughout the week, my director encouraged a simple mantra for prayer: Jesus, you are enough for me. Six little words, to be sure, but they say so much:
  • I don't have a 401k. Yet, Jesus, you are enough for me. 
  • I go to bed alone every night. Yet, Jesus, you are enough for me.
  • I'm 33 and still don't have a career. Yet, Jesus, you are enough for me.
  • The challenges facing our Church and our world seem so overwhelming. Is it realistic to think that there's anything I can do? Yet, Jesus, you are enough for me.
  • I am a sinner. How can I preach the Good News when I'm frequently a dirtbag? Yet, Jesus, you are enough for me. 
I could easily keep the list going. Indeed, it'd be very easy to spend hours self-flagellating and throwing a pity party. Yet, again and again, in prayer I felt the singular confirmation, "Yes, Jesus, you are enough for me."

This past Sunday, I was overjoyed to spend a wonderful evening with a number of friends and former students from my time at U of D Jesuit High School. I loved catching up with everyone and hearing about how the past year has gone. The next morning, I drove one student back to Cleveland and enjoyed hearing about the various summer adventures he'd embarked upon and the concerts he'd attended. I dropped him off at 8:30 am in Cleveland (we left his house in Michigan at 5:15 am), grabbed a cup of coffee, and drove to my parents' house on the opposite side of town. 

My heart was filled with a sense of total peace and joy. Ranging from ongoing gratitude for my retreat to the enjoyment of being with family and friends for two weeks, I spent the whole ride home aware that, while in many ways I am a poor man, within my heart I have been graced with infinite wealth. As I pray in the early mornings in our chapel, I cannot help but to allow a smile creep across my face: faith isn't a veneer or sugary coating but loving substance of my life. 

One exercise I'd suggest to anyone looking for help with prayer: turn the car radio off on your way to work and be quiet. Allow your heart to be touched by a spirit of gratitude, to be swayed by how your life has been graced by God. In the quiet of your car, what could become your monastic cell on wheels, you may come to see that faith isn't a nicety or an add-on but stands as the very substance of your existence. If the adage "You are what you eat" is true, then such mindfulness may draw us deeper into becoming the thanksgiving, the Eucharist, we receive each week. 

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