Thursday, March 2, 2017

Return to the Father


"Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart." (Joel 2:12)

On the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), we heard these words of hope.  We, the Church, are being asked "to return to [the Lord] with [our] whole heart" with the God-given hope that even now is not too late.  So, "do not delay turning back to the Lord, do not put it off day after day" (Sirach 5:7).  The season of Lent is not about what we are doing, but rather, about relationship.

No matter where we are in the spiritual life, we are being asked to deepen our relationship with God.   In the Gospel, Jesus gives instruction about giving alms, praying, and fasting. He emphasizes doing all these things "in secret" or in a hidden manner.  Notice that Jesus teaches us that all that we do is directed to the Father "who sees in secret," "who sees what is hidden."

These verses throughout the years always gave me the impression that we must hide, that we must be alone where no one will see us.  It is true, we are being called to be hidden in humility and charity in our actions, but the Word shed light on something different to me this time.  In every instruction to be "in secret," or "hidden," we are always with the Father.  We are not alone!  I think we can take our relationship with God for granted to the point that we turn our backs to Him, not necessarily because we want Him out of our lives, but maybe because we think we don't need God all the time, or that He doesn't need to be involved in everything.  Yet, Jesus, by His whole life, shows us that our lives - every iota - must be offered to the Father.  It is through Jesus Christ that we are invited to do so.

The Word revealed to me something about my own relationship with God: I was hiding from Him. Sure, in the convent, there's nowhere to hide or runaway to, but in the monastery of my heart, there are places to run and hide from God.  Really, God is always with us and sees us always, but He waits with divine patience for us to recognize His glory and to let His light shine upon our souls.  Jesus tells us to hide our actions from worldly recognition, but then in turn, He teaches us not to hide from the Father!  I was running away from the invitation to "be with Him" (Mark 3:14).  By God's grace, and with the help of my spiritual guides, I am choosing to accept Jesus' invitation, but with no idea of what He has in store for me, but I know this journey can only be one of Mercy and Love.  I ask that you may pray for my increase in trust in God's loving will and to embrace it!

This Lent, ask God where He wants you to grow in your relationship with Him.  Be open and receptive to the response God wants to give you.  Maybe He wants you to grow in your relationship with Him as His son/daughter, brother/sister, or even as His most trustworthy friend.  Whatever or wherever that may be, then don't forget to ask God how He wants you to grow.  God desires to share with us His secrets, but are we willing to give him a listening ear and a "listening heart?" Whether you have your "plans" for Lent already or still waiting for your Lenten plans to be revealed, choose to do everything with God and for God.  He wants to be beside you not above you.  God dwells in you.  Don't hide from God, return to Him.

Here are a few practical ways to cultivate your relationship with God:
  •  Lectio divina (Divine Reading)
    • Encounter God in Sacred Scripture.  A good place to start is with the daily Mass readings.  Let God speak to you.  Each day a word or phrase may be given to you to receive and pray with.  Let the Word penetrate your life.
  • Attend daily Mass & go to Reconcilation
    • Sunday Mass is a must so if you don't already go to Mass every Sunday, start now. Prepare yourself to be a tabernacle of Christ by going to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Through this sacrament, we allow God to immerse us in Mercy and to reconcile us to Himself through the forgiveness of our sins. Do not be afraid!  The Eucharist is the center of our lives, so celebrating the Eucharist more frequently can only help us grow in virtue and God's grace. Jesus Christ is our source and our strength, so receive His whole life in the Eucharist!  The more we open ourselves to receiving the whole Christ, the more we are able to surrender our lives completely to the Father.
  • Spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament
    • Find out if your parish has Adoration during the week.  Whether Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is exposed or remains in the tabernacle, spending time with Him is essential for our lives.  Start with 10 minutes a day or an hour a week, half hour before Sunday Mass, whatever routine you start, commit to it and cherish this time.  As a friend used to say, "Don't make time for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, fight for it!"
  • Silence
    • Silence is vital in our relationship with God especially in our noisy world.  We aren't just talking about external silence, but also internal.  Silence allows us to be open to hearing God's voice, and hopefully to respond in total surrender.  Again, spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament is a good place to enter into silence, but if you are unable to go to a church every day, find a place in your home where you can enter into this sacred silence.  See this place as an extension of the church. 
  • Mary & the saints
    • As we grow in our relationship with God, we inevitably will grow in our relationships with Mary and the saints.  In my experience, saint friends choose us more than we choose them all in God's design because He knows we need them.  Ask for saints' intercession, but I will say, when you ask for a saint's intercession, it won't make life easier, but it will make you holier.

Remember, we are never meant to travel this journey alone.  So make sure you participate in the life of your parish community,  Ask God who He desires you to journey with.  Pray about having a spiritual director or confidant that you can confide in about what God is doing in your soul.  Don't forget, God is always with you.  He will never give up on you.

With Mary in the Eucharist,
Sr. Kathryne Lopez

"Believe that He loves you.  He wants to help you Himself in the struggles which you must undergo.  Believe in His Love, His exceeding Love." (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity)
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