Friday, June 10, 2016

Shopping Around?

A reflection on the daily readings for June 10th, 2016.

Many years ago I was in a state of limbo.   I had been Church shopping since my conversion at the age of 14.   I knew I was supposed to serve God, I knew that with all my heart.  I just kept finding reasons to go to a new church.  A wrong teaching here, an angry man there, a hypocrite or a holier than thou 'sinner.'  I started out in the Old Regular Baptist Church that my grandfather preached at.  Then someone said something that didn't make sense.  I moved to a Freewill Baptist church and that was good and rewarding for a while.  The music was pleasant, the sermons fiery and full of spittle.  Soon I found another thing that didn't make sense.  On to the Pentecostal church, a holiness church, a snake handling one, eventually a Methodist one for a brief few days and then an Episcopal one.  None of them had it all in my eyes.  I was looking for explosions, miracles, the fiery rain of heaven being called down to the consume an offering.

There I was sitting in a pew at an adoration service for an intention of Pope Benedict many years later.  I had no intention of ever becoming Catholic but I was studying the faith in order to keep my promise to raise my daughter in it, the one I gave at her baptism.  I honestly believed at that moment that I would re-baptize her when she asked for it later at an older age.  Little did I know that something was about to happen to me that I will never forget.  The only thing I would listen to at that point in my walk was the Bible.   Nothing else mattered.  Every answer, every question, everything a man needed to know I believed was contained right there in those pages.  If you couldn't show me?  I didn't want to hear it.  So there I was, playing Bible roulette.  I dunno if anyone else does that, I still do sometimes with Lectio Divina.   I would flip open the bible, point my finger onto a page with my eyes closed, and read a verse.

So here I was contemplating this thing the Catholics called transubstantiation.   They believed that this host up there was God himself,  Christ.  Body, soul and divinity.  Well, unless God told me that himself through the Bible I'd never believe it!  So here I was on the mountain top with Elijah, seeking to see God's face.  I wanted to know God so badly, so intimately that I could see him clearly.  In that moment I decided to flip open my Bible and ask God what he had to say to me.  I closed my eyes, flipped it open to a page, and put down my finger.  It landed in the Psalms:

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.  - Psalm 46:10

I had been Church shopping because I wanted more fire.  I wanted the explosions, the rain, the wind and thunder. I wanted the miracles.  God wanted me to do something I had not been doing... to simply sit in silence and listen.  To find that whispering sound at the mouth of this cave I had hidden myself in and open my heart and mind long enough to truly find Him, in the place I least expected.  In the arms of the Catholic Church, which it turned out were open wide to me with mercy, grace, and love.  Elijah turned his face away to hide it, that he might not see God and die.  Yet, even the Psalmist called out with the same desire that I had, "I long to see your face, O Lord."  (Psalm 27:8b)  How can we see Him though?  How can we look at Him without losing our lives?  Even the great prophets feared looking on God face to face, that His grandeur and glory would be too much for our mortal bodies.

The Incarnation.  God became man that we might look upon His face with no fear of death.   To see who God is and learn more about Him.  The fullness of all revelation is right there in Christ himself.   Then Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, transformed bread and wine into His own Body and Blood.  He gave us that Sacrament that we might be able to come forward again and again and see Him face to face.  Yes, there are miracles.  Yes, there are explosions.  Yes, God comes forward in some of the most amazing ways.  As a friend of mine once said, "Christ didn't come to bring me the fourth of July, he came to bring me Easter."  The silence of the tomb, the power of the Resurrection.    Miracles and physical healing was not the primary focus of Christ's mission.. but a message, one of forgiveness, of reconciliation with God.  One in which their no longer was a wall between the chosen people and the rest of creation, but one body, both Jew and Gentile, male and female.

He is waiting for us there every day.  In the tabernacle, in the consecrated host.   He wants us to come see Him.  To spend time with Him in prayer, at the Mass, and outside of it.  To spend time in Adoration and Praise.  To receive His sacramental presence into our very souls and then go out into the world as changed people.  People who do not just spend Sunday with Him, but every moment of their waking lives.  That take that presence out to those who are still in the cave, still demanding some powerful sign.  "If God would only make this cancer go away, I'd believe in Him."   "If God would appear right now in front of me, then I'd go back to Church."   "If all of God's people were Holy.. then I might return."  He's offering you something even more powerful.. silence... peace... joy in your heart.  Are you ready to give Him a chance?  Are you ready to stop shopping for a new church, pastor, or parish?  Once you find Him, once you let Him speak to you in the silence of your heart, you'll never need more explosive music, a better preacher, or even a softer pew... you'll just need Him and the rest?  Well the rest is just a bonus, the real message is in Christ's presence itself.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."