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Back to spiritual basics

You need God in your life – there are ways to make it happen
 

I was once teaching a religion class about the importance of Mass when a few of the students announced that they do not have time to go to Mass. "Mom and dad are too busy," they said. I asked them if they were too busy to eat each day? "No," they replied. "Are you too busy to go and see a friend?" "No," they said. "Well, tell mom and dad that you are going over to a friend’s house to eat on Sunday. When they ask you who the friend is, tell them, "Jesus. He invited me to His house for a banquet.""

It is truly heart-wrenching to hear children say they are too busy to go to church on Sundays. If we are too busy for God, we are too busy! That is why God gave us the third commandment. God knows our propensity to ’do.’ Keeping holy the Lord’s day goes directly against our fast-paced, frenzied culture. The emphasis in our culture is to do do do. Do this, do that, and the more you do this or that the better you are. Well, all the ’do do’ is just that.

When all our attention is focused on doing, we become beasts of burden. Our restless souls pull a heavy load that may not lead to life. What life we have can drain from us. We become dry wells.

Of course, doing is not all bad. We are made in God’s image and likeness and God worked for six days. But on the seventh day, God rested. So we too need a rest. And we especially need to rest in the Lord! That is the only rest that will give us true refreshment.

Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light." (Matt 10:28-30)

Many people have difficulty relaxing and being alone with God. The busy hurried pace becomes a habit that is hard to break. It is hard to put down the world’s yoke and put on the Lord’s. The world’s yoke can make us feel guilt when we are not doing something. Even the seemingly harmless activities like talking on the phone or checking the email or turning on the TV can become yokes that occupy our attention so much that they keep us from God. When we do find time to be alone with God, the noise of our lives is still buzzing inside us. Tomorrow’s problems and plans intrude on just being with the Lord. Prayer is nearly impossible in such a noisy inner world, for prayer is lifting our hearts and minds in loving attention to God. The world snaps its whip and drives us on. When we struggle with this, we are still wearing the world’s yoke. But we can do something about this with the Lord’s help. Our spiritual fitness this month is to take off this yoke and put on the Lord’s. We must learn to be with God.

1. Be faithful to the commandment to attend weekly Mass. The Mass is the greatest prayer on the face of the earth, because it is the prayer of Christ and the body of believers united to Him. In the Mass, the Lord brings about our union with Him. He gives us His Body and Blood, and we enter into a holy communion with Him. Learning to be with God begins here. Under normal circumstances, it will be impossible for a baptized Catholic to come to a deeper rest in God without attending Mass.

2. Make a commitment to be alone with God each day. Sunday is the Lord’s day, but every day is given to be lived in union with God. A daily prayer time is essential to grow as a disciple and experience the refreshment of soul God desires for us.

3. Rest in the Lord in prayer. This may be the most challenging. It is hard to quiet ourselves and stop the inner drive to do. Meditation is one way to stop the inner noise and enter into a time of rest with God. By meditation, St Francis de Sales tells us, we use our minds to consider and try to come to a deeper understanding of God and the things of God. As we grow in our understanding, the Holy Spirit will deepen our love of God. It is then that we will be refreshed. Rivers of living water flow to us.

4. Try this as a spiritual exercise. Some people ponder God’s creation in order to draw closer to God. Look at a sunset or sunrise or anything in nature you find beautiful. Let it flood the mind with its own beauty. The noise inside is overwhelmed and drowned. Then, think about the One who made it possible. Tell God how glorious He is. Think about the sun. Look around and see the sunlight - such light fills the earth and allows good things to grow and enables us to see. Think of light flooding into your soul. It is God’s truth. In the light of God’s truth our lives become clear. God’s love for us becomes more clear. Love God and thank God for the light of truth, for without it, how cold and dark our souls would be! This is just one meditation. You know you have done it well if the meditation has quieted the inner noise, and you feel refreshed. Love for God and the things of God will grow. A conversion occurs and we experience the peace of the risen Christ. Meditation strengthens the mind and the heart to focus on what is most important in life and to let go of what is not important. It helps us ’be’ - it helps us sit at the Lord’s feet, and not be driven by anxious concern.

5. Practice meditative prayer. If you are wondering what you can meditate on, I always recommend the sacred Scriptures. Jesus gave us so much to think about. He often gave short meditations to teach us. Here are some that He used from nature: the birds in the sky, the wild flowers, the grass of the field (Matt 6:26-34); the grain of wheat (John 12:24); the mustard seed (Luke 13:18); the yeast (Luke 13:20); the fig tree (Luke 13:6). Check out one of these passages and spend some time thinking about His teaching. Can you think of anything else in nature that would teach a similar thing or some other aspect of our faith in God? Ask God. He is with you to teach you.

6. Go on a retreat or pilgrimage. Jesus said, "Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little." (Mark 6:31) From time to time in our journey to God, we need a longer break to get more grounded in God. A pilgrimage to a shine, church or holy place can help. Catholic newspapers often advertise pilgrimages, or you can make up your own. Call your local priest if you need help. Most priests have some good ideas where to go for retreats or pilgrimages. We are very blessed in our diocese to have St. Francis Retreat Center. They offer various retreats all year long. Give them a call.