Reconciliation

This is in follow-up to my last post.

I went back to SS. Cyril and Methodius tonight at 8 pm, to try again to go to Confession. There were about 12 people already there, scattered around the room. I was difficult to keep track of who was next. Over time, new people would come in. One woman asked if she could go ahead of everyone, since she had a small child. Another older woman just cut in line. The man sitting next to me looked over and said, “Don’t worry, we will get in there eventually!” and we had a short conversation about this. I tried to be patient, but in my head, I pictured myself jumping up and down shouting, “Me! Me!” Obviously, I really *needed* to go to Confession. I spent my time reviewing what I was going to say. Not to make it sound better, but to try to be as accurate as I could and minimize the rationalization and contextualization that I often try to stick in there to make it sound as if I really wasn’t as bad as I was.

When I got in, my confession was kind of like a series of bullet points. I committed sin X, Y, Z…. Bare and hanging out there, with no justification for why I committed them. The priest stops me for a minute to ask a question, then says this:

“You are a young person, you could be such a blessing to others…. But you need to make a routine, or you will never go anywhere in your spiritual life.”

I hadn’t said anything yet about feeling like I have been slacking off in my prayer life, or feeling disconnected from God this week, but here he is! Speaking about that very thing! You need no further proof to know that when you confess, you are confessing to Christ himself working through that priest! And that is so true. I really do need a routine in my life when it comes to spiritual matters. I am so haphazard about it and that bothers me.

After confession, I went back to St. Anastasia and spent some time with the Lord in the chapel. I took the Bible off the shelf and sat there for a moment, thinking of where I should start reading. It popped in my head to start reading in Hosea. So, I opened to Hosea and started reading at the first page I came to:

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When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and burning incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of compassion,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one,
who raises an infant to his cheeks,
and I bent down to them and fed them.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim!
How can I hand you over, O Israel!
How can I make you like Admah!
How can I treat you like Zeboiim!
My heart recoils within me,
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger,
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come to destroy. — Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9

Basking in God’s love and God’s forgiveness, I knelt down to pray. A minute later, I felt a warm glow on my face and opened my eyes. The light from overhead was reflecting from the gold of the cover of the Bible.

God’s Word was shining on me.
Such a lovely way to end the evening.

Sacrifice and Love

I have to confess that lately my prayer life has really stunk. I mean, I pray every day, especially intercessions for the people I care about. But I haven’t felt that I am growing in my relationship with the Lord. I just feel disconnected in a way. And this is upsetting to me because I am used to having, or feeling that I have, a close connection to Him. So, I have been floundering quite a bit. Which also means that I have been sinning more often and in worse ways than “normal” (if sin can ever be called normal). Which is also irritating, because I really have no desire to do the sins I do, yet I find myself doing them anyway.

I know the problem is me. All me. And I need Reconciliation. I need to stop what I am doing in my life right now and re-order everything — making God my center. This morning, I got up early and went to Adoration before the exposed Eucharist in our chapel. I started by reading the Pope’s book, “In the Beginning,” but was soon interrupted. Something was bothering me; what was it?

I looked up. The Lord was present in the center flanked by 4 candles. In the niche to the right was the tabernacle. In the niche to the left was the Book of Gospels.

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However, the Book of the Gospels wasn’t lit as brightly as the tabernacle. You could see that the light was on, but it was as if the dimmer switch was turned very low. This is what was bothering me. We are fed from both tables. We should revere the Word of God as we revere His Body. I wanted the lighting for the two niches to be equal.

I looked back to the book in my hands. It is a great book, and I was enjoying reading it. However, I was still unsettled and I felt an urging, a nudge, to read His Word. So, I got up and grabbed a Bible and sat back down, reading Genesis 3-5.

After Benediction, I got a Pumpkin Spice Latte at my local Starbucks. Instead of leaving right away as I usually do, I settled into a comfy armchair and continued reading the Pope’s book. At one point, I stopped reading…because he said something that made me review my week.

In my last post, I talked about fractioning using a large vs. medium sized host and I included a quote about the Altar of Sacrifice, which gave us a graphic image of the Lord’s Blood and Body splashed all over the altar — for us.

Two days after that post, I was at Mass during lunch at the hospital. Our priest told us that there was a priest upstairs who had been declared brain dead, and that our Transplant team was going to be harvesting his organs for Gift of Life later in the day. I work for the Department of Surgery. That was my team that was going to be in that OR. I was involved, in a way, with this. I thought about what this meant. This priest, whom I didn’t know personally, was giving of himself — one final time here on Earth — for the benefit of another person. Talk about sacrifice. Talk about self-gift. All priests lives flow from and return to the sacrifice on the altar. This news, this realization of what he did and was doing, was a powerful image for me of that visceral, close connection that our priests have to the Mass, to the Lord’s Passion, to the Eucharist. So beautiful.

When I go to Mass, at consecration when the Body of our Lord is elevated, I pray in a particular way. Usually, it goes something like this,

This is Your son, who has You in his hands. I see him looking up at You, and I feel You looking down on him with such love. Please Lord, bless and protect him. Strengthen him to be able to do Your work. Refresh him and support him and give him comfort and encouragement, as only You can do. Keep him healthy in mind and body. Help him to turn his heart ever more towards You. Let him know of the incredible love that You have for him.

I hear back the words the Father spoke at the Baptism of the Lord, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

As I finish my recollection of these events of the past week, I return to the Pope’s book. What had given me pause was where he was speaking of the greatest love there is: “I will for you to be.” I think, in context, he was speaking of the incredible love that God has for each one of us that he not only called us into being, but is continually sustaining us in being. For me, I think that this is the best kind of love, one that we should all aspire to have towards the people around us. They are not objects to be used, but people to be loved. Just because they are. Their existence alone gives such joy…or it should.

I am blessed, blessed, blessed by the people I have around me. I love them and I love our Lord who gifted me with them. And I realize that even though I have felt like I’ve had a bad week in my relationship with the Lord, he has been there through it all, giving me grace and love.

After Starbucks, I headed to SS. Cyril and Methodius for Reconciliation prior to Mass. I was to be the next person into the confessional when the priest stopped hearing confessions in order to pray Mass. I looked at the Lord in the tabernacle for a while, “Now what?” After a bit, I headed to St. Anastasia for the 10:15 am Mass. During his homily, Fr. JJ was talking about the Prodigal Son, saying that most people think that they have to reconcile with the Father in order for him to bestow his grace and love upon them, but in fact it is the reverse: it is the fact of the Father’s love which leads to reconciliation.

So, now that I have been graced with this reflection and with the beauty and power and gift that is the Mass…. I will try again to get to Reconciliation this evening. Because God has given me everything which is good in this life.

And I love Him.