I went to a talk at my parish on Saturday, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was given by a woman who runs the pro-life ministry in our diocese, and has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a reallllllly great talk, and I wish I could remember all the points she made, because she was that good.
|I always sit in the back of the class.|
For any of you who don't know the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, please read it. It is full of so many amazing miracles that I feel bad that all we do to celebrate her is go to Mass and eat Mexican food.
But back to two of the points from the talk that really stuck with me.
One of my least favorite scripture readings has been The Prodigal Son. While I love the fact that the father (God) is so happy and excited to welcome his child back into the family, I could never get over the father's reaction to the older son. The older son was right! The younger son ran off and abused his father's name and money and then comes crawling back when he has spent it all, and instead of the father disciplining him, he throws him a party. The older son sees this hypocrisy and calls the father out - "Hey, I'm doing everything right, and you never gave me a party!". So true, so justified, so...unmerciful.
The father responds to his older son that he can have everything he has, it's always been there for him. The speaker reminded us that the reason the older son is so upset is not because he doesn't have access to all the father's gifts...it's because he doesn't know how to receive them. God has generously given us everything already. The joy, the grace, the love, eternal life, it's all ours for the taking. We just need to learn how to be more open and receive His gifts and do his Will.
Then the speaker reminded us of the Bible passage where Jesus is walking on water in a storm, and the Disciples do not really believe that it is Him. Peter says to Jesus to prove that it is He by letting him also walk on water over to Jesus. so Jesus says for Peter to come. Peter starts walking on water towards Jesus, then gets frightened by the storm and asks Jesus to save him. Jesus tells Peter that he shouldn't have doubted, and as they returned to the boat, he commands the storm to stop.
I've heard that Bible story a bunch of times, and I've always come away from it thinking the point was that we were supposed to trust that God would take care of us if we do His will. I never once realized that Peter only started to falter when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the storm. (maybe you have understood this point before, theology for dummies up in here.)
The speaker went on to say that when she lost her son, she spiraled into the depths of depression and despair for about a year. She couldn't eat or sleep, and doctors were prescribing her drugs that were supposed to knock her out, but ended up just leaving her shaking. She was a total mess (as would be expected). She was so consumed with the loss of her son that she was losing her faith. When she heard someone describe the above-mentioned gospel reading, she knew she was in such a place of darkness because she had taken her eyes off of Jesus. She was focusing on the storm. She began to realize that there was nothing she could do to stop the storm, only Jesus could. She slowly got better day by day by looking away from the storm and keeping her gaze on Our Lord.
Look away from the storm.
When there are things in your life that you can not change as much as you try - the illness of a loved one, the conversion of a relative, stress at work, failing relationships. the attitude of a child, etc. - you have to look to Jesus to change it. Every time you are tempted to fall into despair and want to give up, look away from the storm. Let Jesus deal with the storm.
I left this talk with two important messages - Receive Openly and Look Away from the Storm. They were good life lessons for me, and maybe some of you can use the reminder as well. In addition, I also learned a third lesson. When there are talks given at my parish, my first instinct is to skip them. I really have to fight the temptation and make myself go (or listen to Phil nudging me to go) even though I have a million excuses and other things to do. I just want to encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities, no matter how hard it is for you to get there. The temptation to skip an opportunity to grow in our faith does not come from up above. I always leave feeling a little more peaceful, a little more refreshed, and a little more focused on the good things in life. The older I get, the more I thank God that I'm a practicing Catholic because there is always more for me to learn, and practice makes perfect :)