As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Is Serious

I have a friend who has the ability to say one thing that always seems to be what the Lord wants me to be thinking of.  Often times it's just a casual conversation, but one word will jump out at me and stay with me long after we've said our goodbyes.  Recently my husband and I were chatting with this friend, and he relayed a teaching moment he had with a mentor.  Someone had shared about the difference prayer was making in their life, that after a month of committing to daily prayer they noticed everything changing in their life.  The mentor told him, "that's beautiful, but can you tell me what is different that brought about this change?" There were the usual responses: Christ's presence, peace, a different awareness.  But all of these fell short.  What the mentor was really trying to convey was that the person was serious in front of a proposal - prayer.  That when we take our lives and our relationship with Christ seriously, only then can we respond in any adequate way to who He is in our lives.   And he went on to say, as my friend relayed, that if we don't understand the need to maintain this seriousness - if we focus too much on the beauty, on the mountaintop - then we risk going right back to the place we were before we found this peace, as if we had learned nothing.

Our school of community, along with the rest of the Movement in Canada, recently began reading, "Why the Church" by Msgr. Giussani.  I have missed reading Giussani because truthfully I love him.  And as I begin to make my way through the rich text of this book, one line in particular struck me.  He writes,

"The Church is not an expression of life, something born from life.  It is a life, a life which has come down to us through many centuries.  Anyone seeking to verify a personal opinion of the Church must keep in mind that any real understanding of a life, which is the Church, requires that one share that life in a way that lets him or her know it.  Although true understanding of a reality which is somehow bound to life demands time, it is difficult to calculate just how much.  In a reality which arises form life, there are characteristics and aspects we never cease to discover and fathom."

Over the past few weeks I feel that God has been showing me that being in relationship with Him is not as complicated as I often make it out to be.  For the past year as I journeyed with the Movement, I have constantly heard and understood that Christ is present in every moment.  "That's all well and good," I would think, "but how do I live that way?"  In this busy, hectic, amped-up life I live, how do I get to the point where I'm thinking of Him first and always - not just in retrospect when everything blows up.  But slowly God is showing me that I don't have to "do" anything - I just have to be.

I went to daily Mass the same day I read the reading above.  It was a noon Mass on a Wednesday, piano day, and though I have been attending every Wednesday since the beginning of the school year I am not able to stay for communion, because I have to leave in time to get back to our piano lesson.  Yet I know it is important, so I go.  And on this day, with this reading on my heart, I entered the church with a different disposition.  I sit here at this Mass, week after week.  Many times I have begged the Lord to help me understand Who it is before me, to help me to spend my time focussing on Him instead of on the craziness that abounds in the pew all around me.  This day the Lord helped me to see a little more clearly, as I remembered the words, "The Church is not an expression of is a life."

Though we were not late the parking lot was unusually crowded when we arrived. I scanned to the front of the church to see whether I could spot a hearse - the sure sign that there would be a funeral.  After one particularly bad experience with screaming babies at a funeral that saw us shrinking out in shame only ten minutes after arriving, I had decided that out of respect for loved ones of the deceased we would not attend funeral Masses of people we did not know. There was no hearse to be seen, so we parked on the opposite side of the church and entered via the front door, which meant we had to sit at the front of the church in order to get to our vehicle quickly and not be late for piano.  There we sat, one adult and six children who were (mostly) marvellously behaved.  And even though I sensed more eyes on us than when we sit at the back, it was okay.  "This is life," I kept thinking.  I am here because You are here."

We listened to the beautiful piano music. My children asked questions and flipped through books, and tried (mostly) to stay still.  And after what seemed like a little longer than should be, I glanced at my phone to discover Mass should have started five minutes ago.  Very odd, as the celebrant is well-known to be someone who is by-the-book and always on time.  One of my older boys remarked that the Bishop must be celebrating Mass, pointing to the incense holder which was set up at the front of the Church, because he had only ever seen the Bishop use incense.  About five minutes later we saw funeral directors buzzing about the front of the Church which confirmed that this was, indeed, a funeral.  I spent a few more minutes debating whether to stay and then, realizing Mass had been delayed by fifteen minutes, decided that we did not have time and quietly snuck back out.  It may seem fruitless on the surface, but the truth is that entire experience was something I so desperately needed - twenty minutes of silence in the front of a beautiful church, surrounded by faithful congregants, next to my beautiful children, to hear the Lord say to me, "this is life."

So when my friend shared his story with us, as soon as he said the difference was the seriousness with which we approach our circumstances is the difference, I got it. If I am serious about something, my heart changes towards it.  Though I have never been able to put it into words until now, really the difference between a good day and a bad day for me is how seriously I take my commitment to Christ. Not in the sense that I'm serious so I take a prayer time, or I read scripture, or I squeeze in a million devotions that I don't have time for (although often seriousness leads to those things as we are able).  But seriousness in each moment, in not letting Christ ever escape my gaze.

I realized that I don't lack seriousness in my life, but too often I am serious about the wrong things.  I am serious about making sure my children complete their school work. I am serious about keeping a good house to the best of my ability, and providing a warm and loving home for my family. I am serious about being a good wife and having a good relationship with my husband. I am serious about how people see me, and making sure my children are well behaved when we go out.  And I am serious about my faith, about getting to Mass and praying as often as we can, studying the Catechism and teaching the faith to my children.  But when I am not serious about Christ - when I treat Him as though He is someone in the background, then these things lack joy.  They become all-consuming, which indeed has been my life.  That is how I find myself asking the question, "How do I make Christ my focus?" I had become more like Martha.

The intensity of my life is a blessing, because it constantly has me asking myself, "Why am I doing this?   What makes this worth it?"  And sitting in the church that day, fifteen minutes late and watching the time between when Mass started and when I needed to be to piano get smaller and smaller, it was crystal clear - I am doing this to meet someone, my Beloved.  And to bring my children to meet Him too.

Mary has the secret - she was serious about Jesus.  When He arrived she stopped what she was doing and sat with Him.  It doesn't mean I need to stop everything I'm doing - that would be a disaster!  But it does mean that I can turn my heart to Jesus as I go about my day.  That when things get rough I can remember the reason I do everything is not in the things themselves - it is Christ.  It is the One I've met who's changed my life in such a dramatic way that I am not the same as I was before.  It is the One who meets me in all of life's challenges not to be another item on my "to-do" list, but to be the very essence of my life, the centre - my Beloved.  When I become serious about who He is, then He walks with me through all of life's moments, good or bad He is there lifting me up. Sharing my joy and my sorrow and tempering everything with His loving embrace, like any good spouse.  The church is not an expression of life, it is life.  And the fruit of that life is Christ dwelling within me.

1 comment :

  1. I enjoy reading your reflections Natasha. You are a witness to Christ alive in your heart and in your family. Keep up the good work.