Growing a "Yes" Within

Confession: I don’t always enjoy praying the Rosary.

In fact, I often avoid it because it takes me so long to pray it by myself and I want to spend my prayer time doing other things.  That might be borderline blasphemous to some Catholics, but that is honestly how I feel sometimes.

Last night, however, I decided to pray the Rosary.  I told myself that I could stop and pray with a given mystery if I felt drawn to it.  It was a minimal-commitment Rosary, if you will.

The joyful mysteries were the mysteries for the day.  I tried to mentally enter into the mysteries: what if I was Mary and experienced the Annunciation or needed to travel to Bethlehem for a census?  The interesting thing was that instead of Jesus being who was developing within me, it was a “Yes.”

Before prayer I had gone for a run and part of the time I was thinking, “Lord, help Your will to be my will.”  So as I reflected on these mysteries, I thought of this desire to follow God’s will as a “Yes” that is grown within oneself.  This “Yes” was what Mary spoke at the Annunciation–a “Yes” that took on flesh and entered into humanity, but a “Yes” nonetheless, one that she said with her whole self, every day.

The “Yes” does not lead to immediate results, however,  Mary’s “Yes” took nine months of quiet growth before it was born into the world.  Similarly, our “Yes” may not be evident after the first day.  It might take months to begin to show.  But when it does, it will noticeably transform us, even though it might remain hidden.  We might labor to give birth to this “Yes” with our whole selves.  But what struck me was the presentation in the temple.  Even after we have grown this “Yes” within us and labored for it to bear fruit, the results are still not our own.  We present the fruit of our “Yes” to the Lord to do with as He wills.  Nothing remains our own.

After giving ourselves to this “Yes” and presenting it back to the Lord, we might still struggle to understand and find this “Yes” in the confusion of our lives.  Mary had to seek after the “Yes” in accepting to become Theotokos–the God-bearer, she looked for Jesus in the temple, and she stood sorrowfully taking in this “Yes” hanging on the cross.  It was a “Yes” that filled her entire life, one of complete obedience to the will of God.

My reflection on the joyful mysteries of the Rosary filled me with a renewed desire to nurture this “Yes” within myself.  Not in one area of my life, but in all areas.  Without even thinking about it too much, when I imagined this “Yes” filling my life, I knew it would be accompanied by an undeniable and nearly uncontainable joy.

A “Yes” to the Lord involves sacrifice, that is true, but it leads us to a deeper peace and joy than only saying yes to our own will.  It fills us and gives true life.

But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”  (Luke 11:28)

Making Excuses with Moses

Moses and I might as well be twins.  Yes, I am aware of the historical, ethnic, and cultural difficulties associated with that type of relation, but it is very true.  Moses and I both balk at what the Lord asks of us and then we make excuses.  Not just one excuse that can be neatly answered, but multiple.  And if we run out of excuses, we start re-using the old ones, just in case they appear any stronger after a period of neglect.  I don’t even need to alter much to make the excuses of Moses my own.

Granted Moses faced a bit more of a challenging task then I do.  He was saved from infanticide, raised in Pharaoh’s house, sent into exile after killing an Egyptian, and called by God from a burning bush to march his people (that he never really lived with) out of slavery and into a Promised Land.  No big deal, right?  I, on the other hand, am simply told to be the best teacher I can be, proclaim the truth without fear of the consequences, and become of a disciple for the Lord.  When placed in that light, Moses had very good reason to throw up excuses while my position has a much weaker foundation for it.

Q: “Who am I that I should…?” (Ex. 3:11)
A: “But I will be with you…”
Q: “If…they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
A: “I AM who I AM.”

Excuse: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice…” (Ex. 4: 1)
Reply: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak.  Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jer. 1: 7-8)
Excuse: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent…”
Reply: “Who has made man’s mouth?  Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

Final plea: “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person.” (Ex 4: 13)

This final plea is sometimes what I find myself reduced to.  Just send anyone but me, Lord.  I think of others who are clearly more qualified for the job than me.  I wonder how the Lord could make such a large mistake, could have overlooked their finer qualities and overlooked my giant deficiencies.  This feeling of “Please, Lord, someone else!” isn’t just with large missions, but is with lesser things.  When there is gossip taking place and I feel uncomfortable, but I don’t want to be the one to squelch it.  If I see something that is wrong but wish I hadn’t seen it so that I could simply be naïve. 

When I was offered the teaching job I felt incredibly inadequate.  I had just finished convincing people quite a bit older than me that I was the person they wanted for the job.  Then I was offered the job and I had a more difficult time convincing myself that I was the person for the job.  In fact, I began to compile a mental list of people that would be better at teaching than I would be.  I thought of intelligent priests I knew, passionate young adults filled with both knowledge and fire, and young religious sisters who would be able to articulate the faith in an eloquent manner.  Then I thought of my own abilities and talents.  The list seemed to be woefully short.  I hadn’t lied to the interviewers…I had simply spoken with more confidence than I actually had.  Who would hire someone who said, “I am pretty sure that I can do this job, I think.  _________ and ___________ would be perfect for this job but they aren’t available.  At the very least, I think I could be a decent babysitter for high schoolers.  Hire me.  Please.”  That probably wouldn’t be sufficient.

Instead of relying on my own incredible speaking abilities (which I don’t have) or my limitless intellect (again, fictional), I was forced to rely on the Lord.  Of course, I failed in that but I was forced to try more than if I was gifted with all that was required of me.  I knew that I could not do the task properly on my own.  However, I did know that the Lord could use me to do His will. 

How did I know this?

Past experience, yes.  Bible stories, yes.  Witness of the saints, yes. 

Abraham.
Moses.
David.
Our Lady.
Padre Pio.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
St. Faustina.

It is not my job to tell the Lord that He has chosen the wrong person or that I am under-qualified.  He already knows my gifts and He knows my weaknesses.  I am convinced that often the Lord chooses people with major weaknesses so that it may be evident to the world that He is doing the work and it is not his/her own skill.

The requirement is a wholehearted yes.  Or at least an openness to being used for God’s will.  It is saying, “Please, Lord, choose somebody more qualified” and then going to talk to Pharaoh anyway when the Lord tells you to.  You are required to be uncertain of the future yet entirely certain of He who already knows the future.  It is surrendering your weaknesses to the bridegroom on the altar of sacrifice and welcoming into yourself the bread of the angels, the strength from heaven, the necessary graces.  It is allowing His to overflow in you and into those in your life.  It is hands wide open, entrusting everything to Our Lord even when we don’t know what that everything even is.

Moses and I both question the Lord and ask Him to choose someone else to do the hard work.  Yet God is unrelenting. 

He crafts our souls, breathes life into us, nourishes us, and then poses a question to us that is hard to refuse. 

“Trish, I created you to reveal an aspect of Myself that nobody else can reveal.  I have a plan for you, I have graces for you, I have a mission for you.  Will you reveal Me to the world and be a part of salvation history?”

Whoa. 

How can I refuse?

God can use you…..yes, despite that quality or tendancy

Reading the Bible is a source of encouragement.

Really.  And I don’t necessarily mean huge spiritual insights and an experience of the infinite.  Yes, that can occur and it is wonderful if it does.

What I mean is this: Scripture paints pictures of people with really big flaws…and then shows us how God uses them.  I am more and more convinced that if God can use Abraham, Jacob, and Adam, then He can use me.  These men all had their strong points but they also had a sizable amount of flaws.

Today we continued to read through Genesis and sometimes I almost laugh when I think of these stories.  Jacob tricks Isaac to get the blessing designated for the first born.  Rebekah helps Jacob escape the murderous rage of Esau.  Jacob goes to his uncle Laban’s and falls in love with Rachel.  The seven years spent working for the privilege to marry Rachel pass in a flash.  Jacob is secretly wed to Leah.  Jacob, upset with the trickery, works another seven years for the chance to marry Rachel.  God sees that Rachel is loved but Leah is not and so He blesses Leah’s womb.  Rachel remains barren.  The sisters start to fight, giving their maids to Jacob so they may have children through them.  Then Jacob’s children fight because he has a favorite.  The favorite ends up being taken and sold to passers-by and Jacob mourns him for dead.  No worries, though, because Joseph can interpret dreams and is, after a couple missteps, second in command in Egypt.  Then he saves the Egyptians and his entire family from starvation.  After toying with them for a bit, Joseph forgives his brothers and they all live happily ever after….until a pharaoh decides to impose infanticide on the numerous Israelites.

Jacob definitely wasn’t perfect.  God blessed him and God punished him.  As one reads the story, it is almost impossible to not think of all of the difficulties they are creating for themselves.  Two wives?  And sisters?  Of course there will be discord!  Then a battle with childbearing?

The squabbles are almost laughable until you remember how you battle over such inanities as doing the dishes or taking out the trash.

Yes, if the Lord can bring about a Redeemer through the bumbling ways of Christ’s fore-bearers, then He can most certainly use you to do His will.

Never fear, we serve a God who can write straight with our crooked lines.

Sometimes God speaks to me through….me

I love to write.  Another close favorite is reading.  My main writing over the past few years, apart from scholastic writing, has been in the form of prayer journals.  At different, random points in my life, I enjoy going back and reading what I have written.  It allows me to remember what that time period was like, whether it was beautiful or painful, and to see how far I have come.  Recently, different changes in life have caused me to go back and read and, surprisingly, learn from myself.  The moments of epiphany are too often neglected until I read them again and am, once again, enlightened and encouraged to persevere.

I have decided to share a lengthy portion of one journal entry that I wrote because I found myself edified simply by reading something I had penned.  While this could be due to a hardy dose of narcissism or pride, I believe that some of it may be beneficial for others.  Altogether, I believe it was inspired by Someone far wiser than I who, for a brief window of time, was able to use this unwieldy instrument for something good.
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March 31, 2013 –Easter Sunday

Jesus,

You overwhelm me with joy.  Last night I sat in a darkened Cathedral nave eagerly anticipating Your resurrection.  I was filled with a light-hearted joy.  The Scripture readings painted a picture of how God has loved humanity throughout time.  You have given me several moments in my life where I internally declare that this is Church.  Last night as I watch a woman be baptized and confirmed, as I glimpsed the joy on the face of Bishop…, as I inhaled the incense, as I helped fill the darkened Cathedral with light and persons, as I exchanged a greeting of peace–this is the embrace of the universal Church, this is my home.  I received You–Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity–in a manner that pre-dates the foundations of this country, in a way that countless saints have, from the hands of the Bishop ordained through an unbroken line of apostolic succession.  The beauty of the Church is striking and my heart finds itself being pressed to widen her chambers to make room for the Beauty that aches to overflow in her….

There are so many times when I think that I understand You and then I am reawakened to the fact that I comprehend so little.  What a beautiful mystery it is!  The rich depths of the Catholic faith cannot be plumbed.  You died for me and rose again.  The wounds You had were glorified.  You breath into my heart a joy beyond measure and You inscribe “Alleluia!” on my tongue.  From outside of time You pursue my heart, meeting me at the timeless table of the Eucharistic feast.  You know the workings of the universe–and my fierce and delicate heart.  You will for our wills to collide in an eruption of sanctification.  You are the perfect picture of patient love as You hang on the cross.  You recklessly call me to place my hand in Your side, calling me to believe more in Your triumph than my failings.

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The Lord desires something great for each one of us.  It may not be my personal idea of “greatness” or the type of greatness that I would like.  Yet each of us is called to be a saint.  We are called to be great in mercy, love, patience, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness.  We are called to place our will at the service of His will.  To accept that God has a better plan for ourselves than we do.  To realize that He desires to fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts…perhaps just in a different way than we are asking Him to do so. 

And Our Lord hasn’t forgotten you.  He hasn’t forgotten me. 

He hasn’t forgotten you. 

“Let me hear in the morning of your merciful love, for in you I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”  –Psalm 143:8

Living in God’s Will

Last Saturday I really missed college.  Perhaps it was the fact that my sister just headed back to school or maybe it was due to a longing for good community.  Or because I would like to be the student again and not the teacher, despite the satisfaction I get from job at times.  Every now and then I have to stop and remind myself that I am not on a break from college but that I will never go back to college, at least I will never return to where I was before.  I’ve tossed around the idea several times of getting my Master’s degree but I know it won’t be the same as my undergrad.  There is a sadness that comes with that repeated realization.  That phase of my life is completed and it is a place to which I can never return.

I find myself missing things that I didn’t plan on missing along with things I knew I would miss.  Now I live in a house but I find myself missing the dorms and being able to walk across the hall to talk to someone.  I didn’t love going to the abortion clinic on Saturday mornings, yet I find myself missing that mission field and the people that I prayed alongside.  I miss beautiful lectures by brilliant professors that just feed my soul.  While I don’t miss paying for them, I miss the feeling of picking of a new stack of books at the beginning of the semester.  Perhaps I miss writing papers and I try to live vicariously through my students by assigning frequent 1-page papers.  I miss campus and walking around through the changing seasons.  Oddly enough, I miss the adult-like feeling I had of going to Mass off-campus.  It made me feel so grown-up to be going to Mass with adults who have jobs.  The odd factor is that I do this now but I think it is because I am going to parishes I went to before college that I don’t feel so adult-like.  My heart misses the adoration chapel and the beautiful peace found there.  I miss my schedule and the mode of college life.  Yeah, I miss many things.  I didn’t realize this so much the first semester because I felt so overwhelmed with work.  But now I am able to look up a little bit more and I find myself looking into the future, wondering what else could be in store.

What beautiful plan does God have for me?  And what is He doing with me in the meantime?  He has never failed me but I am so quick to fall back into fear.  I miss college and that is natural because it was an important part of my life in which I grew substantially.  Yet I would be amiss to spend this next phase mourning over the last one.  My goal is to recommit to live in the present with joy, embracing as fully as I am able every aspect of my present life.  God is loving me in so many ways right now.  Right here is living in God’s will.   

Thy Will Be Done

Perhaps I am not alone in feeling this way, but I desire a great mission for my life.  I want to do big things and transform society.  When I look at the different passions in my life, I wonder how I will ever be able to use them all, how will God be the fulfillment of all of my desires.  Taking a look at where I am at the present moment can cause me to feel impatient and claustrophobic.  I want to travel, to live life, to have adventures, to be incandescently happy.  There are moments, like on Thursday, when I look at my life as a teacher and I wonder what in the world I am doing.  Some people are able to say that every day they go to work they are filled with a desire to go to work and that because of that, they never feel like it is work.  Unfortunately, I cannot say that the same is always true with me.  There have been several times over the past few months that I didn’t want to go to work, that the thing I wanted most was to extend the weekend.  My heart desires something grand and beautiful.  Yet when I look at where I am in my life, I begin to wonder if it is ever possible to attain that.  Am I simply missing God’s will in my life?  Will I be my own worst enemy?  Everyone desires a great love and a great adventure and too quickly I begin to wonder where mine is.  I’ve spent half of the past semester longing to live life fully and the other half praying to enter into eternal life.  At times I am filled with a passion for teaching and with gratitude that I am able to do what I wanted to do right out of college.  Nevertheless, I wonder what else there is for me and how the plan will unfold. 

Maybe much of this is natural–the transition years after college, the quest to find stable footing, the desire to be a saint, the longings to be fulfilled.  Yet some of this is perhaps the temptation of the evil one.  If he can make God’s will for me now seem to be unimportant or too little, then he is winning in a sense.  God could have a grand mission for me next year but His will for me is to be a teacher now.  If I focus on the future grandeur and fail to do my duty in the present moment, then I am effectively not doing God’s will out of a misappropriated desire to do His will in the future.  I need to learn patience without succumbing to passivity.  How will I know if God is asking me to step out in faith or if it is my own desire for the grand that will cause me to run contrary to the will of God.  I have this desire to be a saint and although I know there are many saints of the ordinary, I don’t want to be ordinary.  While I don’t want to stand out especially, I long for a great mission, something where all of my desires are fulfilled.  Maybe this is just my melancholic nature coming out and longing for the ideals that can only truly be found in Heaven.  All I know is that I long for a beautiful adventure that will be personally transforming and will transform others.  A little daisy wants to be a bouquet of roses.

What a different view of me my students would have if they read this blog.  I know they don’t think I’m perfect but I like to think I look generally put together and collected.  At times I wish I could tell them how ridiculous and confused I truly am.  The facade would be destroyed.  What does God want me to do now?  He has placed me here for a reason.  I forget that reason, though, in moments of frantic worry and a desire for my will to be done.  So, Lord, if Your desire is for me to be here now, please teach me how to do Your will in the present moment–and to love doing it.