“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”
– Mother Teresa catholiconline.org
Sometimes, I listen with great longing to families that tell their story of faith, togetherness, love and healing. It is a longing because it has not always been that way with us.
To be sure, we were blessed with Catholic faith, schooling, Mass, and the rosary in our home. However, some of us went astray during our teen and young adult years. A spiritually growing family hit a rough spot: teens who questioned the church’s teachings; young adults who decided to “pick and choose” which commandments to live; and those who chose when/if they will attend mass. Yes, I also was one of the misled.
Likewise today, the choices offered to the youth are wide, but Jesus said the gate to heaven is narrow. What?!! I know my children and yours are offered many nuggets of “fool’s gold” — power, prestige, fame, education, money, etc. These false gods entice them as well as us.
When I hit that feeling of despair and giving up on prayer, I purposely increase my effort to turn my heart and mind to God, even after throwing in the towel. After listening to Pope Francis, I rediscovered the fact that God loves us always: in our devoted Catholic living and during times of complete self-destruction and self-absorption. The miracle is He loves us just as much during both times. He, unlike us, “does not count wrongs” (1Cor13:5). Oh we may be more deserving of his love in our “pious” times, but God also loves us immensely when we fall.
He loves us if we are away from the faith and do not pray. He adores us no matter our creed, race or beliefs. God loves us when we fall from grace and commit every sin imaginable. Yes! He still loves you and me. Therefore, we must all still joyfully love each other no matter what path one follows.
Of course, the fact remains that we are always happier when we follow Christ and his teachings. Like the addicted, when we hit our bottom, we begin to rise.
Until then, it is up to each one of us to be Christ to one another. How can you love that spiteful neighbor, angry family member, unhappy co-worker — only by God’s grace. However, we must remember that we also are sometimes just as guilty. Maybe that is why Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:5).
I try to offer God’s merciful love through some simple actions:
FIND SOME COMMON GROUND: If it seems nearly every topic brings tension, find some common ground: go out for coffee, a walk or movie and enjoy each other’s company.
STAY CONNECTED: Even if we feel far from our loved ones, it is important to stay connected with a phone call, short visit or meaningful text.
OFFER HELP: Maybe they want to go it alone, but face it; none of us really accomplishes things solo. Offer to help paint, clean, or run errands.
LAUGH: Share a joke or funny memory: I often pray to St. Raphael for a joyful marriage and family life. Laughter and joy ease the tension and give something solid to build on.
“And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.” (beliefnet.com)― Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy
EXPRESS YOURSELF: We are not always called to be a doormat for others, so calmly and tactfully express your feelings during sticky situations. Pray, asking God what to say and how to say it. Words can heal or wound.
PRAY! If someone is uncomfortable with prayer, pray on your own before, after, and during your time together. Ask the Holy Spirit to mend the wounds of division and hurt.
FAST AND DO PENANCE: Prayer is the foundation, but fasting and penance magnify our prayers. For instance, when curing a boy of an unclean spirit, Jesus told his disciples, “This kind only comes out through prayer and fasting.*” (Matt. 9:29). You may not be dealing with an unclean spirit, but fasting and penance truly bring about miracles.
HAVE MASSES SAID: Our Lady has often spoken of the power of the mass. When people are hurting and distant, I often have monthly masses said for them. This is an enormous help.
HELLO HEAVEN, CAN YOU HEAR ME? The saints are a powerhouse of prayer. St. Charbel, my latest favorite, my patron for family prayer. The body of this Lebanese hermit exudes a substance known for healing. He has obtained miracles of spiritual and physical healings for me and others.
DON’T GIVE UP: WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE: We never know God’s timing, but we can trust that He is never late in His answer to our prayers. Trust in Him, he hears your prayers.
*Author’s note: This is an accepted variation of Matthew 9:29.
Copyright 2016, Mary Mitchell