God's Longing In Us
Sometimes, the spiritual life seems like it is unreal. St. Teresa of Avila had trouble with this. In fact she writes that, oftentimes, she shook the hourglass to make the hour of prayer go faster. She also writes about wanting to stop praying.
In my own experience, when I am tempted to walk away from too much piety and to become immersed in the real, I find that the spiritual life follows me into the real. I have come to believe that dryness in prayer, and in life, is nothing more than an invitation from God to experience life, differently.
William Barry, S.J., in a recent America, asks the question: "Does God communicate with me?" Of course, he answers yes and goes on to speak of God's creative desire for us.
In dealing with others, it often seems that we are experiencing God's feeling for the other through us. Fr. Barry relates that recently he acted spontaneously without a lot of thought or premeditation. In fact, he felt that he could not even take credit for his good act. It was a spontaneous act of self-forgetfulness. Barry had a gift certificate, with which he had planned to buy books for himself. At lunch one day, he asked a fellow elderly Jesuit if he could use some classical CD's. Fr. Barry went out and purchased the CD's with the certificate. It seemed like his generosity came from his truer self and was an experience of God acting through him for the other. In other words, we can experience the feelings of God toward this world of ours, and toward us. We could also ask ourselves how we think God feels toward us, personally. It would be a great act of bravery to share these thoughts with another person.
In our community, we have an infirm Sister at a health care facility about 45 minutes from us. Since we go there often, we have formed another community with the residents and staff at the center. I have often wondered why I feel so attracted to these people and why I see such deep human beauty in them. After I read William Barry's article, I was inclined to think that perhaps I was experiencing God's own warmth and love toward these people. There are probably many experiences in which God visits us, and which we miss, simply because we fail to take the time to reflect.
Early in the morning, I like to make muffins for the community. Recently, I rekindled this early dawn ritual. However, the process involved experimenting, again, with finding just the right recipe, and reshaping it. Then, one morning, the muffins came out golden brown, most delicious, and just right. What a delight! Was this also God's delight?
What does all this have to do with Christmas? For me, it means that God is constantly and continuously coming into all those ordinary events of our lives. When we take time to reflect on these happenings, we have another experience of God. Donald Nicholl says that, at the center of the universe, there is a Love whose longing is the same as ours. It is for us to believe that we can touch this longing.Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.