When I was pregnant with each of my children I would go to Adoration of The Blessed Sacrament and marvel at how when I praised God my infant would move around in my womb. As soon as I stopped, the baby within me would stop as well. At first, I couldn’t believe what I knew was happening, so I tested it out a few times. I would begin to worship, and my baby would start to move in my womb. I would stop and my baby would stop. I knew that baby was praising God right along with me. I should not have been surprised, after all didn’t St John the Baptist jump in his mother’s womb upon Mary approaching with Jesus in her womb (Luke 1:39).
When my youngest Isabelle was around 4, I picked her up from preschool one day and took her to adoration with me. I explained how she needed to sit still and be quiet, since other people would be praying. She surprised me by how quiet she became when we entered the church. After we left, I asked her how she felt, and she responded “Jesus makes me feel so full” I think this little girl with the sweet dimples put it more eloquently than any adult I have heard explain it. The fullness she experienced was the fullness that only comes when you open your heart to God.
When we spend time in the intimate presence of God we are changed. It’s like when we go to the beach, while just lying there we are changed. We come home and everyone can see the visible glow of how the sun touched us. When we spend time in the presence of the “Son” we may think nothing has happened but there is a glow in our spirit that we walk away with. “All the angels in heaven gaze with ecstasy at the image made on your soul after each holy hour you make in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; (excerpts from Letters to a Brother Priest.)
For those of you not familiar with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; let me explain. The Catholic church believes that Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist; Body, Blood Soul and Divinity. At exposition a blessed host is placed into a monstrance (a beautiful vessel to display Him) The faithful come and sit in silence and sometimes with meditation music and spend time with Jesus. Our Lord asked the disciples to watch and pray with Him for an hour, so many faithful will do a full “holy hour.” The whole point is that we spend time with the physical presence of Christ. (http://www.stmaryanacortes.org/portals/stmaryanacortes/CMAdmin/Benefits_of_Holy_Hour.pdf)
Let us learn from the example of Mary. As soon as she is filled with the Holy Spirit and conceived Jesus, the first thing she does is go and visit Elizabeth. She doesn’t keep this joy and wonder to herself; she takes it and shares it with someone. When we spend time with Jesus, we become so filled with Him that our first response to His love should be how can I share what I have received? When I walk out of adoration, I take His beautiful presence with me and am called to share it with others.
I challenge everyone this busy Advent season to find some time to be quiet with our Lord. Sit in silence with Him and let Him whisper to your heart. In the end you will walk away like my daughter feeling full, not of the weariness of the season but of the peace of Christ.
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Years ago, when my youngest, Isabelle was about 5 we were sitting around the dinner table speaking about what we would be giving up for lent. As we went around the table, each one of us would select a Lenten penitence. Suddenly Isabelle says, “I don’t get it.” When I asked her what she didn’t get, she replied “lent”. So, we gave her an explanation (as much as you can give to a 5-year-old). She still had a blank look on her face and said “yeah I don’t get it” we spoke to her again of Jesus going into the desert for 40 days and how we joined Jesus in this mission. She still had the blank look… before going on- being the good and very patient mom that I am :D, I asked her what don’t you get? She replied “lent– what did we borrow? “
After the giggling and shaking of our heads, we replied, nothing lent, just given….
A few years later I unboxed that story and looked at it in a different way. I contemplated how fortunate we are that our salvation is not something borrowed- or on temporary loan to us. Our salvation is a gift freely given.
Ephesians 2 4- 10 says:
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
We are given Salvation as a gift. I started to contemplate this. I thought of all the great and not so great gifts I have been given throughout my lifetime. I thought of how I have treated all those gifts. Some with reverence and others I could honestly not tell you that I know where they are now. The more precious the gift, the more I needed to treat it with kid gloves, putting it away and bringing it out on special occasions, not wanting to have it damaged in any way. My most treasured gift is a ring my mother left me when she passed on to be with Our Lord. It is a beautiful ring, and I only use it on special occasions, each time I bring it out, it makes me feel close to her. Is this how I experience my gift of salvation as well?
Am I the Christian who comes to Mass and then returns my relationship with Christ to the shelf until next time we meet again? Returning to my gift as I need it or when I have time? Or, at times am I overwhelmed by this gift and feel unworthy of it? I know that when my father gave me the ring, I handed it back, I felt so unworthy, surely, she meant one of my other sisters to have such a treasure. The words “Your mother wanted you to have this”, brought tears to my eyes. How could that be? My sisters were all closer to her. This ring reminds me constantly that Our Father in heaven doesn’t give us according to our merit but according to His limitless love and mercy. I think many of us struggle with feeling worthy of salvation, so instead of basking in the love of the Father, we shy away. I know it took me some time to even wear my mom’s ring. I thought it was too much and I didn’t feel worthy of having received it. I hope we don’t do the same with the gift of salvation our heavenly Father has lavished on us. It’s not about being worthy, it’s about being loved.
I think that our relationship with Christ must become an everyday gift, not the one that comes out occasionally. When I wear my mother’s ring, I get to share her memories with everyone I meet- same with my gift of salvation. Let’s share that with everyone.
Years ago, there used to be a show on PBS-The Antiques Roadshow. I remember a gentleman who had a hat from one of the Conquistadores. It was all metal and beautifully engraved. All the antiques dealers came to his station to look at this precious item. The appraiser was asked to verify its authenticity and price. He went on about this object’s history. When asked about the price – he looked at the hats owner and asked him a question. Why is the hat so shiny? The gentleman sheepishly bowed his head and said it was extremely dirty and I was embarrassed to bring it here in that condition, so I spent hours polishing it. The price went from over 300,000 to about 10,000 – you see in polishing it up he took away the patina.
We should not be shy about our gift of salvation; it should make us stand out, for it draws others to Him. Sometimes the best compliment I can receive is not “have you lost weight?”; but “are you a Christian?” We need to be well worn Christians. Full of the patina of Christ. In today’s society we are often timid in showing our Christian patina. Being frail enough to say that amid my joy or sorrows I turn to Christ. Our frailty is what brings us closer to Jesus since this is where we need Him most. This is also where we draw others to Jesus. Because it is in the worn patches of our lives that God’s love and salvation shine through. When I can testify of His love at the darkest moments of my life others can be strengthened. This gift of salvation comes to us when and where we need it. Let us humble ourselves before the throne of mercy, implore God for it and realize that we are all in need of saving. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So, when you find yourself shying away from this very lavish gift remember that Jesus earned it for us while we were still in sin. It is not something that we can earn, rather it is something God gives freely and all we need to do is say thank you and treasure it.
As we get ready to enter this Lenten season with Jesus, let us focus on this treasure purchased at so high a price. Let us honor it by daily giving thanks and becoming well-worn Christians letting God’s light shine through. May this Lent bring us all closer to the heart of Jesus.