Build a Better Relationship with Your Loving God Today
This week, we focus on relationship. Many of us in our modern era feel isolated, alone, forgotten. Despite the fact that we have access to any information we want or need within seconds, loneliness is more pervasive than ever before. We have lost our sense of belonging, of community, of relationship.
But God wants to restore us to right relationship – first with Him, then with others. All of this inner work requires daily introspection on our part, along with receptivity to God’s grace. He waits for us. Even the smallest movement of our hearts heavenward is what God wants from us.
We can look to the relationship Jesus had with His heavenly Father, as well as His earthly father, St. Joseph, as an example for us to be restored as God’s beloved sons and daughters. We can also learn from St. Joseph himself about how to live a hidden life of silent reflection and humble obedience to God’s will.
Let us pray that our hearts will become hearts of flesh and not of stone, that we may love what is right and follow God’s plan for our life without bitterness or regret, but instead with total, unbridled joy.
“I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
Sometimes, like the Pharisees and scribes, I get caught up in the rhetoric of the law instead of doing what is right for its own sake. I think of the dos and don’ts, the rights and wrongs, shoulds and shouldn’ts. But You are asking something greater than mere lip service to Your commandments.
Obedience motivated by fear and duty isn’t the same as obedience motivated by love for You. But, today and always, I want to love you, Lord. I want to follow where You lead, to do all that You ask – even and especially when I don’t understand or when greater suffering is necessary. Soften my heart, that it may be one of flesh and not of stone.
“Father, I thank you for hearing me!” (John 11:41)
How often I pray without ceasing for a particular petition, and once you answer that prayer, I forget to praise and thank You! Jesus, You remind me today of the importance of lifting my eyes and my soul to Heaven in immense gratitude – not just for granting me answers I may want to receive, but also for the unanswered prayers, the prayers in progress, the prayers that are not answered the way I would prefer.
All things work together for my good and Your glory, Lord, and I thank you for that.
“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him…” (Matthew 1:24a)
St. Joseph, how few of us learn the most powerful witness of your life – silence. We live in such a noisy world. Clamor surrounds us in many forms, such as elevator music, dings and buzzes and rings from various cell phones, televisions and background music in restaurants or retailers, and, of course, the noise in my own head and heart.
How I long to listen to God as you did, St. Joseph! I want to understand the value of silence more than I already do, to practice it regularly in order that I might hear God speaking to me through my guardian angel, a friend, a song, or even a dream. I pray that, through your intercession, I might know with certainty when God is speaking to me, so that I will act without delay when He asks something of me.
“Joseph…was following a good plan for his life, but God was reserving another plan for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God; he was deeply sensitive to his secret will; he was a man attentive to the message that came to him from the depths of his heart and from on high…He was ready to make himself available to the news that…was being presented to him.” (Pope Francis)
Far too often, I make plans for my life that I believe are decent and even righteous. Everything I’ve ever mapped out has been, what I thought, to advance my knowledge or deepen my understanding or grow in wisdom. Nonetheless, they have always been my plans, not God’s.
St. Joseph, as I learn from you to bask in silence through daily discipline, I also ask you to help me be receptive and attentive as you always were. If my heart is attuned to the movements of the Holy Spirit and if I can be more aware of the nuances in other people’s behavior, I can respond with sensitivity and empathy in an increasingly sterile society.
I can be the Heart of Jesus, as well as His hands and feet. In fact, teach me to be His Heart, St. Joseph, and to believe that God’s plans for my life are greater than my own.
“The presence of some silence in our day has the effect of drawing us to a more generous attentiveness. Silence does not just make us listen better. Its greater impact is on the quality of our eyes. A more selfless act of attention permeates our perception of reality as we live a day.” (Fr. Donald Haggerty)
If silence begets generosity of soul, and if it changes my perception and even fine tunes my worldview, then I know it is the balm for which I have been seeking. Though I’ve sought everything else to assuage and soothe my interior pains, it is truly silence that will heal.
Silence allows me to see myself with honesty. It avails me to God’s heart and draws me away from the din around me and into the deepest recesses of my own soul where He dwells. Silence draws me out of myself and into the hearts of others, too – to see the pain they hide and to enter it with them through authentic accompaniment, to pray for them and to listen without judgment.
Silence grants me the fruit of peace. I know this, because the times when I have not paused for reflection or set aside specific time for prayer in solitude, I have been restless and agitated. Yet, even as I fear silence for the powerful truths it teaches me about myself, God, and the world, I know that if I sit with it as a gentle companion, it imparts peace upon my soul.
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” (John 8: 28)
Jesus, I confess that I try to do everything myself. Even though I convince myself and even my family that I’m doing Your work, I know deep down that I’m just trying to control my life through excessive planning or staying busy. But You remind me here, as You always do in such a tender way, that You even considered Yourself incapable of doing anything aside from Your heavenly Father’s aid. So must I, then.
But how can I do this? First, I have to remember that You are God, and I am not. Then, I have to pray that You may increase and I may decrease. Your Name, “I AM,” is so profound that I cannot bear to unravel even the surface of its mystery. But it is truth. You are. And I am not. Teach me that my nothingness is, in fact, the gateway for Your grace to move in and through me. Only when I am empty can You fill me with Yourself.
“Just as there is such a thing as a vicious circle, a state of being imprisoned in the negative when one ‘no’ leads to another…so there is also what could be called a healing circle of salvation, in which one ‘yes’ gives birth to another.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)
It seems there is more negative speech now than ever before. We live narcissistic lives in fishbowls through our social media channels, which have become snares for others to spew spiteful and critical judgments. Ironically, pop psychology and self-help books preach the law of attraction and the gospel of prosperity. Where are You in this toxic cycle of negativity?
There was one “yes” that changed this cycle, the “yes” of a young maiden whose spoken word shifted the reality of my fate from eternal doom to eternal life. She gave You life, and she breathes her life in me as I imitate her “yes” to you every day. It is “yes” that is generative, fruitful, and liberating. “Yes” gives birth, creates something beautiful where there was only desolation before. This Lent, teach me, Lord, to be generous in my “yes” to You and all that You ask of me.