|WHY DO YOU STAY AWAY?|
|Mother M. Angelica
day Jesus would speak in an audible voice from the tabernacle in some Catholic
Church downtown, what would He say? Would it be a resounding thunderous voice
for all to hear? Most likely it would be a Voice hardly audible because of the
sorrow in His Heart and the tears in His eyes.
What kind of sorrow could make God cry? What pain so deep that His power could not, or perhaps would not, alleviate? Who is there in this whole wide world so precious to Him that His longing heart would yearn to see? Whose voice does He long to hear? Whose footsteps does He hope will one day reach His ears?
Who is this person that He looks for every moment of every day, ever searching for that familiar figure? Who indeed can that special person be?
Is it the person who excuses himself by saying, "I don't need to go to Church. I keep the Commandments (except of course 'Keep holy the Sabbath.') I see people going to Church every Sunday and they lie and cheat all week." How clever is this deception! It makes one feel so Justified—so good without the help of God—so perfect—so content that he "is not like the rest of men." How easy it is to forget that God loves each soul as if no one else existed. He created each soul with greatest care, watches over it—hovers over it—protecting and guiding it—bringing good out of every evil that befalls it. And one day, when He calls forth that soul to see what it has done with so many gifts from so loving a God, it will be all alone before its Creator—showing what fruit it has borne with no excuses, no complaining, no arguments. God and one soul—all alone. What difference will anyone else's actions, hypocrisy or deceit matter? That one individual soul will be looking at Jesus and realizing how very much it was loved by Him during its life on each. Will It not wish with ail its soul that it had worshipped so loving a Lord? Now It realizes that going to Mass on Sundays prepares the soul for this personal encounter. The Mass does this in a quiet way as the soul listens to His Word, kneels at the foot of the Cross to be touched with a cleansing drop of His precious Blood, partaking of His Body and Blood as food for the battles of the coming week and praising His Mercy as His Blessing gives it peace. Yea, our souls are made strong Sunday after Sunday to enable them to see the Glory of His Majestic Presence at the moment of death. That moment should not find us unprepared. How important it is to attend that Sacrifice—to praise that Lord—to repent of our sins—to adore His divinity In a Host, to thank Him for His Goodness. How sad is the soul who thinks it does not need so many good things!
"If you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you will not have life in you." (Jn. 6:53)
Perhaps there is another soul Jesus is looking for. Is it the one who says he left the Church because he doesn't believe in Confession? He says he will not confess his sins to a man—to another sinner like himself. But is this true? How many people, friends and strangers, already see his sins? People he has confided in, neighbors and relatives see his weaknesses. His family often suffer from those weaknesses. These people are supposed to forgive him "seventy times seven" but do they? And when they do forgive, does he ever possess that perfect peace of mind and heart that makes him feel loved again by those he has offended? Is he ever sure there are no resentments in their hearts? Do they forgive and forget? Most of all, how does he obtain strength to continue his struggle to be good? If he Is not sure of the forgiveness of people whom he sees, how can he be sure of the forgiveness of the God he does not see? How much more he needs assurance from Him? How much he needs His grace to do better next time! How much he needs to hear with his physical ears that God has truly forgiven hi ml How much he needs the peace and joy that comes from the words, "I absolve you of all your sins." Yes, an ordained priest, with God-given power, forgives, not in his own name, but in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Regardless of his sinner condition, the source of the power within him comes from outside him—directly from God, the seat of infinite mercy! The God who made us bends down to our limitations. Since we sin with our senses, mind and heart, it is through our senses, mind and heart that His forgiveness flows like pure fresh water. We hear the words of forgiveness and our senses are calm. We feel clean and our hearts are strengthened, our minds are emptied of fear end resentments and we are at peace. How wrong we are to think we do not need the outward sign of forgiveness that comes to us from God through His priest. Shall we have to say even in the light of eternity, "Truly this was God and I did not know it."
" 'As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.' After saying this He breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain they are retained." (Jn. 20:21,23)
Who can measure the depths of the longing in the heart of Jesus as He waits for that special soul that was driven away from Him by scandal. Is this not a double pain for His Heart? Those to whom He showed special love, called to the priesthood or religious life succumb to the world, violate their vows, disdain the spiritual life and become engrossed in self-indulgence. A cause for scandal? Yes. A reason for scandal? No. If a soul permits the lives of others to influence his own conduct and love for God, then that soul is a "reed shaken by the wind"—the Will of that soul is as weak as the Wills of those who cause him scandal. The degree of degradation may be different, but the lukewarmness is the same. The soul succumbs to bad example as it thinks only of itself. The soul did not love God, but loved the security it found in fervent, religious men and women. When that security was gone, the soul fell apart—its crutch was taken away. It did not possess a Saving Lord, but only an idol with clay feet. This is not difficult to verify because one who really loves is not concerned with his own feelings, but only the feelings of the one he loves. When a fervent soul sees casualties in the ranks of God's Army, he bleeds for Jesus. He seeks to make it up to Him by more prayer, greater love, more appreciation for the sacraments and a deeper spiritual life.
This soul has enough self-knowledge to realize that if it were not for God's grace he could and would do worse, under similar circumstances. Yes, when someone you love deeply is crushed under the burden of disappointment, you do not add to that burden. You do not add sorrow to sorrow, lukewarmness to lukewarmness. You strive to comfort the broken heart by companionship and love. You strive to retrieve the wounded by applying the oil of prayer and the bandage of compassion. To inflict wounds upon oneself because others have fallen in battle is insanity.
Jesus has promised to be with those who love Him all the days of their lives. He does not leave us orphans. The Divine Shepherd of Souls never leaves His sheep exposed to wolves. This is why the Mass, our source of sanctity, is totally independent of the holiness of the one who celebrates it. If a priest has the misfortune to be a source of scandal, the soul in the pew is not deprived of any grace' Jesus obeys the command of an unworthy priest and changes bread and wine into His Body and Blood. What humility and love!! How sad if there is one soul missing to comfort His Bleeding Heart. Why do we inflict pain upon pain and call it just and right? Do we think the miracle of the Mass is at the mercy of men? Do we think His love for us is turned on and off by the dispositions of His creatures? His love for each soul is so great that not all the sin or sinners in the whole world can interfere with that love. Yes, He will suffer the command of a bad priest to give you His Body and Blood. He will endure the sins of a weak son to raise His Hand in absolution to forgive your sins. Why aren't you there?
"Do not speak harshly to a man older than yourself, but advise him as you would your own father; treat the younger men as brothers and older women as you would your mother. Always treat young women with propriety, as if they were sisters." (1 Tim. 5:1-2)
Is it possible that He looks for the one to whom He has given an experience of His Love—a charism—a new knowledge of Himself? How can it be that those who receive gifts forget the Giver and continue to run after more gifts? Is there a chance that those to whom He has given the wine of His consolation have become spiritual alcoholics? A harsh statement, but what can one think when those who find Jesus, leave His Presence in the Eucharist, His Church and His Sacraments, to run after an emotional encounter where the cross becomes nonsense and suffering a stumbling block!
The excuse that they lack spiritual leadership and are not being fed is an insult to God. Can it be that a God who humiliates Himself to dwell in a wafer in order to be our food is not enough? Or did they lose their faith as they sang their hymns of praise to their new found Jesus? Who can say the sacrifice of Calvary is not enough to feed our souls? Calvary is not an easy place to be, but do we not experience the Resurrection in Communion? Yes, the Mass is the realistic proclamation of His Death and Resurrection so that our daily lives may be in perfect harmony with His. No sermon, no matter how eloquent, no emotional experience, no charisma or gifts can compare with the grace we receive at one Mass or the reception of one Communion. One indeed wonders what kind of spirit tears the soul away from Jesus, from His Mother, from His Sacraments, and from His Church? What kind of experience is worth the loss of all this?
"The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes and then instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths." (2 Tim. 4:3-5)
Of all those souls Jesus looks for, perhaps the one most difficult to reach is the one who is lukewarm. Mass is taken for granted. He is not fervent when present and neither does his conscience bother him when he is not present. He never does anything bad enough to stir his conscience so the mercy of God is hardly sought. He never feels a vacuum in his heart that cries out to God for help. His life is full of sins of omission—the good things he never does—the faults he never overcomes. His soul is comfortable and complacent and because of this he never seeks God outside of strict obligation and that on a minimal level. Spiritual blahs are mistaken for serenity. If he were cold and hard of heart, he at least could strike a comparison between himself and God, but as it is his soul has no one to compare itself with. He has as much grace as he desires, with no care for an increase, no worry over a decrease. His prayers are without fervor, his repentance shallow. To him, one church is as good as another, all faiths the same, all doctrine true. In his mind all men worship the same God, so it matters little how, when or where. Since the concept of heaven is a little sketchy and his idea of hell unsure, he strives to be neither good nor evil. We can be sure God will seek him, pursue him and try to inspire him, but the question remains, does that soul wish to be caught by Him?
"I know all about you, how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth...! am the one who reproves and disciplines all those he loves: so repent in real earnest....If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come and share his meal, side by side with him." (Rev. 3:15-20)
In drastic contrast to a lukewarm soul there Is the one Jesus looks for with great yearning—the one who is separated from His Church and from His Sacraments for one reason or another. Often there is a yearning also on the pan of the soul—a longing to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, to kneel down and hear those words of absolution, but circumstances, past mistakes and situations that cannot be changed, trap the soul in a no-man's-land—drifting, yearning, longing, sometimes rebellious, other times resentful. Sometimes it is only a lack of courage and trust in His Providence—a lack of determination to prefer Jesus to all things, that keeps the soul in a state of sin. What kind of benefit is comparable to the agony of mind and heart in that soul? There are other souls torn asunder by their own
weaknesses and circumstances that trap them in a vicious circle. These souls must remember that although their love for God is weak, in as much as they have preferred themselves to Him, they still retain Faith and Hope. They must continue to pray and trust and somehow God will help them. They can go to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament present in their Churches and ask for courage to do the things that can and need to be done. Let them sit at the Throne of love and mercy and place themselves at His feet so the gap between them may begin to be healed and made right. Let them kneel at Calvary during the Mass and place their broken hearts on the paten as they await the day when they too will once again be permitted to receive that Divine Body and Blood of Jesus.
"Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:23)
There are other souls the Heart of Jesus yearns for and they are those whose presence is before Him every Sunday, but whose hearts are full of anger and resentment. Some of these souls want to destroy everything that was and begin anew, while others wish to stand still and never change at all. Some have lost faith and attend Mass out of human respect or to please their loved ones. Some seek to destroy truth, advocating half-truths, while others refuse new light on old truths. All in all, how many are there—just to be at the foot of the Cross? How many seek to praise and thank Him for His Eucharistic Presence? How many think of Him, love Him and are there just for His honor and glory? How many offer themselves with Him for the salvation of their neighbor? How many say, "I love you, Jesus. I long for Your Presence in Holy Communion. I long to be like you in my daily life? Help me Jesus to give myself, my talents, my time and my love to my neighbor as You did and do in this Eucharist."
Do any of us think of the bleeding Head of Jesus as we go our own ways? Are we really working for His glory when we tear His Church asunder? Let us all unite, forget our differences, lay down our weapons and raise our arms in prayer and supplication. Let us build the Church and not destroy it. Let us give Him the joy of seeing His children one heart and one soul.
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