A jack hammer is the best description I can find for the sound that roused me awake. I glanced at the clock- 5:30. Why would they be jack hammering the alley outside my bedroom window at 5:30 in the morning? Then I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I stumbled out of bed and turned off the air conditioner. The hammering stopped along with my heart. I fell back on the bed. As I lay there wondering what in the world could be wrong with the condenser, the promise I made the night before came floating to the front of my mind- I wasn’t going to let anything distract me from doing my prayers and quiet time this morning. Lately, I have been surrendering to distraction and skipping this vital beginning to my day. Little did I know the challenge I would face on this particular morning.
My distracted nature drives me crazy. My mind is in constant motion. While I am working on one task, my brain is busy planning its assault on the next task. I am always concerned about managing what little time I have in the best way possible. I usually cannot watch TV or sit through movies because the lists in my mind of what I could be doing haunt me until I get up to do them. And, since it is my nature as a woman, I tend to put what I need to do for myself at the end of the list. When I am finally alone and ready to be quiet or prayerful or even asleep, relaxing my mind takes effort. Once my eyes close, the events of the day play over and over like a broken record. And before I know it, my mind is miles away from where it should be usually robbing me of prayer or sleep. Needless to say, not only can my distracted nature be a stumbling block to my spiritual growth but it also threatens to rob me of the joy of life in general.
I get particularly upset with my distracted nature when I am at mass. Mass is a place where I go to meet Jesus. Our Eucharistic Lord becomes present among us and that thought makes my spirit soar. Mass should be a place where I can let go of all the stressors of life and just bask in the glory of God. Unfortunately, I am most distracted at mass. I am worried about the noise my children are making. I am worried about the world that is waiting for me after mass. I am worried about all the burdens I want to lay on the altar. And sometimes, I am so distracted that I forget to put them there. I feel particularly guilty when I receive the Eucharist in a distracted state of mind. I try to focus but there are some days when my child is throwing a fit all the way to the front of the line and I just need to get him out of there. And then the guilt I feel for not savoring the experience or not fully appreciating the sacrifice the Lord is making for me robs me of joy. During the times when I put the distractions away and am truly present at mass, it is a glorious experience. I wish that I could do it every time.
Receiving the Eucharist is the high light of my Christian experience. When I am completely present in the moment, my experience with the Lord is extraordinary. I can feel his blood coursing through my veins. I can feel the warmth of his life in me. At that moment, His presence in me is all that matters. Before I became Catholic, I felt a little left out that I couldn’t share in the Eucharist. After I was received into the church, I understood why they made me wait. I needed to fully understand and appreciate what was happening. This understanding is one of the things that makes the moment so powerful. When you are received into the church, you are forever committed to the Lord. You are part of the body of Christ. Christ lives in you and through you. The commitment a Catholic makes to the Lord is similar to a marriage commitment. And meeting Jesus at the table and sharing in the Eucharist is the culmination of that commitment. It is our communion with Him. It is how He touches us from Heaven.
I think there are many Catholics who are like me- distracted. Whether it is they are distracted by their own lives or things that are going on in the Church. Some are distracted by a past hurt or wrong doing. Others are distracted by temptations or burdens of this world. And just like my experience, these distractions rob them of their special moment with Jesus.
My brothers and sisters, we need to rise to the challenge. We need to set our distractions aside and be present with our Eucharistic Lord. We need to let Him fill us. We need to let Him touch us with His love. Distracted or not, He gives us His heart. It’s our choice to be present with Him and feel the life and love flowing from His heart. We should come to the table with eager anticipation. We should come to the table completely focused on His beautiful sacrifice to us. We should come to the table empty of ourselves so He can fill us to the brim with His divine joy and love. He is waiting and hoping we will come.