My little son hates Mass. His 5 year old body and brain just cannot understand why we go to church to sit still and pray. “Praying is soooooo boring!” he very audibly announces every time we walk in the church. He is also master of the how-many-songs-are-left-before-it’s-over countdown. He happily broadcasts it live during Mass every week just in case you care to catch it. As you can imagine, this isn’t reflecting well on me, a youth minister at the church. Trying to keep his dislike of Mass under wraps is like trying to hold back frenzied bargain shoppers on the day after Christmas sale. My only solace is to find another family with loud kids and sit behind them.
So, when the Feast of the Assumption rolled around, and we were going to attend Mass in the middle of the week (gasp!), I decided to give my youngest some warning to ease the blow as much as possible. I explained to him that we were going to a very special Mass at church because we were going to celebrate Mary’s assumption into heaven. Then, I explained that Mary was so special that she didn’t die like people normally do, but instead, God took her straight to heaven. To my surprise, he seemed genuinely interested in this story. For the rest of the day, he asked me at least once an hour when we were going to Mass. He actually WANTED TO GO TO MASS. I was floored. This was a miracle, indeed.
When we arrived to church, he did not go through his usual litany of complaints. He sat down without whining. And he seemed really interested in watching what was happening on the altar. I was beside myself. Who was this child and what did he do with my son? All this paying attention and not complaining lasted for about 30 minutes and then he announced he had to go to the bathroom. So, we went. When we were waiting to go back into the sanctuary, he looked up at me and said, “Mommy, when do we get to see Mary go to heaven?” So, that was it. He was here to see something miraculous. Watching Mary go to heaven peaked his interest just enough for him to set aside his disdain for Mass and watch the show.
How often do we do the same? How often do we expect God to put on a show for our benefit? How often do we find ourselves discouraged when the show we expect doesn’t materialize? I know I’m guilty.
God desires our love like our bodies desire oxygen. He desperately wants us to participate in the love of the trinity. In order to fully participate, we have to choose it. We have to desire Him as he desires us. And, if you look back at salvation history and the passion of Christ, you see how desperately God desires us. He knew from the beginning, before he created, that we would betray him. He knew he would take on our humanity, enter into history as a vulnerable baby, teach us about his love and then show us how much he loves by giving us his life- his perfect, unstained humanity- so that we may be reunited with him and participate in the love of the trinity for eternity. But we have to choose it. We have to want to love God as he loves us. And we have to choose it without tangible, obvious miracles that unequivocally prove the existence of God- miracles whose sole purpose is to prove the existence of God. No, we have to choose to love God out of faith. Then and only then, do we participate in the agape love found in the trinity.
Now, don’t get me wrong, miracles do come into play. Once we are in that personal relationship with God and we desire His love and presence more than we desire our own lives, he opens our eyes to the miracles. We begin to see God in the little things- in the beauty of a sunset or the complexity of the human body. We see him working in the lives of those around us and moving in the difficult situations we face. We feel his warmth and peace in the moments when stress threatens to overwhelm us. You see, when we love God as he loves us, then our eyes are opened to His reality and our lives find meaning and purpose.
So, love God recklessly. Don’t get caught up in the desire for a show. We are not made for this world. We are made to love and be loved for eternity.