I am precious in your eyes, and honored, and you love me, or so the prophet Isaiah says. I confess, though, that most times I feel as though I’m less than a speck of dirt. Yes, you sent your only Son for the salvation of mankind, and out of love he suffered and died for us, not only the 7 billion people alive on the earth at this very moment but all the countless souls who came before and will come after. In the ceaseless clamor of the sins of all of these, how is it that you know of mine, and can hear of my sorrow for them and can spare an iota of attention for my needs?
And yet the faith of your church teaches that you love me not any less than you loved Mary Magdalene, to whom you first showed yourself risen from the tomb; nor any less than you loved St. Hildegard of Bingen, to whom you gave the talent to be an abbess, an artist, author, composer, mystic, polymath, preacher and theologian; nor any less than you loved St. Therese of Lisieux, to whom you granted words such as “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” Would that I could follow you to the foot of the cross along with Mary Magdalene, that I could have the deep wisdom of St. Hildegard, the humility of St. Therese! But “never compare one person with another; comparisons are odious,” St. Theresa of Avila says, and so even though I admire these women and others who have gone before me marked with the sign of faith I must develop something of my own so that, with your grace, perhaps I might in some small way inspire others as they do me.
That is my prayer, but these days I have been feeling much less a role model and much more like a sinner far from your love. You assure us that if we repent and ask for forgiveness we will again feel your love. For me this is so hard to believe, even though at a retreat years ago I felt to the core of my being the truth of the reconciliation you offer.
But that brush with your love has faded to just a memory. Recently, however, I have actively been seeking to return to your embrace. The other day I knelt in front of a crucifix, asking that you open my heart to you. In reply you requested that I do something for you. You wanted me to go immediately and do it, but I was so pleased to finally have heard you that I stayed even though I felt you leave. Despite my pleas, you didn’t return, and eventually I got up and went about my daily life. I am ashamed to admit that I completely forgot what it was you asked me to do.
I never did remember. I carried the thought of my failure to Mass on Sunday. As the collection was being taken up I went to the ladies’ room and found that someone had spilled something sticky. The mess spread on the floor between two stalls, making it impossible to enter them without stepping in the goop. I took the time to find a staff person and report the problem. I got back to my pew in time for the epiclesis, so I’m pretty sure my absence didn’t invalidate my attendance at the Mass, especially because I was involved in a work of charity. I hope it was a lesson you were teaching, Lord, that I should always take the opportunity to be of service to others even if it interrupts my own prayer.
So now, having learned the lesson, I’m emboldened to ask, will you please remind me of what it was you wanted me to do? This time, I promise I’ll do it right away.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.