"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. [Amos 8:11]
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. [John 6:35]
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Mat 5:6].
Most Catholic adults remember words uttered by the Church Fathers, Catholic priests, and bishops in the first 400 years of our Faith. There are many wonderful examples of these saintly people's thirst for God's love. This hunger and thirst is still going on today. Indeed, the beatified and canonized people in our Church attest to their love of God, their love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Although many Catholics in their prayer life are hungering for a closer relationship with God, for many it may never take place. They can only hope through years of yearning and striving to conquer sin. For people who continue to sin, it is very difficult to feel God's love, and probably even more difficult to continue this inner yearning to love Him back.
I've met several good people, who have an ongoing contemplative relationship with the Lord, but who are the first to admit that they are sinners. It is a fact that we are all sinners to some extent, but people who truly try to please God will conquer sin. For some it takes a lifetime, for others perhaps only a few years. Receiving a close relationship with God is one of His many gifts to us.
Now you would think that yearning for God's love is reserved only for a few, but that isn't so. Everyone, Catholic or non-Catholic alike, can certainly wish to become closer to God. Ex-Catholics are, by my way of thinking, a strange group of people. I mean, some have legitimate reasons for having left the church, but there are many others who have left by default. They felt that the church was too strict (Birth Control comes to mind) and they couldn't accept this, and so they left. Also, many people left because they were 'turned off' by a priest. I've not always agreed with the logic of some of the advice given me by priests but would I leave the church for that? No way. I've got too much time and effort invested in our Church, and to leave based on some falling out that happens to all of us along this pilgrim way, no, that's not reason enough to give up a way of life. The Catholic Church is made up of people. Priests, though ordained to serve people, are still human beings and they could be wrong. They usually aren't wrong in their teaching of the Faith, but, especially in the past, some have been wrong in the way they presented these teachings; also, some have not been faithful themselves and in that way have shown a very bad example. The recent scandals of the Church come to mind.
In the various ministries I'm involved in, particularly prison and prayer ministries, I try to console many people who have experienced a terrible hurt in their lives. People who are in jail often come from very broken homes, had many very bad friends they hung out with. Is this a mitigating factor for the trouble they've gotten themselves into? To a degree, perhaps, yes, although their crimes against society are inexcusable. If we can just bring them back to thinking about God, and acknowledging their culpabilities, they stand a chance to feel God's love, and to love God back. I'm not judging prisoners. I leave that to the Lord, but I try to work with people to change their lives toward repentance and personal conversion. With God's Grace, this is very possible. Let us never doubt His goodness. We continue to hunger for Him!
"In dying we are born to eternal life." - part of the last sentence of a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. He probably didn't write the prayer, but he lived it, every day of his life. St. Francis knew that the only way to be with Jesus for ages and ages to come, was to die to sin, and St. Francis actually meant, to die to self. Detachment from things of the world, means to die to one's own desires, if one assumes that our own desires are usually negative. To follow Jesus one must "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. [Luke 9:3] - this is what Jesus said to his Apostles as he sent them on their mission. 'Take nothing ' means no baggage. Start a new life, get rid of everything that hurts us and offends the Lord, "begin anew," as St. Francis said, "for until now we have done nothing."
For some it is very difficult to be a good Catholic. Surf the Internet, and you begin to realize how many people despise the Catholic Church. To me, that shows that there's something worth fighting for. Churches who are easy-going in their teachings won't get much opposition, because we want life handed to us on a silver platter. We want it our way. Well, that's like saying everything goes and I'll determine what is wrong and what is not. That stance, is the fastest way into Gehenna. People who love the Lord will make the effort to daily conversion. They will understand that although the Church has made mistakes along the way, they are not Catholic because of the Church, but because of God's Grace. Faith is a gift of God, too, just as prayer is. And, just as eternal life is. The only analogy I can offer here is that many of us, in the United States, are Americans. Many Americans do not agree with the way their government is run. Even though this may be the case, that doesn't mean we will give up being Americans. But yet when it comes to the Catholic Church, aren't we a little too eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater?
In Pope Benedict XVI, we have a very conservative Pontiff. Anyone espousing changes in Holy Orders (e.g. allowing married priest, just as is done in the Eastern Rite, and for Episcopal priests who convert to Catholicism), probably will not change under this Pope. Regardless what I think about this (that's not important), it would probably be better for the Church if this matter were maturely examined, not only by Catholic leaders at the Vatican but by Bishops all over the world. It would certainly relieve some of the tension by not really being allowed to discuss it in the open. But I don't see this happening anytime soon, either. But would I leave the Church on that account, no I would not.
You see, my friends, I do hunger for God, and to attain a solid spiritual friendship with Jesus, I know that my own judgment and opinions come second place. To yearn for His presence in our lives we have to give a little, we have to say, You first, my Lord...and as for me, I am your faithful servant who tries to obey you. Detachment!
May you, too, be called to hunger for God, and to thirst for His daily help to fulfill a dream, a dream to share the rest of time with Him in all eternity. Receive Jesus often, in Holy Communion, because you hunger for His love and the gift of His Grace. Amen.
God bless you, today and always!
Fred S. Schaeffer, OFS
2005 rev. 2012