Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Our God respects our choices. Whatever they may be…
A few weeks ago, my two youngest children made their First Holy Communion. The older one had missed out on celebrating his First Holy Communion last year due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and so – for reasons beyond our control – both he and his baby sister celebrated their First Holy Communion together a few weeks ago.
For a moment, there – watching those two little ones in their beautiful communion clothes with their big angelic smiles on their faces – I was reminded of Saint Jacinta and Saint Francesco, who were such young and beautifully saintly children. And then – of course – in remembering the personalities, behaviours and tendencies of my children, I remembered that perhaps we are not all called to such great heights of sanctity.
Although I laugh at myself for the similarities I drew on that special day, reflecting on an increase in sanctification is not as far from the reality of the experience as one would think…
After all, Holy Communion is a sacrament, and sacraments bring Grace, and Grace sanctifies…
That sanctification has a significant impact on us. After all the sacrament of the First Holy Communion is not a sacrament that should be undertaken lightly. Before we can become worthy of this sacrament, we must first confess our sins and be reconciled to God. We must be prepared. We must be worthy to receive the Blessed Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of God the Son in the Eucharist. Christ showed us what this meant at the Last Supper. When He washed His disciples’ feet, He was showing us how to prepare to receive Him.
He was showing us how to sanctify ourselves, and that we need to be clean. Saint John Vianney, in his sermon about the importance of conversion asked, “How many times we have received Holy Communion during the course of our lives. And have we become any better?”. The answer for most people is NOT AT ALL… This means we are not purifying ourselves beforehand or remaining conscious to Christ within us afterwards.
Saint John Vianney claimed in that same sermon, that this was because most people “are holding onto our bad habits.” Most people, though averted from mortal sins, think little of the dangers of venial sins and the damage these do to the life of the soul. “Destroy all that could be in the smallest way displeasing to Jesus Christ, and we shall see how our Communions will help us to make great strides towards Heaven. And the more we do this, the more we shall feel ourselves becoming detached from sin and inclining towards God…” (Saint John Vianney, Cure d’Ars).
I have felt this myself.
I say this without pride – for I recognise my ongoing sinfulness with shame – but I say this to inspire others.
Last year, while my little niece was incredibly ill and precariously balanced between life and death at one stage, my entire family was focused on prayer. It was during that time that this wonderful conversion of mine came to be, and though I merited it not at all, it was surely the result of our journey as a family in faith.
At that time, there was literally nothing else that we put our energies into. When we drove, we prayed, when we sat, we prayed, when we walked, we prayed, when we watched television, we prayed under our breaths, when I taught, I prayed, when I slept, I prayed. If my lips were not moving in prayer, my heart certainly was. For a time, the entire world stood still and the only thing that we could see and focus on was prayer.
We had no time for gossip or sloth or anger or despair. We had no time for sin... We had time ONLY for God. In the words of the great satirical novelist, Charles Dickens in his novel, "Tale of Two Cities", "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
You may wonder if there were distractions at that time…
OF COURSE THERE WERE!
Some people thought we were praying wrong and told us about it. Others thought it was unhealthy for us to fixate on so much prayer and that we should just leave it to God. Others thought I was too controlling and embarrassing in asking for prayer from strangers. Some people thought I was insane and having a breakdown expressed through the increased prayer. Still other people said I was being unfair to my children in asking them to pray with me and it was too stressful for young children.
People had many opinions on the matter. But here were others, who simply joined us and prayed…
I would describe that time of my life like this… We were on a train, and it was racing through the stations. It stopped for a moment at each station and if people wanted to get onto that train, they needed to have bags in hand and jump on before they missed it. If people wanted to stop and correct and discuss and check the course of the train, they would miss it. The train did not have time to stop. SO people had a choice… They could either get on or stay off the train. We did not have time to discuss the course, route or direction… We had only the journey to the end-goal in our thoughts. Nothing could be allowed to derail us.
And I guess that brings me back to the Holy Sacrament of Holy Communion…
Saint John Vianney said, “In order to receive Holy Communion it is necessary to be converted and strong in a true resolution to persevere.”
There must be a strong resolution! It is very important! This decision to get on the train and stay on it…
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori said, “In the great deluge in the days of Noah, nearly all mankind perished, leaving eight persons alone being saved in the Ark. In our days, a deluge, not of water, but of sins, continually inundates the earth, and out of this deluge very few escape. Scarcely anyone is saved.”
And with an infinitely merciful and loving God, how could such a thing possibly be?
Well, the answer is simple. Our God respects us. We are His children – not His slaves. That means that if we chose to reject Him, He will respect that. If we chose temporary comforts over eternal ones, God respects that choice. But if we chose to accept temporary suffering to merit eternal love, then He will respect that too. That is how we get to Heaven.
Scott Hahn says, in his book, “Lord, Have Mercy”, “We will grow more Godlike in the bosom of God Himself.”
We just have to be ready, bags in hand, to spring onto the train – for it only opens its doors for a moment, and we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted in that moment by passing things!
God respects our desire of where to reside. Please God, help me to choose You… Every. Single. Time…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.