The relevancy of God

I can recall growing up attending Mass each Sunday. For me, it was more something that we did than it was an occasion to worship God and to receive Him in the Eucharist. I didn’t really want to go and looked forward to the times when we didn’t make it.

When my parents divorced I remember my mom meeting with the parish priest, but didn’t think anything of it. I don’t recall praying to God for help in the time after the divorce, and don’t think I would have because I wouldn’t have seen why I would. God is an hour on Sunday, actually 45 minutes. 

In high school I did have a powerful Spiritual experience when on a Confirmation retreat. I think I had a smaller such experience when I was confirmed. There were aspects of Catholicism that intrigued me. I did contemplate seminary at the time. Not sure why, I really didn’t know much about what a priest did and I did not really find prayer an exciting thing, so why would I want to spend my entire day in prayer? In hindsight, looking back at those Spiritual moments I think it was the peace that I experienced that really drew me, I wanted to experience that peace again.

So what is the relevancy of God?

Even if Mass was something I looked forward to and I participated in all the activities that a parish offers, what difference does it make? Still have to go to work, still have to pay bills, deal with people I don’t like — situations that are stressful and a completely packed schedule.

I think the relevancy of God is connected to what we all desire and ask: why? Why am I doing all of this? What is the purpose of my existence? Who am I? 

The Old Testament tells us that God has planted the desire for Him within the human heart. This desire takes the form of the desire for love, for peace and meaning and for fulfillment.

The Book of Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, meaning God is hardwired into our very being. 

Love, beauty, goodness, truth: these inspire us and can create an enthusiasm and longing for more in our hearts. Why is that? Because in those experiences we encounter God Himself.

These things deepen our existence, they bring us joy and peace. They not only give us a break from the routine of work and help give us rest, they give us meaning. Life without these things is pretty dreary.

The role of the Church is to help us to recognize God in these things and to help us to nurture a relationship with God so that we can recognize His presence and action in our day to day tasks. This gives us strength to persevere through the mundane as well as the struggles and stresses that occur in life. This recognition helps us to understand who we are and what we are about so that we may live authentically whether at school, work, in our families, etc.

Living a relationship with Christ doesn’t mean that we go around chanting in Latin and spend all of our free time in deep contemplative prayer.

It does mean we do take some time for Him, though. One of the greatest obstacles in the Spiritual life is when we decide one day we will be religious and we decide to spend an hour a day in quiet prayer and attend Mass 30 times a day and read nothing but the lives of the saints.

Slow down. Start small. Certainly, at minimum you should be going to Sunday Mass. If a daily Mass fits into your schedule, perhaps add one a week. If not, try stopping by the church for five minutes sometime during the week. Some churches offer Eucharistic Adoration during the week, maybe spend that five minutes during adoration. If not, the Eucharist is still in the church in the Tabernacle, so adoration is still possible. 

Don’t fill in these five minutes. Just realize Christ is present and sit in that presence. Perhaps at the end of the five minutes tell Christ those things you are thankful for, let Him know what you need help with and finish with an Our Father. After a few weeks, you may decide to spend 10 minutes. Go for it.

We can also take five minutes when we are alone at home, on a walk, etc. Despite how busy we are, it is possible to take the time. If you think about it, we will rearrange our lives to watch our favorite TV show or watch a movie. Those things take more than five minutes.

Some of these prayer times will be inspiring and lifegiving. Some of them will be more difficult. That’s OK. It’s about a relationship and all relationships take time. This relationship with God, though, can keep us rooted in life. It won’t solve all of our problems and stresses we face in life, but if we work on it, our relationship with God will keep us joyful even in the stress and keep us from being overwhelmed and swept away. 

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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