Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Sprout or Jolly Green Giant?

Mother Teresa was once asked what she says when she prays to God. She answered, "I don't say anything. I just listen." "What does God say to you then?" they asked. "He doesn't say anything. He just listens. And if you don't understand this, I can't explain it to you."

A Franciscan poster on the Catholic Answers Forum told a story about Mother Teresa speaking at length about a great project she had in mind. I'm not sure what it was, maybe a hospice or something that would take rather a lot of money. When asked how much money she had toward it she said none at the moment but God would provide. When asked what if God didn't provide she is reported to have responded: "Then He's not very interested."

The poster was pointing out her detachment.  She had an idea and would offer this work to the Lord if He provided the means.  If He didn't, then she would move on to something else.  It was, after all, about what God was interested in, not what she was interested in.  If he wasn't interested, neither was she.

God is Interested in You

The Extraordinary Experience: the being "oned" feeling, the experience of Divine Love, the lights, the interior knowing, the physical reactions, the invisible stigmata, all of these things and more, show us something about God. He is interested in us and what we are doing.  What are we doing?  Praying.

But we have this tendency to become overwhelmed by experience.  Of course, I mean, just how ridiculous is it that the Lord of the Universe would be a bit interested in anything I did?  Or in me, personally?  I'm ....  well, nothing, not compared to Him or to anyone I'd expect Him to be interested in.  I believe what is a real perception of the relative importance of ourselves to God can lead us to a skewed response to the presence of Extraordinary Experience. Instead of becoming more interested in the thing that is of interest to God: our prayer, we can easily become more interested in the side effects of praying: the Extraordinary Experiences themselves.

We probably all pray to seek God, not special experiences.  We probably, most of us, never expect anything at all extraordinary to happen to us. So when it does, we are unprepared.

Expect the Extraordinary Because It's Normal 

If you have a packet of radish seeds, and you start a few in a small pot, you plant and water them and expect to see green shoots after a while.  When they appear, you rarely call the neighbors or the newspapers to be witness of this extraordinary event.

When we pray, we a water the Spirit, and that strengthens our Spirit, it grows.  Things sprout, earth gives way, something amazing and new breaks into the Light and opens.  You are the seed, and this seems as extraordinary to you as it would to the shell that holds the germ of the seed if it were a self-aware being.  I mean, srsly, what did we expect?  Did we start praying not believing in God?  Did we think it should be mundane or empty or normal?  We sought to encounter the Divine, and then, we were shocked when we did.

This little sprout of the Spirit is so extraordinary to us, because it connects of us directly to the Infinite Love, that we can halt our own growth, so stunned are we by the sight of what is really just a sprout.  But if we ever want to harvest fruit, that first sprout has to die.  We have to surrender to the forces of the elements, to the Light and Water and Food so that our Spirits mature into ...

Scary.  What will we mature into?  Will we become Mother Teresa or Padre Pio or Saint Faustina?  Would anyone but they want to be them?   You can have a whole handful of roots and seeds and bulbs and unless you are an expert, not know what they will become.  Maybe you're going to be an oak tree or a tulip or a single blade of grass.

Are you willing to keep on keepin' on in prayer and accept what comes?  Are you willing to die to yourself as you know yourself to become what God sees that you cannot?  I'm still working on it.

Most high, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness
of my heart and give me Lord,
a correct faith, a certain hope,
a perfect charity, sense and knowledge,
so that I may carry out
Your holy and true command


(Saint Francis' prayer at the Crucifix of San Damiano)

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful post, many thanks. Many writers have written about the importance of frequent, habitual, even constant prayer. Like the Lord's Prayer, our prayer should reflect praise and thanks as well as supplication, contemplation, and communion.
    If we don't ask, and perhaps ask persistently, I think the Trinity is unlikely to respond. Without contemplation and communion, we may not recognize His reponse.