Dear Fr. John, thank you for “The Better Part“. I have kept up with all days following the calendar in the back. I treasure this book as it “lives” at my bedside ready to nourish and inspire. I especially have benefited from the entries where a figure from Scripture speaks in the first person. I write because my search for a remedy for a life-long spiritual matter has reached a dead end. The answer I already know is “just believe” and “have faith” also “it is simple and you are complicating things.” Seeing Pope Francis with the afflicted man is what brought this issue to the forefront. The pope showed such love, compassion, and care to him that I thought if he as a human being can do that for a perfect stranger with such terrible affliction, how much more would this man receive from his Creator. I have always felt that my soul is so unbearably deformed and no matter how many times I go to confession, this does not lift. I’m in this perpetual state of seeing nothing but ugliness from the inside. Looking at the Pope with this man reminded me of the great desire I have for God to show me the same despite this inner way that I feel. I am simply not disposed to receiving what God wants to give…forgiveness and healing. How can I overcome this? I know this is halting any spiritual growth.
This is a very beautiful question. Your desire to be better disposed to receive what you know God wants to give is in itself a gift from God. He has given you that desire, and continues to stimulate it through things like witnessing the pope embrace the afflicted man. And if he has given you that desire, it’s because he wants to fulfill it, and he will do so. The question is, what can you do to help make that happen? What is the part he wants you to play in the continuing drama that is leading you forward towards a new discovery of his total love for you?
Keep On Searching
It’s really hard for me to answer that question without knowing more about your situation, and without being able to engage in a real conversation with you. But I can at least share a few thoughts.
- In the first place, I would say, you need to keep seeking for what you know you need, but do so with patience. Keep in mind what St. Peter writes in his Second Letter: “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8). In other words, God is at work in your life in hidden ways, even when you can’t see how.
- Second, I would also say that you need to keep trying to identify, with the the help of the Holy Spirit and, ideally, with the help of a good spiritual director or mentor, what is blocking you from receiving the healing, forgiveness, and experience of his goodness that you know he wants you to have. There must be some deep blocks to that at work in your soul. But I can’t see what they are from this distance – it’s got to be an ongoing discussion and exploration with someone you can trust, face to face.
Eating Our Daily Bread
While you look for that person, and ask God for a good mentor, continue to do what you can in the meantime: daily prayer, receiving the sacraments, loving God and neighbor as best you can in your daily duties, relationships, and encounters… I would also recommend finding verses in the Bible that say what you know God wants you to hear, and memorizing them. Then you can repeat them in times of darkness and doubt, like short prayers. The words of the Bible are the words of God himself… Verses like “The Lord is my shepherd, how could I lack anything?” (Psalm 23:1); “God… Your love is better than life” (Psalm 63:4); “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3); “Do not let your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1)….
The one thing you mention about The Better Part gives me an opening to make a couple other reading recommendations, and good reading is always helpful, though rarely enough in itself. A book called “He and I” by Gabrielle Bossis is a whole book of meditations in dialogue form – in which Jesus speaks directly. It is profound, powerful, and I am sure you will find it helpful. Then, Melody Beattie has two books that combine very practical and healthy wisdom from psychology with strong spiritual principles – though she does not write with explicitly Christian or Catholic language. These are also in the form of brief, powerful daily meditations: “The Language of Letting Go” and “Journey to the Heart“. She also has a very well-received book not in the form of meditations, that uses the same approach, “Codependent No More“. Don’t let the titles deceive you; these books are excellent, even though they do bring psychological insights to bear on spiritual issues, and you may find them to be powerful instruments to help you hear God’s voice more clearly, and to let yourself welcome what he is inspiring you to want to be.
I promise to pray for you. God bless you!
Art: Mirror of Capela do Divino Espírito Santo em Porto Alegre, Eugenio Hansen OFS, 15 February 2014 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.