Happy Sunday! I went to Mass twice today and heard two wonderful yet completely different Homilies based on todays readings, both of which were fantastic, however I am going to go in a different direction with my post today. Take a look at the second reading from James 3:16-4:3:
Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.
Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Today was incredible- one of the best, most beautiful days I have had in quite a long time. The weather was my favorite; sunny, blue sky with some fluffy white clouds, and crisp air, yet not too cold. I began the morning by eating a chocolate cupcake for breakfast, doing some Bible reading, and doing some light exercise. After getting ready for the day, I met up with my kind, loving, gorgeous fiancé to a beautiful old church for Mass and to celebrate the Baptism of my newest little cousin. Not only did I get to witness her Baptism, but I had the honor of being her Godmother. After the service, we headed to my cousin’s house, ate a delicious lunch and spent some time talking to family members I don’t get to see very often. Afterwards, I drove home, listening to music with the windows down. Before heading out to my home parish to celebrate the kick-off of the new semester of Life Teen, I had a few moments to talk to one of my best friends on the phone. I was able to ask her to be the Maid of Honor at my wedding. She sounded excited to be asked and as always it was fun talking to her. It was then time for the second Mass celebration of the day. The Life Teen Mass was great, as usual, and the night was very eventful. It was wonderful being able to talk to the teens after being away from them during the summer and entertaining watching them take part in some fun activities. Being reunited with other Core members was electrifying as well. Being around and witnessing these holy servants of our Lord is inspiring. I admire the other Core members so much and it is a joy to talk to them and learn from their amazing examples. I drove home and was greeted my two adorable little dogs. As I walked around my house preparing to end the night and get ready for bed, I saw my younger brother finishing up his homework with Monsters University on in the background. My parents were laughing and joking around while watching the Carbonaro Effect on TV. My sister’s face was covered in war-paint from participating in her first night of Life Teen. My families night time activities may seem mundane, but what a blessing to have them all at home, safe and sound, cozy, and winding down for the night. When I came home tonight, I couldn’t stop smiling. I still can’t stop smiling. God is unbelievably good to me. It was a perfect day.
Let’s rewind to several years prior.
I could write a novel about the trials, hardships, pain, and difficult circumstances I had to endure over the past several years, so I will try my best to be brief and summarize everything to give you the gist of my message. Details aside, for years I work up late, rushed, and unhappy. I was perpetually single, lonely, and desired a significant other greatly. I had always wanted to be a Godmother, but never had the opportunity. I loved Christ and His church, yet I didn’t have a community of people with the same beliefs as I did. I had very few examples aside from my family members of holy Catholic living. My siblings were about a decade younger than I was, so it was difficult to relate to, and understand them.
During these trying times along with many others, I consistently turned to prayer. I knew I was nothing without God and only He had control over my circumstances and life situations. I knew prayer was important. I knew through prayer I would find the peace I was longing for. I knew that if I asked, I would receive. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
So I asked.
“Lord, please give me an amazing, kind, loving, Catholic boyfriend!”
“Lord, please give me wonderful Christian friends!”
“Lord, help me surround myself with good people with hearts on fire for You!”
“Lord, make me happy and positive all the time so I can lead others to you through my joy!”
“Lord, give me a boyfriend. Preferably Catholic, but anyone nice will do.”
“Lord, give me friends who are nice and fun. It doesn’t matter what their morals are, I just want to have lots of friends.”
“Lord, help me be more popular. Make it so I’m not awkward when I meet new people.”
“Lord, make me be in a good mood all the time.”
Hmm…where is the lesson to be learned here? My original prayer intentions were wonderful. Its important to desire a godly potential husband because marriage is an honorable vocation (Hebrews 13:4). Having truly genuine Christ-centered friendships is extremely important (John 15:13). Being around like-minded, God-glorifying people helps us grow in our walk with Christ (Proverbs 27:17) and that is a great thing. Being happy, positive, smiley, and joyful is an amazing way to radiate God’s warmth and goodness (Proverbs 15:13). These are good things- all part of God’s will. Why, then, did I not instantly receive them?
The prayers then changed. Notice they began to sound more desperate, not bad, but not amazing. I was still asking for good blessings, yet I was asking for these things to magically be cast upon me all while settling for less than greatness. On many occasions I would bargain with God. “If I do [insert good thing here] or if I stop doing [insert sin here] I am doing the right thing, therefore You should give me (my desire).” Yet nothing seemed to change. In fact, it only seemed to get worse.
Over the years I grew and matured spiritually. I began to learn that faith is believing even when you don’t see the results you are expecting (John 20:29). As we are told in Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Psalm 37:4 tells us to that if we trust in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. I was praying and going to Him, but was I genuinely trusting? Of course not. I wasn’t persevering or embracing my times of unanswered prayers and using those instances as an opportunity for growth. Due to my lack of faith, the unanswered prayers led to defeat, depression, and despair.
Nevertheless, I continued to pray. As I began to learn and mature, I started realizing that I needed to accept the circumstances I am dealt with, while still praying and remaining hopeful for the future. Overtime, I eventually gained the desires of my heart in the most beautiful, powerful ways possible. It was when I learned to let go and let God take full control, that I opened myself and my life up to receive the great blessings that were waiting for me. This is where today’s reading comes in. “You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
We need to relinquish our control. We need to open our hearts up to doing whatever God tells us (John 2:5) and eliminate our own selfish desires. We need to ask the right way; wholeheartedly, in full confidence that whatever God provides for us, it will be exactly what we need and we will receive it in the most perfect timing possible. The answered prayers may not be the way we envisioned or planned, but it will be the best way, the way our omniscient creator who loves us unconditionally, more than we could ever comprehend, has intended for us (Proverbs 16:9).
God never spares the details either. My fiancé is a very Holy man. He encourages me to pursue greatness every day and it is apparent that He is leading me to heaven. He treats me with the utmost respect and is the perfect match for me in so many ways. Thank you Lord! My closest friend is not only a practicing Catholic, but is fun, inclusive, and an all around fantastic example of a friendship that helps me along my walk with Christ. I found a fantastic Parish with a strong, faith-filled community, a Pastor who always speaks the truth even when people may not like to hear it and I am surrounded by tons of examples of true followers of Christ. These people inspire and encourage me to become better each and every day. My mood/positivity/general happiness? I’ve learned that it is a choice. Being joyful is a constant decision we must choose daily. It isn’t related to our circumstances. It can be far from easy. When we choose to live lives of positivity and hopeful enthusiasm, many blessings come from it.
My prayer for today is that we can all come to the Lord in prayer being authentically ourselves. Humbly admitting our weaknesses, and asking for the graces to grow in trusting God. May we be courageous in asking for opportunities that help us grow and for the strength to withstand temptation and learn from the challenges blocking our way to achieving the desires we long for. Let our faith be greater than our fear. Above all let us, Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).