Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Rejected Essay

As some of you may know, this summer Veils by Lily had an essay contest, with the only requirement that the subject relate to the Real Presence. Since I love to write and think I'm pretty good at it, I was excited to enter; I was even more excited when I was asked if they could publish my name. I was... decidedly not excited when it became clear that my essay was not selected as one of the top 10. Submitted for your [verb] is "Where is God?", my essay, rejected by the judges, on the Real Presence. 

Where is God?

The shootings in Charleston and Chattanooga… Genocide of Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East… Boko Haram kidnapping, raping, and pillaging in Nigeria… Parents abusing and killing their children… So much hate, so much pain, so much suffering. Where is God in all of this? Where can we turn to find Him?

Whether it is as far away as the other side of the world or as close as the loss of a child, suffering can lead us to doubt His presence. The deeper our pain, the greater our suffering, the easier it is to think that He has abandoned us. Even Christ felt that abandonment, crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Despite our feelings of abandonment, we are taught that God is ever with us:Where can I hide from Your Spirit? From Your presence, where can I flee?” (Psalm 139: 7) In Matthew, we are reminded that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, “God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23) But that knowledge is a cold comfort when we cannot feel His presence. We are taught to ever turn to God, in our rejoicing, in our pain, with our every request. But where can we turn to find Him?

There is so much noise, so much busy-ness, so many competing voices in our lives, that finding and hearing God is a constant struggle. We forget that we are not the only ones with difficulties hearing His voice. When Elijah went to Mount Horeb, “a strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound… A voice said to him…” (1Kings 19: 11-13) The Lord speaks in a still, small voice, one that we can easily miss amidst the competing voices.

Most of us have neither the inclination nor the ability to retreat into the desert or climb a mountain seeking God. The daily demands of our lives preclude it. Where, then shall we go to feel His presence? We can turn to our Bibles, finding His words in Sacred Scripture, but even those words can feel far away, part of another time. How much better would it be to see God, to be physically in His presence, to hear His voice? None of us is guaranteed to see or hear Him, but we can find Him, physically present, in any parish, anywhere in the world. Almost every day bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, “Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,’“(Matthew 26:26) words echoed by the priest during consecration. With those words ordinary bread and wine are transformed into so much more – the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the act of receiving Communion, we physically receive Him into ourselves. At Eucharistic Adoration, we are invited to sit quietly in His presence, to pray, to reflect, to pour out our hearts to Him, to listen.

To most of us, Eucharistic Adoration is strange and unfamiliar. What do we do? Why should we go? Just as our relationships with our family, friends, and spouse are built by spending time together, so is our relationship with God. At Adoration we can escape from the ringing phone, the dings of new e-mail, the constant updates of social media. There we can sit quietly, speaking to Him. We can pour out our hopes and fears, worries and anger. God wants to hear all of it; unlike a friend or a spouse, He will never tell you that you’ve said that before or imply that He is tired of listening to your worries or complaints; He never tires of listening to us. We can just sit there in quiet or read, knit, or crochet, keeping our hands busy and minds clear, just so that we are there, spending time with Him. It doesn’t matter if we can only spend a few minutes at a time or if we can spend an hour or more; God wants us to spend time with Him.

The most important time we can give Him is going to Mass. With so much going on and so little time, it can be challenging to make Mass a priority. It can be even harder when we feel like we’re not getting anything out of it. So why bother going? Christ Himself tells us “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:53-54) We go to Mass to be nourished, to be fed with the bread of life that we might never go hungry. (John 6:35) We go for the “spring of water, welling up to eternal life,” that we might never be thirsty. (John 4:13-14) Even when we don’t feel like we are getting anything out of Mass, we are being fed, being nourished by God’s greatest gift.

Where is God? He is there, waiting for us to return to Him, “with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.” (Joel 2:12) He is waiting, “God of all encouragement, who encourages us in all our affliction.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Where can we find Him? In the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, we find Him. 

All Bible verses use the New American Bible translation.