For almost 20 years now I’ve had a weekly adoration hour. Since my late teens I have made a point of finding a nearby chapel and scheduling at least one hour of Eucharistic adoration – with a few exceptions here and there.
A couple of years ago my adoration hour was cut from the roster with no replacements available. My morning routine changed because of it, and eventually, over the course of a couple weeks, I ended up dropping my morning prayers altogether. I was barely praying from day to day. And I got listless. And restless, casting around for things to do but not wanting to do them at the same time. My anxiety increased and my creativity plummeted. I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with me – why I wasn’t inspired? Why couldn’t I even put a sentence together? It was my husband – God love that man of mine – who, after I explained my thoughts and feelings to him, suggested that maybe my prayer life could use some work. Perhaps I was going through this difficulty because I wasn’t taking it all to God every day?
“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”
I’ve always thought this passage from scripture should be on a motivational poster somewhere. It’s the “Reach for the Stars” or “Follow your Dreams” of Catholicism. In reality, the meaning of the passage extends deeper than some merely motivational words ever could. St. Paul is writing to the Philippians, speaking about how to be content in all situations, knowing how to “be abased” and how to “abound,” because it is Christ who sits on the throne of his life, it is He who is the King. Whatever is happening to St. Paul, he trusts that all will be well, and he also trusts that he, himself, will do what the Lord wants him to do, use his talents in the way the Lord wants them used. Because St. Paul is connected to God in the most intimate of ways – through constant, daily prayer (it is Paul who wrote, “Pray without ceasing”) – and through that connection, the Kingdom of God grows within him. Our Sunday Visitor writes, “So docile had St. Paul become to the will of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that in his farewell discourse to the Ephesian elders at Miletus he refers to himself as “bound by” or “a captive of” the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22).”
Christ enables us to live - and to live truly, in strength and virtue and character, being more and more ourselves every day – doing what we need to do, in order to accomplish His Will. By binding ourselves more and more to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in prayer and the sacraments, mysteriously we become more and more free, to be ourselves and, in turn, do God’s bidding - his will for our lives. God’s will for our lives – now there is where the adventure lies. For any one of us, God’s will can mean changing dirty diapers day in and day out, or some other kind of boring, monotonously glorious existence. But his will for us might additionally mean healing people of incurable diseases or even raising them from the dead – doing things beyond our wildest imaginations. There are countless stories of cloistered saints praying desperately for heavenly intervention in wars and uprisings, of the rosary thwarting foes, of guardian angels appearing in the flesh to protect people from harm just in time. And then, when evil has been routed, the abbots and monks, along with the villagers and lay people, put down their swords and once again pick up their brooms, living the same interiorly in trial as they do when things “abound”.
Is it possible to accomplish these things without God in our lives? Some of them, maybe. It is possible to “do regular stuff” without ascribing any importance to God. But without God we miss out on a considerable piece of the adventure, the richness and the depth and meaning of life. Life without God can feel like slogging through a desert storm - going in circles, a whole lot of sand in one’s mouth and no energy to do what is needed. Ask me how I know. It’s how I feel when my to-do list muscles out daily prayer.
Here’s the thing. Everything we are, everything we do, any talents we have, everything we own and ever will own has been gifted to us, on loan, from the Lord, just like the parable of the talents suggest. God is the man going on a journey, entrusting us with different sets of talents, material possessions and circumstances. He hopes that we will take advantage of every possible means available to us to grow those gifts for the Kingdom, not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those around us as well. So what better way to do this, to grow our talents and do the Lord’s Will for our lives, than enthroning Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, in our hearts and homes? How do we accomplish such a thing? By surrendering all we have been given by God, back to God, for his use, not ours, and then doing whatever he tells us to do. Every little situation, every little heartache and pleasure, every shortcoming, imperfection, strength, victory and defeat, like St. Paul, we offer them all, through prayer and sacrifice, back to God. And then we can say as Pope Benedict XVI said, “The feast of Christ the King is…a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.” It’s the most difficult, troublesome, laborious thing, surrendering to and enthroning Jesus Christ, yet at the same time the simplest thing in the world to do. I suspect you’ll never regret it. I haven’t, and I’m pretty bad at it.