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– St. Augustine

God continues to work in my life! And, after reading today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21-28, about Jesus casting out the unclean spirit from the man in the synagogue; and yesterday’s Gospel, Mark 4:35-41, about the Apostles’ lack of faith while in their boat during the storm, I feel compelled to tell you how He recently touched me and helped my faith grow deeper.

My wife and I had a wonderful but busy Christmas season. We traveled to Europe to visit our daughter who was studying abroad, and we toured parts of Belgium, France and Germany.

We returned home on the 31st and caught up on a few necessary items before driving to Kansas City on Friday the 5th for our grandson Jack’s third birthday. Then, on Monday, I went on to my second in-residence week of training (also in Kansas City) to become a spiritual mentor.

To say that I had been looking forward to this week would be an understatement. I was dying to get there and experience another week of God’s peace and the joy that radiates from the Sisters of the Apostles of the Interior Life (AVI).

Don’t get me wrong, I truly loved spending quality time with my wife and daughter over the holiday, but with all the traveling and site-seeing I let my daily routine of meditative prayer slide. And, I dearly missed it. I was so looking forward to getting back on track, to the spiritual formation and the times of silence and solitude in the coming week.

When I checked in I immediately felt a sense of belonging. The Sisters of the AVI and alumni mentors were there to meet me and the other students with whom I had become friends during our first session last May. We soon went to mass, had dinner, and had our first classroom session.

By bedtime I was ready to pack my bags, get in my truck and go home.

In a matter of a few hours everything about me transformed from being on fire to being consumed with doubt in my ability to ever succeed as a mentor, and a total sense of unworthiness to be there amid so many holy people. I hurt.

I laid in bed begging Jesus for direction on what I needed to do to shake the fear. I was confused and worried. I knew I needed to trust in Him but I just couldn’t make myself let go.

I awoke the next morning in worse condition than when I fell asleep. I prayed but still didn’t know what to do. I began my daily meditation by reading the scripture for the day. The Gospel for that morning, January 9th, was Mark 1:21-28 (the same passage as today). When I read about Jesus casting out the demon from the man, I was reminded of the spiritual warfare I had last year that made me fearful of posting on my blog. It was deja vu all over again!  I thought, “Okay, been there and done that”, so I changed my prayer from, “Jesus, help me figure this out!”, to, “Jesus, I trust in You!” I prayed for the grace to truly turn it over to Him.

But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t happening.

The order of the day began with morning prayer followed by meditation, an opportunity for reconciliation, an hour of Eucharistic Adoration, and a half day of silent retreat dubbed “the Desert”. Fr. Allessandro led the meditation in his soft, kind, Italian accented voice. Between his accent, my hearing aids and the acoustics in the chapel, I barely understood a word he said. But, somewhere in the middle of his talk I heard, “In the desert, you can’t hide from your fear.”

I knew God was talking to me and I was meant to hear those words even if I understood nothing else. I knew something was going to happen while “in the Desert”, but I didn’t know what.

Feeling ashamed of my failure to put all my faith in Jesus, I felt compelled to go to reconciliation as soon as the meditation was over. I confessed to Fr. Steve that my prayer life had been naught over the prior three weeks and I desperately wanted to get it back. I explained my feeling of unworthiness to be there and confessed that I simply couldn’t find a way to turn it over and totally trust in Jesus. Kindly, he told me there isn’t a day goes by during which he doesn’t feel unworthy to be a priest but he knows God called him to be one. And, he told me he knows God called me to be there and to be in the program. Christ, working through Fr. Steve’s hands, forgave me for my unbelief.

I left the confessional and said my one Our Father for my penance. I knelt on the tile floor before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and I started to say, “Jesus, I trust in You.” But, before I uttered the first syllable, I felt an overwhelming rush of consuming love wash over me. If I hadn’t already been on both knees, I would have collapsed to them. In that instant of giving my heart and fear to Him, I felt and heard Him say, “Don’t be afraid, I’ve got this! You’re my beloved.” I broke into tears.

From that moment, the rest of the week was perfect! I couldn’t have asked for more.

Later that day, I recalled the one other time I felt touched by Jesus in this same way (see Put Your Faith Where Your Prayer Is ). It was when I was praying for my four day old grandson Jack’s life as he lay in the NICU at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. I had finally realized there was nothing I could do to help him when, in that moment of giving it up I began to say, “Jesus, I trust in You”, He hit me with the same overwhelming feeling of love and I heard Him tell me, “Don’t be afraid, Jack’s going to be okay.”

Thinking about Jack now as a healthy and normal little boy, I realized it was exactly three years to the day since that first event. Coincidence? I don’t think so. No, I think it was Jesus reminding me and asking me, “Do you not yet have faith?” (Mark 4:40)

I know I’ve shared many stories over the last five years about how God has worked in my life. But, folks, He is with us and is just waiting for us to open our minds to the truth, our hearts to His love, and our eyes to see the tangible signs of his presence in everything around us. I’m nobody special. You can find Him in your life, too.

God bless you!

“Lord Jesus, thank You for Your infinite love, Your forgiveness, and Your patience. Thank You for leading me to the Father. Holy Spirit, thank You for opening my heart and mind to the Word of God, and for opening my eyes to see His presence in the ordinary things of my life. Amen.”

(Do You Not Yet Have Faith? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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