Today was my monthly "Carmelite Day." Each month, I spend the day at Carmel Maria Regina Monastery in Eugene, Oregon. It's a busy day. We have mass, morning and evening prayer, lectio divina and I have three classes. Every month, I have assignments to read and answer questions, but I've completed all the material for my Aspirancy now. The next step will hopefully be entering formation, which is the secular order's equivalent of moving from being a postulant to a novice. It's strange to think that this year hasn't been called "formation," because I'm definitely feeling like I've been being shaped and formed and the Carmelite way of life has had everything to do with it.
I reflected today about how I've grown in confidence this year. I'm feeling braver in the tasks I undertake. I have a fuller sense of what God wants from me in my life and I'm developing what can only be called a lay apostolate. In a year that I've also just been integrating what it means to be Catholic, I've been exploring what kind of Christian, or "new person in God," I really am. I'm nothing like I thought I was. I'm actually getting better at working together with others in groups and I feel like I have a better sense of humor. For an autistic like me, these are pretty amazing things. Just two years ago, I had no goal or purpose and had given up on life entirely. Just last year, I was afraid to be around people much at all. As amazing as this is, I am not amazing at all. The power of God working in me is what's amazing.
Our scripture reading for today was about the pharisee and the tax collector. The pharisee proudly tells everyone what a good and faithful Jew he is. He seems to do everything "right." He dots his I's and crosses his T's in all he does. He gives to charity, he fasts, he keeps the ten commandments. And, he certainly did not need Jesus' help. The tax collector beat his breast and said "O God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Jesus said that the tax collector was "justified," but the pharisee was not.
The tax collector was intensely aware of his need for God and of his absolute dependence on God. When we don't realize our absolute dependence on God for every breath we take and every thought we think, there's no room in our soul for God to enter in. After all, telling God you don't need Him is pretty much shutting the door on Him. It doesn't matter how many good works you do if you give yourself the glory.
You may have wondered why Catholics repeat, "God have mercy," so much. Well, the answer to your question is here. "God have mercy," is the equivalent of, "Help, I desperately need you!" The truth is that we do, desperately need God every minute of our lives. Our need to depend on Him will never go away.
As we go out in the world, we are bombarded with messages of how to "succeed" in careers and to surpass others financially or in the way we dress or look. We're inundated with messages to be the best in all we do and especially to be better than others in doing those things. These messages are so persistent and so strong that if I were not repeating, "Lord have mercy," to myself often, I would lose the realization of how much I need God. To lose that realization is to lose everything.
Humans are just so incredibly knuckle-headed. We don't remember such a basic thing. I know for me, I need constant repetition. My tendency is to be driven toward self-aggrandizement. I need constant reminders that I'm here to serve Him and not myself, and so I am Catholic.
Since I am dependent on God for everything, he deserves the glory in my life. I dearly want to give Him that, but sometimes I also want to steal the spotlight. This has been a wonderful year of growth for me, but it really has been all about God. He's been the center of my life and my constant prayer has been for His direction and help. I feel so grateful. This Easter will be my first anniversary as a Catholic. What a year!