At the Secular Carmelite retreat I went to last weekend, I heard a message I didn't expect and it has changed the way I'm hearing scripture, liturgy and homilies. I have different ears somehow.
The topic of our retreat was, "Rediscovering the Riches of Divine Intimacy," with retreat master Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. I had been wondering how to grow in intimacy with God, pondering how it was that I had been feeling stuck for so long and even having a hard time following through on my prayer commitments.
Father Robert said that Jesus loves us MOST where we are weak. He doesn't love us DESPITE when we're weak, but loves us MOST when we are weak. It's his preference. Whenever Jesus picks a place of encounter, it is in a place where life is messy, shameful or overwhelming for us.
Where did Jesus choose to encounter mankind, face to face, in the flesh, for the first time? In a dank, smelly stable, in the middle of the night. He could have chosen any other place to meet us, but he chose there, a messy, unpleasant, uncomfortable place. When we follow Jesus through the scriptures, where does He meet us? He goes to where the tax collectors and prostitutes are. He is right there when the adulterous woman is to be stoned to death. He's there with the sick, hungry and grieving. He doesn't seek out places where He isn't needed or where people don't realize that they need Him, but He is, as Father Robert said, "a magnet for our affliction." He wants with all His heart to love us there.
The enemy also zones in on affliction. Like a shark smelling blood, he moves quickly for a kill. The greatest spiritual battles of our lives are around our wounded places and our weak places. The enemy will try to make you run from God in shame, but where do you go when you feel ashamed? Into the arms of the enemy instead.
Spiritual Discernment Tip from Father Robert: Jesus will never want you to run away in shame as Adam and Eve did in the garden. They ran in shame because they were under the power of the enemy during that time. Jesus will correct us but He will also embrace us in His love. He treasures our trust and our repentance more than anything else.
Simple truth but powerful for me. I notice a lot now when I start to feel shame, pain, weak and overwhelmed, especially now that I'm moving. I remember Father Robert saying, "Jesus loves you MOST in your messiness." Before communion, we say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." Honestly, I have always thought to myself that I am not worthy for anyone to come under my roof. I'm a mess. I don't want to invite anyone into that. But, apparently, Jesus is like a One Man clean-up crew. He's not a King we have to prepare the homes of our souls for, so they'll be good enough for Him to enter. He's the only one who CAN clean them, order them, straighten them out. When he knocks, we should say, "Thank the Lord he's here. he's the only one who can heal my soul," instead of running from Him in shame.
I don't have to run from God anymore, which is what I have been doing when I skip my liturgy of the hours or my daily prayer time on occasion. I don't have to run away from love. He WANTS to live in me, and he loves me MOST when I'm a mess inside because he loves to do His work to order it.
So, lately at mass, I'm transfixed on what I hear. I go to daily mass, so honestly some days, I'm thinking, "blah, blah, blabbity blah." Now, I'm hearing mercy and grace and love and what God wants to do for me to help me carry out His will. Hey, I've heard this a zillion times but never really HEARD it before. I realize this will pass, but I'm not daydreaming. My mind isn't wandering. I'm right there... because I know He loves me there.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." -2 Corinthians 12:9