Let No One Be Kept Away
In a few weeks, we’ll pass June 25 th. This comes just after the summer solstice as the days start shortening in preparation for Christmas. This date is also the memorial of Maximus, bishop of Turin in northern Italy. He lived in the 400s, before the Shroud of Turin made the area a tourist destination.
Bishop Maximus was a great preacher and loved to talk about time, seasons, festivals, special days. One of his Easter day homilies is still used as a reflection today:
“And so, my brothers, each of us ought surely to rejoice on this holy day. Let no one, conscious of his sinfulness, withdraw from our common celebration, nor let anyone be kept away from our public prayer by the burden of his guilt. Sinner he may indeed be, but he must not despair of pardon on this day which is so highly privileged; for if a thief could receive the grace of paradise, how could a Christian be refused forgiveness?”
Aha! Even 16 centuries ago, Catholics were struggling with the lie that there were things that could keep them from prayer, from worship, from God. Things like: personal sinfulness and guilt. We could also include anger, resentment, lust and fear. And let’s not forget unforgiveness and even inconvenience.
St. Ignatius offers us a wonderful process for dealing with these feelings and life-situations when they threaten to keep us from praying or going to Mass. Step back and look at God looking at you. You’re really angry, having a rough patch with your family. Your family love is feeling harsh, raw, defeated. Now look at God looking at you. See his HUGE love: wider than the universe, more profound than the crucifixion of Jesus, deeper than all of history. See his love dwarfing your angry words like a giant oak tree overshadows a flea. A baby flea. A newly-hatched flea.
Now, your feelings might feel as big as that oak, your anger may be taking hold of you like a Kansas tornado in June, but your feeling is not the truth. God’s love is what is really true. Even in times of bitterness and crisis – especially in those times – God is calling you to prayer and to Mass. There he can speak to you a word of comfort and healing.
Those times you feel least like praying are the times your prayer is most powerful.You go to God and tell him that you are angry or hurt or vengeful and that you don’t even want to be there. But you show up. Tell him what’s got hold of your heart. Ask him for what you need.
There is no reason on earth not to go to God. None.