February 26, 2010

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Broaden your spiritual horizons during Lent

Sean GallagherIt’s been interesting for me to watch my 8-month-old son, Philip, sit up and play with some toys.

My wife, Cindy, and I will put him on the floor and place some toys around him to occupy him.

As Philip plays with a rattle or a small stuffed animal, he will almost always eventually toss the toy just out of his reach.

Then the fun starts.

I’ll see him slowly and patiently stretch his arm to try to reach the toy. He will lean forward with his eyes intently focused on his goal.

Sometimes he will grab the toy and bring it back to himself. At other times, it’s too far away, which is to say it’s a foot or two from him.

But even though Philip’s world seems pretty circumscribed, it’s bigger now than when he could only lay on the floor. And pretty soon, he will be crawling and then toddling along on two feet, making his world so much bigger.

Thinking about this reminded me of when I was in grade school. I had a friend who lived a couple of neighborhoods away. He invited me to his house once and I rode there on my bicycle.

But on my way home, I took a wrong turn and got lost. Boy, was I scared. I eventually traced my way back to my friend’s house, where I breathlessly asked for help in getting home.

Of course, as an adult, I feel confident going just about any place. My world has expanded to be, well, the world.

What is true in the ever-broadening horizons in the material world for my infant son, Philip, and myself is also true in the spiritual world.

God wants us to have a relationship of love with him. And he probably wants it to be deeper and more loving than it is at present.

Few of us—myself very much included—have a mystical prayer life that could be compared to St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross.

This Lenten season is a perfect time for all of us to grow closer to the Lord. During this special season, his grace flows out to us in abundance.

As the second reading on Ash Wednesday boldly told us, “Behold, now is a very acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).

For a long time in our lives of faith, we may have stayed sitting on the floor like little Philip with a relatively narrow spiritual horizon.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. God gives great blessings to many people in simple lives of faith.

And if that is as far as we can grow in our relationship with God in this life with the gifts that he has given us, then we should be satisfied with where we’re at— just like how Philip can stay on the floor happily playing with his toys for a long time. We’re not all called to be like the mystics I mentioned above.

But God has placed in all of our hearts a yearning to be ever closer to him. As St. Augustine once said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Don’t be satisfied with your life of faith if you know, in the bottom of your heart, that you were made for more.

God’s grace is right there in front of you—just like the toys that are at the tip of Philip’s reach.

But if you take the risk to grab hold of it, you won’t pull that grace back to you like a rattle in Philip’s little hand.

That grace will pull you into spiritual realms, and a deeper and more loving relationship with our Lord than you could have ever imagined. †

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