December 17, 2021

Reflection / Natalie Hoefer

God guides and helps those who feel distant from him

Natalie HoeferIf a day could personify my mood, this one did. Grumpy, I would call it. Gray and blustery.

I had been feeling distant from Christ for some time. It was a slow-moving train, the process that caused this feeling.

It started several months ago when, just once or twice a week, I skipped my daily prayer and Scripture time. Soon I was only praying and reading Scripture a few times a week, and for less and less time. Before long, I fell out of the practice altogether.

I made a few feeble attempts to jump start my prayer life, but like the seeds scattered on rocky soil, the roots of my efforts withered and died.

So here I was with Advent underway, doing nothing to prepare my heart for Christ and feeling too ashamed to even try. Why would Christ welcome the approach of so lukewarm and lazy a disciple, one who chose to do basically anything rather than spend time with him?

Such were my thoughts as I drove to work when suddenly, unexpectedly, my monologue turned into a dialogue.

“Do you think you’re the first person to ever abandon me?”

It wasn’t a question I asked myself. It was a question being asked of me, and the voice continued.

“How many stories have you heard of people who turn their back on me, but eventually come back and find themselves wrapped in my love? Think of the prodigal son. Think of Peter. Don’t be afraid to come to me.”

Then just as unexpectedly, my reticence and fear simply vanished. I felt light. I felt happy, and a wide, involuntary smile lit my face.

That day on my lunch hour I practically skipped to the Catholic Center’s chapel. I felt no wariness, no dread, no shame. I knelt before the tabernacle and with a grin simply said, “Thank you!”

I then looked up the day’s Scripture readings. My heart raced with awe and joy as I read the first words of the first reading: “For I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand. It is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’ ” (Is 41:13).

I immediately had an image of myself as a child with God standing to my right, holding my right hand and leading me gently forward toward Christ, as a parent reassuringly guides an unsure child.

Those words from Scripture were an extension of the grace-filled experience I’d had earlier that day.

Some say Christmas is all about children. As Christians, we know that it is all about the Christ Child.

In the reality of God made flesh as a completely and utterly dependent infant, he gave us an image of the ideal relationship with him: as trusting children who know no fear in approaching their love-smitten maker.

Should fear, doubt or distance take hold through sin, there is no need to lose hope. Simply recall all the sinner-saints living and dead who abandoned Christ, but were welcomed back with infinite love and mercy when they sought him.

And if there is still fear or shame

in approaching him, we can take comfort in the solid truth of his words: “For I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand. It is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’ ” (Is 41:13).

(Natalie Hoefer is a reporter for The Criterion and a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.)

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