As my longer-term readers are aware, I converted to Catholicism back in 2007 and my Catholic faith has become an important component in my recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. Part of my ministry is to teach religious education to the junior high and high school students in our parish.
Last evening a began a four part series with my high school boys entitled "Is this thing on, am I connected??" I plan to present and discuss various ways we can stay connected to our HP (God/Jesus/Holy Spirit) on a daily basis and live our faith. Last evening was our Vigil Mass celebrating the Immaculate Conception of Mary and that cut into class time significantly. So, I only had time for an opening discussion and an overview before the evening was over. We talked about the meaning of spiritual connection and gave various examples of what we can do on a personal level. And a we discussed, I found myself relating to the boys, and they in kind responded to me, and together we shared a few basic important points on how to grow in faith (all things I needed to get back to doing myself, funny how HP work, right). God had begun doing His work in me.
Now understand that last night, I had come to Mass last evening feeling fairly beaten down and mistreated by the world. I've been working on the2012 budget at the chamber of commerce I operate. I've been watching our personal savings (which has served as a supplement to our insufficient income) dwindle at the hands of the debt I'd accumulated when I started a business back in 2006. I'd come to a disparate, spiritually disconnected place by the end of the work day last night. I could no longer contain my frustration with things and I ranted loudly to my wife about everything from our money, to the chamber's money, to how I don't feel that I am getting a fair shake in life and "why must I struggle, considering all the good works I do in the community, and how well I serve God?" It was a right proper pity party complete with colorful adjectives, ridiculous expectations and over-reactive emotion. It's a bitch being an imperfect human, right? Thankfully, my wife listened and allowed me my insanity. She's pretty good like that. I was insane.
Well, at Mass last night, I felt a strong sense of emotion and gratitude welling up inside as we prayed for, praised and honoured Mary, Mother of God. I hadn't felt so connected at Mass in quite some time, despite my present lack of emotional and spiritual sobriety. After Mass, we had class, and I was feeling better. After class, one of the boys (who is also one of my band kids) asked me if he could ask a serious question about a bible passage he had been reading that had to do with God's covenant with man, etc. He asked me "How do I express my love to God?" Of course, I froze... and then God used me to answer his question. And not only was I answering his question, I was hearing myself answer my own dilemma. Everything I needed to hear came out of my own mouth, thanks to God and the Holy Spirit.
We talked about Jesus's commandment to love others as he has loved us. We talked about how important it is for us to give WITHOUT thought or expectation for ANYTHING in return, including financial rewards or the reward of everlasting life. God asks us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, etc. He asks us to spend our earthly lives helping Him by loving the least among us. He gives us everything we need and all we have to do is choose to love Him and live His will. Now, the natural result of this level of love (agape love) is that we find ourselves in God's presence here on earth, and right beside him in His kidngom after death. Our real, true purpose is to "fit ourselves to be of use to God and those around us" and the Big Book tells us this very fact.
By the time we finished, I was overwhelmed with the whole conversation, and found myself close to tears as I watched my student's "lights come on before my eyes." Our conversation was an extension of the chat we'd had as a class as my self-proclaimed (and truly well intended) young athiest tried to trap me with the giving/receiving question. Only a couple hours earlier I had been ranting about the unfairness of life, and how I don't feel like I am being duly rewarded for my profound level of goodness, "good-works-doing" and "giving-ness." God at that very moment, through my students was absolutely doing the very things I promised the boys He would do if we simply reach out to Him and then keep our eyes open for the answers. God was helping me, and using me to help myself as I was trying to help the kids. He was giving me the very rewards I was telling the boys we'd get if we simply go out and love Him by loving and serving others.
I was and am still blown away by what happened last night. I am grateful to be able to discern my HP and His efforts to help me. I am grateful for his help. I am ashamed of my attitude, and disturbed that I allow myself to become so full of self while I think I'm trying to do good and love God. I am grateful for my faith, and for the humility that has come to me. I am grateful that I can get better. I am grateful that I can (and must) reconcile myself to my HP and begin anew, with renewed hope and energy to seek God's will today.