Recently I was watching YouTube videos of priests and other religious who recounted the paths to their vocations. Some described how, prior to their vocations, though they were lifelong Catholics, they did not have a strong relationship with Jesus. Even though they faithfully attended Mass, there was not that intimate connection with the Lord. I found that very intriguing and somewhat sad. How many of us are going through the motions of our faith but not having a real connection to God?
Right about that same time, in late June of this year, the Scripture readings for daily Mass were saying to me that God was always present. He knows what we need even before we do; we should not worry about our needs because He will provide; He is always with us. I love all those passages that describe how God knows all about us; even from before we were born! (Psalm 139; Jer 1:4; Matt 6:8, 6:19, 6:25-34) It made me realize that we will never know any of this unless we have that intimate connection with Him.
I am preparing for a walking pilgrimage this fall. I try to incorporate the Scripture readings of the day into my training walks and hikes. Doing that forces me to recall what I had read, which can be a challenge sometimes. I want to reflect deeply on what God is saying to me and how I can apply it from that day forward. It is one means I use to have a relationship with God. It’s just me and the Lord on the road together.
In this same period in late June, I learned three things in my walks with God. Two were directly related to the readings and one not. When I read Matthew 6:8, which is the prelude to the Lord’s Prayer, I began to think, “Why am I asking God for things if he knows what I need? Why don’t I just turn this around and say to Him, ‘Lord, give me what I need’?” So I started doing that. My prayer became, “Lord, send me what I need.” How am I supposed to know what I need? I may think I know, but God knows better. Later, I realized that He did send me what I needed, as I will recall next. Not only did He give me what I needed, He made me realize what it was He sent!
What God sent me was the gift, the grace, to be frank with Him. Realizing when temptation was lurking, I would turn to God and say, “Lord, this is what I want.” I just put it out there. Then I could hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19 saying that we should not reach for the things of earth but the things of Heaven. If we delay or give up those things we desire now, we will build up our treasure in Heaven. I then would say, “Lord, you’re right. I would much rather have something (You) later then something (material) right now.” The temptation would leave, and I had peace. So what God gave to me, what He knew I needed, was the ability to be frank with Him. To just tell it like it is, realizing what I thought I wanted and listening to what I really needed.
I had never spoken to God so directly and forcefully before. But I was baring my soul to Him. I didn’t have to for His sake because He knows all my thoughts and He knows me intimately (Psalm 139). I had to do it for ME. It forced me to look inward. Even though I felt disrespectful speaking to the Lord in this way, it was quite liberating because it was so raw. (And I don’t think He minded!) I’m going to continue these types of conversations as the need arises. Again, it is another instance of a growing relationship with the Lord.
Sometimes it is hard for me to find companions to go on hikes with. Most of my hiking buddies are still working, so schedules don’t always coincide. I don’t like to hike alone in remote areas just because bad things can happen quickly.
However, one day I did venture out on a solo hike. My wife was not pleased about it. The area I went to, though not far from home, is somewhat remote. Cell phone service is spotty, there are mountain lions in the area, and though it is moderately traveled, that does not guarantee you would see anyone anytime soon if you needed help. While traveling the trail I asked God to keep me safe. Psalm 23 came to mind (“I will fear no evil for you are with me”). It was a wonderful hike with no mishaps, and no people! I only saw eight people the entire time, on the first and last miles.
A day or two later I was on my usual training path in town. As I rounded a corner I saw a strange guy sitting on a bench. His behavior raised my senses. I became more diligent as I passed him. The same psalm immediately came into my head. I felt this profound sense of peace, a tingling sensation. I no longer worried about the man I had just passed. I truly believed the Lord was with me at that point. He took away my physical fears and put me back on the right path of trusting in Him.
I learned many lessons at the end of June about having an intimate relationship with God. I learned to ask for what He wants to give me; to speak frankly with Him especially during times of temptation; and to trust that He is always close. One additional insight I gained was: how can I, being involved in faith formation, show people the way to become more intimate with the Lord? How can we as people of faith share with our brothers and sisters how to have a deeper relationship with Jesus and not just go through the motions of our Faith? It is a challenge for all of us to practice and to share.
Copyright 2018, Michael T Carrillo