For the earth is not our homeland,
     but a testing ground of faith.
Ever onward You implore us,
     as You fill us with Your Grace.

The first time I heard heaven being called ‘home’ after my conversion began, I burst into tears and sobbed like a child who had been taken from its parents, wanting nothing more than to go home.  Talk about ‘shock & awe’, our military can’t come close to what God can do! 

While we are living, and have obligations to take care of, here on earth, it can be difficult to think about heaven as our real home.  I had a full-time job, helped out at my parish teaching religious education, playing the keyboard with the choir, and various other activities.  In the ‘world’ I was a 4-H leader, soccer coach, Cub Scout leader, room mother, and chaperone for field trips.  All of this was in addition to my responsibilities as a wife and mother, and the never-ending jobs that are part of being a homemaker.

I was serving.  Just like the gospel tells us to…..or so I thought.  I was so busy that I didn’t have time for a prayer life – if I had known what that meant.  A friend recently shared this definition of ‘busy’ with me and I love it!  Buried Under Satan’s Yoke

This is a perfect description of where I was even in the midst of all the service work I was doing.  It’s not that the activities were bad in themselves; they weren’t.  But they kept me so busy I didn’t have any quiet time or solitude, and these are critical for developing a relationship with God.  Without the relationship with God, my service to others was often as much for my benefit as for those I was helping; it made me look good.  People liked me and praised me, and I ate it up….patting myself on the back for being such a good person.

When we get into situations like this we need a wake-up call, and God is always willing to provide.  Are we paying attention?  Conversion (Latin for “turning aright”), or metanoia, (Greek for “rethinking”), is pure gift from the Lord which allows us to have a sincere change of heart, to turn from sin to the practice of virtue.  I remember reading the beginning pages of “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross.  It was during a tumultuous time in my life and my priest suggested I read this book.  I looked it up and found a website that had the whole book available to read online.  I will never forget sitting at my computer, tears rolling down my cheeks as I was reminded that I do have a soul.  This catapulted me from living in sin to desiring holiness.  As I began to actively seek Truth through Catholic books and media it became apparent that there are many souls who are fed up with what the world has to offer and are looking for something more. 

The bottom line is that we do have a soul, and it will live forever.  That’s the truth!  It doesn’t change because someone doesn’t believe it.  If the soul lives forever, there are only two places it can permanently reside after this life – heaven or hell. (Purgatory is a temporary stopping point on the way to heaven.)  What does it take to get to heaven?  We need to learn about the care and feeding of our souls, and we need to learn about God.  That’s what He expects of us while we’re here.  The more we learn, the more we will love Him.  It’s that simple.  Yet simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Our faith is tested every single day.  Usually it’s little things at home that test us the most.  We are often kinder to strangers than to those we live with, probably because we know our family will love us even when we’re not at our best.  Yet these are the very souls we should be the most patient and forbearing with!  I have great difficulty envisioning any member of the Holy Family saying, “I’m bored!” or whining and complaining about one another like we do today.

In Romans 12:2 St. Paul says:

 “Do not conform yourself to this age (what is happening in the world in this period of time.), but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

We are in the world, but not of the world.  We are destined for something far greater than what we have here.  There is something deep inside each and every one of us that knows there is more.  We just don’t know what it is, or where to find it.  For many, we believe that God exists, and we know that we should give more of our time and of ourselves to Him , but for a variety of reasons we remain sitting on the fence, wondering if the payoff of taking up our cross is really worth the cost.

Jesus has a very clear message for those of us who are “sitting on the fence”.

“The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation, says this:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  (Revelations 3:15-16) 

These are not words I want to hear directed at me!  Especially not coming from the mouth of my Lord and Savior.  Just a few sentences later he says:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door , [then] I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me.” (Revelations 3:20)  

When we say these words during Mass, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”, I see in my mind’s eye, the image of Jesus knocking, even though I know that the words come from Matthew 8:8.

Jesus knocks.  The God who made us, becomes one of us, not as a mighty king, already full grown, which He certainly could have chosen to do, but as an infant.  He who needs no one – God is perfect and He has no need of anything – makes Himself dependant on His creatures.  God asks for Mary’s consent.  He asks for ours, too.  Never, ever, will God violate our free will.  He stands next to us, watching and waiting for us to turn to Him, ready and desiring to give us every grace we need.  Even the desire to turn to Him is a grace, but we must take action to activate the grace.  We must make the decision to give God our consent, and then do so.

It is NOT enough to simply be good people.  I was always stumped as to what to say when people brought this up.  There are a lot of people in the world who are good.  They work hard, pay their taxes, help their neighbors, etc., but they don’t go to church.  This doesn’t prove that God isn’t necessary!  It shows that goodness is coded into our DNA, it’s a part of us – God’s law written into our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) - that will guide our choices unless circumstances kill it – like growing up in an abusive or terrorist home might do.  I must also mention original sin here because we have all inherited this from our first parents, and sin (pride, vanity, hypocrisy, etc.), resides in “good people”.  (Romans 6:12-23)

To achieve any kind of goal, the appropriate type of training and preparation must be made.

Think about this for a minute.  How likely would we be to win a decathlon (physical event), if all we did to prepare was to read, study, and watch others who had won the event (mental preparation)?  Or, do you think we would get that nice high-paying job in the field of technology (mental work), without ever taking a course or studying the field, but rather spent a lot of time thinking about it as we jogged or worked out (physical preparation)?

The same is true of the spiritual life.  We cannot (normally), attain a supernatural end (heaven), through purely natural means (being a good person).

This is how God set it up.  He gives us every grace we need to attain heaven (spiritual home).  We need only put those graces to use through prayer and following the guidelines He put in place for our good and protection (spiritual preparation).

Grab that grace!!  We can record our successes and other special moments from our spiritual journey in a journal or scrapbook, cherish them, and go back to them when the world, our struggles and burdens threaten to overwhelm us.  This is gathering; it’s a way to remember all the good things the Lord has done for us, and it can be incredibly helpful even years later.

Love & prayers,