Currently, I am reading two books. One was given to me as a penance to be read slowly, a page or two at time. The other, “Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation”, was given to me by a priest friend. While they are very different, the combination of reading these two books has been revealing. Together with an examination of conscience and a recent dream, they exposed a new reality. Let me explain.
Two Very Different Approaches to Jesus
“Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat” was written by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley and inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. There are two ways to approach this in-depth spiritual book. It can be read, all at once, during a weekend retreat or it can be taken, bit by bit, as was prescribed to me by my confessor.
“Rediscover Jesus” by Matthew Kelly, on the other hand, was written specifically as a tool for seeking access to the Mercy of Jesus, one section at a time, and is a lighter read. What I found, however, as different as the two books are, reading them both at the same time makes for a powerful combination.
Examen: The Process Begins
The portion of “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” I read last night concerned the examination of conscience. We’ve all read an examen here and there, in preparation for the Sacrament of Confession, but the timing here was flawless. Earlier that day I had read an article How to Get over Your Fear of Confession, which also dealt with confession. A link led to another examen.
Blinded to Self
As it just so happened, yesterday’s entry in “Rediscover Jesus” was chapter 30 – Blind Spots. In our search for spiritual growth, this section deals with ‘coming to grips’ and ‘embracing’ the truth of who we really are, not who we think we are, not who was wish we were, but the genuine unvarnished picture of us. Matthew Kelly skillfully leads us to understand, and accept, that our illusion of self is particularly flawed with wishful thinking. We gloss over our flaws and project an ideal in their place. Yet nothing in our lives is as clear cut as we pretend it to be.
Now before we grovel down into abject misery, let us remember that what has been laid bare gives us the opportunity to accept the all-encompassing mercy Jesus offers us every day. We can even ask for, and accept, the mercy rejected by others. When we see ourselves with a clearer lens we are able to make those changes necessary to grow in spirit. Our goal of becoming the saints Jesus wants us to be moves just a little bit closer. If we are following the Little Way, this is just the right amount of accomplishment.
At noon Mass yesterday, Father touched on faith. Faith is something we all desire but sometimes we fall back into the water like Peter did when Our Lord beckoned him. The search for faith is different for all of us. In the homily, we were told how difficult faith can be for the analytical mind. Those who are scientifically or mathematically inclined might have a more difficult time accepting something on faith alone because they are trained to look for proof. I came to the conclusion that a more creative type of person, like me, might look at coincidences and ponder on the faith fact that very little in our lives is actually a coincidence at all. Yet I too struggle, often repeating the words of the father in Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
When life brings us to a certain point and all of the pieces seem to not only fall into place but interlock, we can be sure – there are no coincidences. This is a manifestation of God’s mercy and grace. He has put together just the right pieces to help us to finally see a small part of the larger picture. The view of which will tantalize us until we gain our home in Heaven.
The Dream: It All Comes Together
All of the day’s events were on my mind as I drifted off to sleep – examining my conscience. Then the real work began. The dream was dark and uncomfortable. I was being misunderstood and accused at every turn, yet I was vehemently pleading my innocence. My mother (God rest her soul), estranged father and sibling were all there to harshly point out the flaws I obstinately wouldn’t see. The resulting turmoil was not pleasant, as I went from person to person, beseeching and trying to explain myself with no satisfying result.
Upon awakening, however, it all became starkly clearer. As I lay in bed savoring a few more minutes under the warm covers, an unobstructed picture formed in my mind. I saw the previous day in an entirely different light. My behavior wasn’t as giving and flawless as I had smugly thought upon drifting to dream land. The small digs at someone, the condescending thoughts about another, and the selfish search for gratification were laid bare. No, my sins weren’t glaringly obvious ones like robbing a bank or committing physical murder. Instead, they were insidiously robbing me of my self-worth and murdering peace of mind.
The Lesson Learned
As I plod along on my imperfect path of seeking holiness during this Lenten Season, a new window has opened for me. Please, Lord, do not allow me to cover it with the curtain of blindness. Help me to polish the window to my soul daily so there is no obstruction to seeking You. Transform me into a saint, bit by bit, until I find the Home of my dream with You.