Have you ever really desired a good retreat only to find yourself that the speaker was lousy? I remember a specific time, at the beginning of my novitiate, when I felt that I needed a good retreat. Spiritually speaking, I was depleted and needed a good spiritual boost. However, when I saw who the speaker was going to be I was so disappointed! It was an old priest who had a reputation for being so boring!!! So, what I did was to try to make up for the human weaknesses. I would pretend that everything that he said was coming from the mouth of Our Lord himself. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was renewed. A companion of mine commented at the end of the retreat how boring the retreat had been. I responded: “it was one of the best retreats I have made”.
Crucial for our profit in spiritual matters is the spiritual disposition of the individual. Many people heard Jesus speak and act. However, not all of them had the same spiritual experience with the encounter. The gospel recounts of a woman who touched him with faith when many were pressing on him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mk 5:21
Because of historical purposes in the Church we have focused on the validity of the presence of Christ among us in the Sacraments. And so, we value reception of communion, we value going to Mass. We want our children to be baptized and to receive first communion. This was important at a time when, during the protestant reform, many were denying the presence of God in the Sacraments. However, we may have gone to the opposite extreme at times. We go to Mass, we receive communion, but our inner disposition is minimal. So, the grace that we receive is minimal as well. We might as well be one of those people that pressed against Jesus without receiving any grace at all.
True, we are in front of the fountain of all graces. Graces are pouring in abundance, but our inner disposition is so, that we may be trying to collect all these graces with a small tiny cup used to serve an espresso.
We need reeducation. In order to profit from the graces we receive in the Sacraments, we need to enlarge the cup so that we may have an extra large cup. This happens when we develop a habit of the daily practice of mental prayer, the search of abandonment to Divine Providence and the exercise of faith, all of which take place in prayer as well.
When we practice daily mental prayer with fidelity, we will be able to recognize Christ in the Holy Eucharist and have a desire to receive him, to appreciate his presence in us. We will be able to listen to the homily with a desire to learn and to reform our lives instead of criticizing the preacher. We will be uniting our sacrifices to Christ’s sacrifice at Mass.
Questions for pondering:
1. What is the inner disposition I have when I go to Mass?
2. Do I make visits to the Eucharist? Do I enjoy being in his Presence?
3. With what disposition to I listen to the homily? Do I intend to make up for the weaknesses of the preacher with my faith?
Fr Lino Otero, LC: Originally from Nicaragua, my family moved to Miami, Florida when I was a teenager. Soon afterwards I experienced the call to serve God without reservations. Since then, I have had experience in hospital ministry, working as a middle school teacher, leading a parish school, organizing soccer tournaments for kids, starting a radio station, training priests in leadership formation, organizing a parish community from maintenance to mission, and much more. I love spiritual direction and preaching. Years of philosophy, psychology and theological training have enriched my personal life and have shaped my message of hope. For more go to linootero.me