I was at Mass last evening. It was nice. It has been a long time since I really had the opportunity to go to an evening Mass when it is dark outside and the candles and the lights create a warm, friendly, and a holy sort of glow in the sanctuary. I got to go to Confession for the first time in months, reaffirm my Baptismal Vows, and celebrate and receive the Eucharist.
When I went back to my pew to kneel and to pray after receiving the Eucharist, it dawned on me that, although I had been in Church and present during the entire service, I had not been present with God during the service. God was talked about and sung about and Sacraments celebrated God’s Grace, but I never stopped to be intentionally present with God. So in the few minutes that were left, I made the decision to be present with God for the remainder of the worship service.
Being with God — that is INTENTIONALLY being with God — is the bulk of my spiritual practice and discipline these days. It is an understanding that God is here because God is everywhere, and< as Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches us, God is in the midst of all things. So I do not have to do anything to make God present, just as I do not have to do anything to enter into God’s presence. God is ALWAYS present and I am ALWAYS in God’s presence. I am just not ALWAYS aware of it.
Sometimes I do not feel God’s presence, even though I am intentionally striving to be aware of it. But that lack of feeling does not mean that God is not there, or that I am not there with God. It may simply mean that God and I are together so often that I no longer notice how present God is. As I am fond of reminding myself, Life is mystical; I just don’t notice how mystical it is because I’m so used to it. The only reason I know what light is and how bright something is, is because there are periods of darkness. If it was all light all the time, I would never notice light or brightness. Since there is no place or not time when God is not present, I have nothing to compare God to so I can notice when God is present.
My prayer used to be for God to be present with me as I went about doing whatever I was doing. Even in the hospital, my prayer used to be for God to be with me as I entered into a room, or into the Trauma Bay. Now my prayer is for me to be with God. I do not have to ask God to be with me. God has not gone anywhere. When I pray to be with God, I am not praying to come into God’s presence because I am always in the presence of God. I am praying to be aware of God’s presence. I am praying to be open to God’s presence. I can be in the presence of a person and not be there with them, just as I can be in a location, but in my mind be somewhere else. This is even more true for me when it comes to God.
So my spirituality these days is summed up in the following prayer:
God, let me be where I am;
Let me be with whomever I am with;
And let me be with you, aware of, and guided by, your presence,
So that I may be a channel of your love and peace wherever I am,
And with whomever is with me.