Guest contributor: Ed Trego
Can you imagine maintaining a relationship with your spouse based on visiting for about one hour a week? The rest of the week you go about your own life with no interaction whatsoever. Oh, you may think of them occasionally but you rarely have time to actually communicate with them or get to know them better. How long do you think your marriage would last”
Isn’t that what many of us do in our relationship with God? We get up on Sunday morning, get dressed and go to church. For an hour, maybe even two, we worship our Lord. Or do we? Sitting in the pew planning the rest of the day or week really isn’t worship. Looking around to see who is or isn’t there doesn’t qualify either. Dozing off certainly isn’t a part of worship.
Finally, the recessional hymn is sung and we can leave. Many don’t even wait for the song to end. We’re out the door, in the car, perhaps cursing the person who had the nerve to think we should allow them to go ahead of us.
On the way home or to a meal we talk with our spouse. Not about the scripture readings or the homily, but about how that Jones woman was dressed; or the horrible kids that sat just two rows in front of us. And did you hear that horrible singing from the man behind us? If he can’t do any better than that, he should just hum. Or better yet, just keep his mouth shut.
It’s over for another week. We can get on with our golf game, baseball game, nap or whatever we spend the rest of the day on. In many cases we won’t even think of God until next Sunday morning. Of course, if something goes wrong, we’ll reach out to him immediately. After all, he’s supposed to watch over us. If we do pray, we’ll complain that it wasn’t answered according to our desires and wonder if God even listens to us.
For far too many people, this represents their spiritual relationship with God. There’s no communication, no friendship and no love involved. This isn’t even a casual acquaintance, nevertheless a relationship.
What if Jesus had taken this attitude toward those he came to save? Would he have turned his back on the lepers because of their diseased appearance? What about the prostitute who bathed his feet with her tears when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner didn’t bother to give him water to cleanse his feet? She may have cleansed his feet but, my goodness, she was a prostitute after all!
And of course, Matthew could never have been selected as an apostle. A tax collector as an apostle? Ridiculous! How could he possibly be one of the chosen twelve”
All those people who came to hear him at the mount should have brought their own food, right? Surely it wasn’t his place to feed them. After all, he had just given them lessons on how to enter the Kingdom of God. What more could they expect.
Of course he wouldn’t have told the Father to forgive those who carried out his execution. Maybe they didn’t know what they were doing, but if they had only listened to him, they would have.
Certainly one could say that he might have been justified in taking such an attitude. After all, most of them didn’t accept him, many of them hated him, and some conspired to have him brutally killed.
Those who did seem to care, in many cases, were looking for something from him. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (Luke 6:25). The people weren’t as interested in what Jesus had to say as they were in the bread he had miraculously fed them the day before (see Luke 6:1-13). We are like them in many ways.
Move forward in time about two thousand years. What would Jesus have to say about his followers today if he took the same attitude that many of us seem to take toward him? We accept Jesus and turn to him when it is to our benefit. However, when something is required of us, we turn away. We are more than happy to accept his blessings, but not so ready to accept the possible consequences of a serious relationship with him.
If asked about your faith, what do you answer? Many would just shrug it off and respond with something nondescript. “Oh, I’m a Christian,” might be their response. But if the life they live does not show their Christianity, then they are fooling themselves and belittling the faith of those whose life does reflect their deep commitment to God. Do those who know you outside of church know of your faith? If not, why not”
There are many people who want to leave God at the doors of church and never mention him at any other time. They would be embarrassed if someone brought up the subject of God at a party or at work. They apparently assume that our relationship with God should be displayed only at Sunday Mass. We shouldn’t impose or bother anyone with our faith for the rest of the week; that would be impolite. The fact of the matter is, there are far too many who claim Christianity who never show it in their day-to-day actions.
Jesus loves us. Not just on Sunday but twenty-four hours a day every day of our life. Shouldn’t we at least try to repay his love with ours? Of course, as imperfect humans who routinely sin against God, we can’t possibly repay his love in kind. But we can make the effort. If we don’t, why should we expect him to continue to bless us and care for us”
Can you imagine a friendship based on such a one-sided relationship? If you ask a friend for a favor, they are expected to not only perform the favor but do to so with joy. However, if they should need your help, it becomes an imposition. That’s the way Jesus is approached by many who claim his as their friend.
I say friend, because Jesus truly wants to be our friend. For many, that is a very difficult concept to grasp. How can Jesus, God and the son of God lower himself to be our friend, we ask? He is God, our savior, but to see him as our friend seems difficult. Perhaps accepting him as our friend is hard because we realize that we are not worthy of such a friend. However, his love for us is so great that he wants to be all things to us. Savior, of course, but also a friend and confidant He wants to be the one we turn to in times of trouble; the one we look to for comfort when we are hurting.
For some, the idea of a relationship with Jesus as a friend is just to much to ask. They will worship him, adore him, look to him to bring them into eternal life. But they won’t recognize him as a friend who wants to share every aspect of their life. If someone gives you a few dollars to help you make it through to next payday, you accept them as a friend. Jesus paid the greatest debt possible for us, yet many can’t or won’t accept his friendship. They can’t seem to get past the formalities. They picture Jesus as someone who would give his life for them, but they can’t imagine him as someone who would sit down and have a beer with them and talk over a rough day. Yet that is exactly what Jesus would like for us to see him as. Someone who is always there, always ready to listen, and always ready to help.
There is another aspect of our relationship with God that many have difficulty with. Even those who routinely call on Jesus and seek his forgiveness and guidance have a hard time listening to his reply. Without hearing his answer, how can we expect to benefit from his love, caring, and wisdom. If you ask a friend to help and refuse to listen to the reply, of what help is that? Can we just feel, or understand the answer. No, we need to listen for the answer and take heed of it.
As Christians, we say many prayers as part of my relationship with God. Some are prayers that are said in unison with the whole church, many are said in private yet still formalized in the sense that they are said the same way by virtually all Catholics and have been for nearly two thousand years. We find beauty, comfort, forgiveness, love and mercy in these prayers. They are, in many ways, the building blocks of our relationship with God. However, we also have the opportunity to have informal conversations with God that are shared only with him. We can, and should, spend some time each evening in conversation with Jesus. It need not be formal, just a communion with our Lord. We can discuss our day, our failings and successes, and personally thank him for the many blessing he gives. Upon waking, we should again greet our Lord, thanking him for a restful night and pledging to try to serve him each day. Throughout the day, we need to take the time to speak to Him and listen for His reply. This is the way a relationship with our friends and family works, with frequent sincere communication. Our relationship with God is no different; open communication is vital to its’ success.
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Our relationship with God must recognize that we are sinners, in need of his mercy. I don’t believe that we can truly open the door to a sincere relationship with God unless we begin each and every conversation with Him by recognizing our failings and pleading for His mercy. We, just as the tax collector, must realize that we are sinners, chosen by God to be part of His family. Without his love and mercy such a relationship cannot exist.
It seems we often throw a quick prayer to God as a part of our busy day, but don’t take the time to make it a true conversation. Just as with our human relationships, our relationship with God needs to be one of caring respect. When we ask someone a question, or begin a conversation, we expect that they will reply. The same is true of our relationship with God. If we asked a question or favor, shouldn’t we want to know his response? Without it, we’ve accomplished very little in our prayers. God is always there, waiting to hear from us and willing to give us the answers we seek. But a conversation with God may not be quite what we are used to. Even though we try, we may not hear the voice of God. Rather, we need to look for signs in our life that will help us understand God’s answer to our prayers. Always know that God will answer our prayers even though we may not be aware of it at the time. I noticed in looking back over my life that it’s much easier to see God’s hand guiding or protecting me, even though I may not have known it at the time. Some answers to prayer we may not know or understand until we stand before him in eternity. It’s also important to keep in mind that the answer to our prayer may be “No”. Not everything we ask for is in the will of God and he will give us nothing but good things, whether we realize it or not.
God wants a relationship with us. He sent Jesus and allowed him to die on the cross in order to offer that opportunity to us. If we choose not to accept it, we have no one but ourselves to blame when we are turned away at judgment day. A strong spiritual relationship, based on friendship, love and, above all, trust is needed if we are to be welcomed into God’s kingdom and spend eternity with him.
Reach out to him, talk with him, listen to him. Trust him in all things. Accept his friendship and be a friend to him. This is the way to develop your relationship with God.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)