Date: May 19, 2022
Written by: Sara D.
God is truly present to all of us at all times.
After I converted to Catholicism, I had protestant friends question various things they were told about Catholics. One that still stands out to me was the question of why I felt like I had to go to mass to be closer to God. At every Catholic church Jesus is truly, fully and completely present in the Eucharist. At mass we don’t simply go to a quiet place with other believers to praise God, we come face to face with God, and more than that we follow His words diligently and consume His flesh. (John 6:53)
The irony in that question was their thought that Catholics believe you can only experience God in the Mass, or church. If Catholics believed that, we would completely negate the ultimate truth that God is Omnipresent. I don’t only experience God in the Mass, or within the Tabernacle. I experience God in nature, through people, through music and simply in life. God is present to me constantly, in the extraordinary moments, and when doing the dishes. He’s present in the grandeur and also in the simplicity. Now I do want to specify that physically consuming Christ, and being present to Him physically in Adoration or in the Tabernacle is the closest and most direct way to be near Him, and to be close to His heart. That beauty and reality doesn't take away the gift He gives us of experiencing Him throughout His creation.
Our God is both and. What I mean by that is God is both our Judge and our loving Father, He is both our protector and the ultimate sacrifice, He is both tender and firm. He is both merciful and honest. In the same way our faith and our lives are filled with both and’s.
It often feels contradictory to be both happy and sad at the same time. To be both angry at members of the Church, leaders of the Church even, and still love and defend the Church and it's teachings. We often want to limit ourselves and I think part of our culture today is the limitation of who we are and what we feel. Limiting our identities to likes, hobbies, habits, attractions. Saying "you are only this", "you are only that". Our dialogue and dialect is often made up of extreme’s. “You ALWAYS do this”, “you NEVER listen to me”, "I'm ALWAYS waiting”
These extremes take away the full truth of both and. Someone can both hurt you by not listening to you now, AND have listened to you in the past. That doesn't negate the current problem, or current ache in your heart. Whenever a friend of mine gets married or has a child I am filled with an overwhelming joy for them, and will still be mourning the fact I know our relationship will change with a new priority shift. The mourning I feel doesn't replace the joy, and the joy I have doesn't invalidate the mourning. The reality of the situation is the priorities should shift, there should be a change and an alteration because of their new life. I can have a peace in that knowledge, a joy in their joy and still be mourning the loss of what our relationship had been. It's not overreacting or being too clingy and needy to that relationship. Mourning change is just as needed as mourning an end, and both can be filled with the deepest of joys.
These limiting thoughts and views will often limit our ability to encounter God. If we truly believe we will only see God during Mass, we are missing Christ’s presence in our neighbor, or even in the person driving in front of us not signaling. Vice versa, if we are struggling with believing Christ's presence in the Eucharist and the Mass, the Church itself may seem pointless and difficult to make a priority to grow in, limiting our encounter of God and truth.
If we think only those voting Conservative are good Christians, we may be missing the perspectives and goodness found in those who vote Liberal. The person of Christ is found in all people, not only the ones we agree with. That coworker that drives you crazy can be both (potentially) annoying and still a beloved child of God.
This awareness of "both and" should also be looked at and pondered to how we treat and view ourselves. Looking at our own feelings. I may feel hopeless yet fully believe in God’s plan for me, I can be overjoyed with the beauty of the world, while feeling emotionally drained from the state of it. This "both and" point of view and shift is one that I hope will encourage you to not belittle your emotions or parts of yourself. I hope it will bring you a deeper awareness of the fullness of God and the fullness of others.
Below are some questions to ponder and bring to prayer.
Where in my life have I limited myself?
Where have I felt as though there could only be one extreme?
What place in my faith needs to encounter both and?
Who in my life have I limited or excluded due to their opinion?
What parts of God's wholeness am I scared to embrace?
Where do I need to permit and accept that God is both and?
Where in my life have I rejected my wholeness?
Make sure if there are parts of yourself, your actions, words, mindset, or beliefs that cause or bring a guilt and shame, ask for forgiveness from God, and then make sure to forgive yourself (also seek confession when needed).
Blessings and prayers, peace and love on your journey to embrace both, and.