A few weeks ago I posted about experiencing a "spiritual drought." What has been difficult for me over the last few weeks, is that I found it very difficult to pray. I struggle with a few crosses and sometimes I let those get the best of me and I fall into sin, whether that be by unkind words, thoughts and actions towards myself or others. The pattern I find myself in then is that this truly separates me from God, which of course is the basic definition of sin. I fall into this trap of "unworthiness" and I feel so awful about myself and others, that I feel it is hypocritical to pray and attending mass even becomes a struggle, because I feel so low.
I know I know this, but my dear Mother brought to my attention that this is how the devil works. He sees we are trying to do good spiritually and he works subtly to eat away at our virtue and efforts. For me the devil can work as a huge distraction. The evil one can get me fire-up over an issue and it deters me from prayer, but also productivity in my studies (I am a graduate student) and just completely erodes my focus. I am naturally a productive person, so the devil knows where to hit me the hardest. My Mother also brought up a very interesting and true way to think about sin. Reminding me essentially of the verse in John (20:23) "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." She shared how in the mass she attended on Sunday, the priest discussed this in his homily, partly focusing on how if we retain sin and are unforgiving, it destroys us internally and we can even see its effects externally in people--they are weighed down, grumpy, negative, aged, tired, etc. I must admit, my lack of forgiveness with myself and others has had this effect. I sometimes am so absorbed by the hurt, that I cannot get past it and in the end, it tears me apart inside and separates me from God. Instead of giving it to God, I let it distract me and am thus vulnerable to the evil one.
This morning I got up early, feeling low about one of the crosses I carry. As I sat in bed with tears in my eyes, I decided it was time to go back to weekly mass, even though, part of me wanted to stay wallowing in bed. I took two of my favorite things on earth (my dogs Murphy and Norma) for a walk in downtown Claremont and then headed into early morning Mass. The priest talked about what we store up in heaven and how important it is to consistently put God first in our lives and when we don't do that, we fall to sin. He said that prayer is key here, it is our armor, our daily replenishment.
I decided after mass to walk back to the sacristy and ask Father if he had a moment for confession. I had a few things weighing heavily on my heart and needed God's mercy. Lately, whenever I go to confession, I can't help but get emotion, this time was no different. But even though it was painful, it was a release and in that moment, I felt a little less heavy than I had in a couple of weeks. To me the sacrament of confession is so paramount and I have always felt very drawn to it. The grace I feel from confession is so tremendous, I can literally feel a physical difference. I know not every one's experience is like this and I have Catholic and non-Catholic friends who are very skeptical about confession, but I know its awesome graces and today, I am very thankful for this sacrament.
Upon heading home, I read a reflection from my "Day By Day" prayer book, which is based on Our Lady's messages in Medjugorje. The reflection I choose discussed the power of the devil (coincidence, I think not!). In a message she gave to one of the visionaries she stated,
"Dear Children, again today your Mother wants to warn that Satan, by every means possible, wants to ruin everything in you, but your prayers prevent him from succeeding. When you fill up the empty space in your soul with prayer, you prevent Satan from entering. Pray, dear children, and your Mother will pray with you to defeat Satan."
Both my earthly an heavenly Mother, reminded me of the power of the evil one this week. I think God knows how dear they both are to me, so he used them to speak to me, to plant a seed, open my eyes and hopefully add some moisture to my drought.
Thank you for the Sacrament of Confession and for your divine mercy, which is always available to those who seek it. Lord, I am weak, I am a work in progress, I am passionate and sometimes irrational only operating on human emotion and not spiritual virtue. I lack trust, increase my faith in you. Lead me Lord. Who I am Lord and who are you?
Beyer, Richard. (1993). Medjugorje Day by Day. Avia Maria Press. Norte Dame, IN.