The Apostles in the upper room, in this week’s Gospel (John 14:1-12), are having one of those awkward moments where they can’t see the work of God taking place right in front of them. This is awkward, because they’ve lived with Christ for the past three years, heard his words, seen his miracles, and even performed miracles in his name, and still, at this moment, they don’t see the Lord for who he is. We are like this sometimes.
God acts in our life all the time – in every breath we take. We may have the grace, sometimes, to perceive the spontaneous action of the Holy Spirit, an inspiration in our soul, perhaps. When we look back over the events of our lives, we can see God acting through us and and others in determinate ways and we wonder how we failed to see it in the first place. How can we be more in tune with God’s divine action, which happens all around us, all the time?
Three things that can help are structure, structure, and structure.
We already noted that God’s action in our lives can be spontaneous, but it is also part of his divine plan. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealing an important part of that plan to his Apostles, but they don’t get it. It is interesting, also, to note that at this point in their walk with Christ Jesus is also starting to introduce them to some new structures they aren’t familiar with yet — that is, his work through the Church. For example, he institutes the sacraments in the upper room that night — starting with the Eucharist, and the priesthood.
The sacraments, beginning with our baptism, are integral to the Lord’s plan for our salvation. We believe he works through all seven sacraments and touches our lives directly, instilling grace into our souls. Jesus entrusted these sacraments to the ministers of his Church when he gave them the authority to baptize, forgive sins, and when he commanded them do this in memory of me. The sacraments are a structured way in which God acts in our lives. Do you want to see God’s action in your life more frequently? Receive the sacraments often.
The liturgy, which unfolds the entire mystery of Christ over the course of a year, structures our encounter with God. Each person’s relationship with God is personal. There are also common and communal elements to it. First, we gather together as one body to worship God — “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” Second, the prayers during the Mass follow a structured order that covers the all important aspects of our devotion: praise, thanksgiving, repentance, and petition. Finally, the readings lead us into a deeper encounter with Christ, according to the specific season of the year. After the homily, we are given time to reflect on God’s Word, how it touches our lives, and what he is asking of it. Then each one of us should ask ourselves, “How have I encountered God in the Liturgy this week?”
Prayer life is as important to our spiritual life of grace as breathing oxygen is to our mundane, physical life. We grow in our relationship with Christ the more we encounter him in our hearts during prayer. Prayer time is when we ask God to act in our life. It can be the time when we reflect and see those times when God really was acting in our life, though we may not have recognized it at first. It can be the time when we make those important resolutions to enable God to work in our life more effectively, so that through us God can touch the lives of others.
How have you encountered God this week? This should be an easy question to answer, because God is at work in every moment of our lives. There are times, however, and even the saints went through these dark, dry moments, when we don’t see him so easily. In times like these, we often find ourselves asking, “God what do you want of me?” The answer to that question can often be found when we turn to the things we already know God wants. A structured life of grace, though which God touches our lives directly — in the sacraments, prayer, and liturgy — is the best place to start, because you know you will always find him there.