What are we looking for in our lives? What really matters to us? What is that for which our hearts and souls hunger and thirst so deeply? From a mere academic or catechetical viewpoint we might say “God is my deepest longing. To be at one with God is my heart’s desire.” Yes, we were made by God and for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. But, do we feel this and integrate this belief into our lives every day? Is this our every day felt and perceived desire and conscious goal?
When we ask ourselves “where is my heart?” or “where is my ‘treasure’”, we might have to admit that God is not at all times the center of my life. God is not always in our conscious awareness throughout most of the day or even in church! We are not bad people or hypocrites if we truthfully have to admit this. We are merely admitting and acknowledging our weakness as human beings, our struggle to remember that God is God and I am not! This sounds so simple, and it is. But “simple” does not mean “easy;” nor does it mean “quick” or “without pain and worry.” It takes a long time to grow up, that is, grow out of ourselves; it is a tedious and troubling trail from “me” to “we”, from self to other! This trail is our greatest trial on earth.
Speaking of pain and worry, I believe that pain decreases when we worry less. God doesn’t promise to eliminate our pain, but God does tell us time and time again, “Don’t worry, be not afraid; do not fear!” A lot of our pain—tension, anxiety, ennui, loneliness, boredom, depression, disappointment, frustration— is the result of worry and/or fear. God promises us that even though our human condition will bring us suffering, setbacks, illnesses and death, we can go through life without worry and fear. Why? It’s because God is our constant companion in good times and in bad times. Even when we ask the question out of a sense of weariness and wonder, “what is this world coming to?” there is always the comforting response (whether we hear it or not!) “I am with you all days until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) Jesus assures us that we are not alone. We have experienced any number of times how having a companion eases or eliminates our fear. For example, when we are walking in the dark or driving in unknown territory and finding ourselves lost, we tend to feel threatened and frightened. But if someone is walking or driving with us, we feel more secure and less anxious. The message of God being close to us at all times is evident not only in the Scriptures, but in our liturgical prayer.” For example, in the Eucharistic prayer for Various Occasions, we pray “You are truly blessed, O God of holiness, for you accompany us with love as we journey through life.”
Yes, it is difficult for this truth of God’s accompanying presence and providence to be continually in the forefront of our minds and hearts. Deep within us our souls yearn for God and for all that God offers us—comfort, hope assurance, and peace. But since we so readily operate on the level of routine, habit, self-reliance, and self-pity, we get lost in ourselves and do not see beyond ourselves. Getting out of this “rut” is one of the purposes of prayer. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is a message of the Scriptures. “Pray always” is the mantra and mindset of the contemplative and the mystic. It is through this ongoing orientation to God, this focus on God day in and day out that we come to realize that the treasure we seek by our very nature is the God who made us and never abandons us. With our growth in contemplation and our willingness to enter into the mystery of God, we come to know and experience that this treasure is never far away.