We live in an age where our comforts are many: air conditioning, electricity, running water, cars,  many of us have large house compared to fifty years ago, consumer products are abundant, cheap and easy to find, medical advances have staved off many diseases and improved the quality of life. 

But comfort can confuse us and rob from us the one thing most necessary, the desire for God and to be with Him in heaven. This desire is our most essential desire and should be the focus of our whole life. It is to direct us to our proper end which is God and the things waiting for us in heaven. Jesus rebuked Martha for her focus on worldly concerns and told her that Mary, who preferred communion with him had “chosen the better part” and the “one thing necessary.” (cf Luke 10:38-42)

Creature comforts, when available to us in abundance as they are here and now have a way of misdirecting us. We are fooled into thinking that they are the source of our happiness and so we are always looking for the next worldly trinket or charm instead of God.

Even the way Church going Catholics and other Christians pray is alarming. Very often verbal prayers are heavily steeped in requests for better health, better finances, a new and more lucrative job, a more cooperative spouse, the success of some project and so forth. It is not wrong to pray for these things but when they so dominate our prayer it is almost as though we were saying to God, “Make this world a better place for me. Give me enough health, friends, and creature comforts and I’ll just stay here forever.”  Pretty sad really, but even our prayers can become too focused on this world and manifest that we have become forgetful that the greatest gift is God himself.

Our more recent fore-bearers saw things differently. A little as the 1oo years ago, most people in this world experienced life as brutal and short. Long hard days of physical labor, food supplies that were less sure, disease and poor medicine all led to lives that were  far less comfortable and more suddenly brief that what we in the west usually experience today. Some of the prayers of that time expressed that life was a vale (or valley) of tears and longing for heaven was a more common focus of  prayer.  

We understandably have a natural fear of death, but as Christians we should increasingly long to be with God. With strong faith we can come to see our approaching death not as something to loathe but as the fulfillment of all our longings, for death opens the door toward God. The early Christians had an expression as recorded in the Didache Let grace come and this world pass away. Maranatha (Lord come). Amen (Did, 10)

Getting There – There’s an old Gospel Song that says, “I heard my mother say, ‘Give me Jesus. You may have all this world; just give me Jesus.’”  In my own life I heard people get to the mature point in their life when they could really say those words without any simulation or exaggeration. In particular I have in mind those I’ve been privileged to accompany toward death. For many of them these words become very real. My own mother died suddenly so I did not have the privilege of making that journey with her along the way. But My Father died after a year-long illness and my Grandmother too. I was able to walk with them in their final stages and I heard them say these words. And I knew it was time because only God can get you ready to say those words in a true and authentic way. I knew they really meant it and God was getting them ready for the great journey over to the other shore.

In the end, we have to desire heaven more  than this world and only God can cause this change and purge us from the many attachments we have to this world. It usually takes the dying process to get us there, though I suppose it shouldn’t have to. But, painful though it is to see, there is something quite beautiful about the  approach to death. I often see a letting go in those who approach death;  perhaps it is of worldly glories, old grudges, preoccupations and many worries. Little by little these things fall away and the “one thing necessary” replaces them. It is merely this:  that we sit at the feet of Jesus and wait for him to bring us over. There comes a moment when those who are dying with faith can truly saying the words of Psalm 27 : There is only one thing I ask of the LORD; this alone I seek: That I  may dwell in the LORD’S house all the days of my life and gaze upon his  beauty

What do you want? What do you long for? Maybe it’s God! I know, its probably a lot of other things too. But if you’re faithful God can get you to the point where you can truly say: Give me Jesus. You may have all this world. Just Give me Jesus.

Pray to desire God above every thing and everyone. Pray along with this beautiful rendition of the Old Song: Give Me Jesus

29 Responses

  1. Irenaeus says:

    “Very often verbal prayers are heavily steeped in requests for better health, better finances, a new and more lucrative job, a more cooperative spouse, the success of some project and so forth.”

    This makes me think of the prosperity Gospel. “God wants you to be rich!” Our Lord did not even have a place to lay his head, and none of his wonderous teachings or miracles equated material wealth with divine favor…. yet a lot of these mega-churches make this link. They say pray for all those things because God wants you to drive that mercedes and get that promotion. It makes me think of my son who would put out his “give me” hand as we would call it. He would open and close it while saying…. “gimme! gimme! gimme!”. I think we need to start giving back to God in our prayers. Thanksgiving, adoration, praise and worship (i.e. like the Mass). After all, isn’t that what heaven is supposed to be like?

    • Meredith Black says:

      Thanks for that comment Irenaeus. My grandma goes to extra Masses on Sunday. But I disagree about Heaven. We will get everything we want. At least that is what I was taught. But we won’t want the mercedes anymore–past all that we’ll be.

      • Irenaeus says:

        Perhaps you are right about heaven. I hope to know for certain one day, even if it is looking from afar. When I think of heaven. I think of one never ending liturgy of praise and adoration of God. I think of a perfectly solemn and beautiful Mass with choirs of angels joined in with the prayers of saints. I think just seeing the face of God will make all our extraneous wants melt away into oblivion.

  2. Ed More says:

    I think that this modern age with all its emphasis on material success – to the point that greed is exalted in every social class has hurt the Faith and in particular vocations as never before. The idea of a life of sacrifice is shunned, the persute of comfort and leisure is made of prime importance. Which gives rise to such social ills as abortion and disposable marriages and every injustice that flows from them et. al. For most it isn’t until they have a “rock bottom” experience in their pursute for material success that they realize – Give me Jesus, you may have all this world… or “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you” – St. Augustine

    • Meredith Black says:

      You’re right. St. Augustine knew that better than anyone I think. He was the saint who did all those bad things wasn’t he?

      • Cynthia BC says:

        Meredith, my summer reading list included St Augustine’s “Confessions” and “City of God.” For all that they were written centuries ago, they are very accessible. [Unlike some of St Aquinas, who makes my eyes cross after two pages.] You’re likely to find copies in a public library, or as I did in a used-book store.

  3. Fr Cusick says:

    Thank you for writing beautifully and movingly about our Faith.

  4. Tongxin says:

    What a lovely song and reflection of the after life. I pray that we’ll only desire God now and forever.

  5. Antonia says:

    Thank you! Yes, the major focus of prayer should be praise and love for God. I have found 3 traditional prayer practices which truly enable one to pray this way: the rosary, the Office, and the Jesus Prayer (also called the prayer of the heart, in the Eastern tradition).

  6. TeaPot562 says:

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines several basic forms of prayer, including: blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise.

    • God is the source of every blessing. The human heart can in return bless Him.

    • Petition is for our own needs: forgiveness for sin, the quest for the Kingdom (especially for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life) and every true need.

    • Intercession consists in asking on behalf of another person. Typically we ask for needs of our family and friends; but this type of prayer has no limits and extends to our enemies.

    • Thanksgiving is thanking God for blessings received. Every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving. As Christ did, we should give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess. 5:18)

    • Praise rises to God, giving him glory for his own sake, quite beyond what he has done, but simply because HE IS.

    We as human beings spend much time on PETITION, especially for material favors. We are not very good on Thanksgiving, and seldom use other forms. What would your response be to your child who always says “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!” and seldom or never thanks you, or even notices your existance?
    For consideration.
    TeaPot562

  7. Katherine G ERT says:

    Just recently I took care of a 97 year old woman who was going through the final stages of death. It’s rare that I get to sit with a patient and go through this with them, as in the ER the final stages happen so quickly, most times in a matter of seconds. I spent the last few hours of my shift sitting with her and trying to understand. The case itself was a long and sad one, watching her go from being an independent woman living on her own to becoming dependent on us was very heartbreaking to watch. I watched as she clearly talked to someone that wasn’t me or the nurse, telling Him she wasn’t ready yet and asking why she was in so much pain. I watched as she went from being angry with God for letting her go through this to finally finding peace and relief from her pain.

    Creature comforts do take over this world at times, don’t they? I’ve learned on my own, and from watching other people, that all the things you want in this world cannot take the place of a good and loyal friend, or a loving relationship with God. In the end, it’s not the clothes or shoes I wanted, or the DVD’s of favorite movies and tv shows that make me happy – it’s the times I’ve spent in Eucharistic Adoration, or with friends, or with horses, and at the hospital that have made me truly happy and multi-faceted. Material goods and creature comforts are a mask in a sense, a mask that covers what is truly good and what makes us truly happy. One of the few times I felt truly beautiful was camping without hot water, or all the creature comforts I had at home. And I found I actually didn’t miss the internet, and texting all that much when I was camping in the woods for a week without any kind of reception. It was a good reminder for me to let go of the creature comforts once in a while and enjoy the beauty that God created.

  8. james hershberger says:

    How often do I pray that ” Thy will be done” and really mean it ? My intentions always need to conclude with ; only if it is your will Lord, It is my prayer. He alone knows whats best for me. The biggest disasters in my life turn into opportunities . It sure is hard to see at the time and there is always the tendency not to consent to transformation, but sometimes I end up being fondled on His lap and from that location I’d do it all again. Death is subject to love and Love won .

    • Meredith Black says:

      It’s hard but it’s possible. I think it is too hard to say the biggest disasters are opportunities. I know I couldn’t do that. What do you mean by fondled on his lap? I think God wants us to be close to him. Mary was at his feet wiping his tears. It’s the human tendency to repeat sins. Confesssion is the greatest grace James. But if you think you’re going to do it again, don’t go to confession:)

  9. Plain Catholic says:

    Our walk in discipleship is often conflicted with the sensory overload of our world. Withdrawing to prayer, to a warm relationship with Jesus is the answer to these distractions. To do this, telly, radio, cell phones, and computer will need to have an off button that we are not afraid to push and push frequently. It is only then we can truly have a meaningful conversation with our Lord without it resembling that of a child always begging and whingeing for some trifle.

  10. adele says:

    Meredith…please reconsider your advice to James re confession. It is the grace of forgiveness…and yes, in order to
    be truly repentant ( a condition for absolution )one most resolve not to committ that sin again. With the help of God’s
    grace we can achieve it hopefully…but if one falls again in sin one needs more than ever to confess and with the advice of the priest resolve again not to sin. If it continues to happen the penitent needs to admit this in confession and ask the priest for spiritual advice in the matter. The answer is NEVER to stay away from the sacrament! Sorry Meredith but
    your statement needed some correction.

    • I think I understand your point Adele. Generally it is good advice that when there is doubt we ought to go to confession. However it is also true that true contrition involves a firm purpose of ammendment. THis as you say is usually best discussed with a confessor.

  11. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from win and lose and still some how, it’s life’s illusions we recall, some really don’t know life at all. Bishop Fulton Sheen talked about the Stranger within. We all eventually get to meet Him. It’s best to introduce yourself as soon as possible. Traveling is more enjoyable with a Friend. Makes all the departures inbetween more relevant and dispells loneliness. Bon Voyage.

  12. james hershberger says:

    Being fondled on his lap is a consolation described in one of the psalms, one of many “graces” I believe to be a result of the sacraments ; confession , the Eucharist and an intimate relationship with Christ nurtured by prayer and a willingness to consent to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit . In saying my yes to my spouse and going out to meet Him , like going out to meet Him is to do his will in all the circumstances in my life. I think if I was to repeat the same sin again and again I would go to confession again and again as long as my intention is not to sin again . When I confess sin that I know inevitably I probably will commit again I trust that I’m also humbly asking God for the strength not to commit it again. I would never say, confess adultery and go out knowing I will indeed do this again . I wouldn’t think I could be absolved with that intention in mind .As to the details of personal consolations , I think that a devoted lover wouldn’t kiss and tell . God in his great mercy turns disasters into opportunities . Love conquers all, period.

  13. james hershberger says:

    For the record : I didn’t mean I would sin again, I meant that I would except disaster again and again like Job .He ended up with more than he had before, i.e. Heaven .

  14. Jasper says:

    wonderful post and discussion. God Bless

Leave a Reply