Most of us know that Latin phrase as, “You can’t give what you don’t have” and we accept it as true. How often, though, do we attempt to deal with a full day’s schedule of work, kids, spouses, bills, workouts, homework, house cleaning and other activities too numerous to mention without having given the Lord time to fill us? Jesus is never one to beat around the bush. He always says exactly what He means in the kindest way possible. So when He told us, “Without Me you can do nothing”, He meant nothing.
Catherine of Siena had helpful guidance for her followers on this subject. She said that Jesus had told her, more than once, “I am He who is and you are she who is not.” Which is really just another way of saying ‘without Me you can do nothing.” As the Lord moved Catherine, against her will, out of the phase of her life in which she could spend all her time alone with Him and into active ministry, He showed her how to make sure she kept a cell for Him in her heart. By showing her how to retreat to that little room in her heart as many times as necessary in the course of her day, Jesus showed her that she didn’t have to be physically shut up in her little room behind the big kitchen in her parents’ house in Siena to be with Him. At any time of the day or night, she could “Go into her room, shut the door and pray to her Father in secret. And He who sees in secret would reward her.”
When the Holy Father declares a Year of Faith and asks us to focus on evangelizaiton, even the most dedicated Catholic may be tempted to ask, “Just when or how am I supposed to do that?” When we are encouraged, as in the previous post, to practice daily cheerfulness as a means of evangelization, we might rightfully wonder, “How am I supposed to be cheerful when my husband is out of work? When my wife has cancer? When my country is going down the drain?” These questions assume a fact of life in most American families today: We already have our plates full. How can we possibly add anything else? How can we do more?
The answer is, we can’t. We can’t do more but we can be more. Be more present to God. Not force ourselves to smile or to evangelize. Instead, we can fall in love with Jesus and His Body, the Church, all over again. We can turn a half hour of everyday over to Him. Just to look at Him and allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. What could be simpler? What could be cheaper? What could be as fun or rewarding as falling in love? How can we keep our mouths shut about it when we’ve “met someone” and want to spend time with them?
Catherine learned first to “be” physically alone with the Lord in her room. Then she learned, and taught others, how to take that same deep knowledge of herself and God and be present to Him in the cell of her heart as she went about her busy days. As with most things the Church teaches, it’s not “either/or” but “both/and.” We spend time both ways with Jesus each day. Then we won’t be able to keep ourselves from telling others, “You won’t believe who I’ve met!”