Recently at Mass our 9 year-old daughter gave me some pretty powerful insight into what God the Father expects out of me. As we were walking down the steps from the balcony seating area with the choir in full swing, our daughter tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “That sure is a demanding song.”
While previously oblivious to the words, I now listened more attentively to the lyrics.
“Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus. You can have all this world. Give me Jesus.”
Yes, she was right. I knew right where she was coming from. We had read the Berenstain Bears series countless times together. In particular, I would (not so randomly) select the book titled “The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies” when choosing which book to read from the series.
After receiving Communion a few moments later, however, a deeper reality set in for me regarding her observation. She was not just right about the words “give me” being demanding. She was tapping into the reality that it is in our nature to demand Jesus.
Freedom exists not to do what you like, but having the right to do what you ought. In our family life we have many opportunities placed in front of us on a daily basis. As a spouse and parent, this vocation demands a response. In our professional lives we have many tasks and responsibilities placed in front of us. As St. Joseph turned labor into prayer, this work also demands a response. While we are tempted to gravitate toward the demands placed on us and focus mainly on the crosses that this response entails; we must not neglect first and foremost to demand what we need. “Give me Jesus.”
As Christians, we were not made to fit in. We were born to stand out. Our primary vocation is to become a saint. As stated by one Catholic author, “Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to give us coping mechanisms for our sins. He came to free us from our sins.” Do we truly believe this?
When conflict arises in our home my first instinct is to subconsciously go through the ABC’s. Assess, Blame, and Criticize. After assessing the situation and pride assures me it can’t be my fault, I begin to wonder where God is in all of this. The question I should be asking is why I did not bring him to the situation.
It is easy to demand Christ be present in others. Truly God is present in our family, friends, and enemies alike. In all places. At and in all times. I believe we begin to be transformed into saints when we see Jesus in others, but demand him of ourselves. This is not barking commands to fulfill our desires. Rather, demanding him of ourselves means holding ourselves accountable to the point that not only can we cope with sin, but we can be freed from it.
There is a saying that just trying to find time for God is not enough; you must make time. Being intentional with conviction is a helpful mantra on this path to sainthood. As we are sandwiched between this past Christmas season and upcoming Lenten season, may these few weeks of “ordinary time” be an opportunity to re-examine our expectations and demands. Sometimes we find ourselves meddling along not demanding enough out of ourselves. There are other times we simply demand the wrong things. The reality is there is no consolation prize. It is heaven or bust. Give me heaven. Amen.
-Scott & Kelly Kmiecik