From the belief that I have to earn Your love
Deliver me, Jesus.

We live in an American culture that places all worth on output and results, and we are constantly working so that we may gain the benefits of our hard work.

For devout American Catholics, this idea can sometimes seep into our spiritual lives.

Millennial Catholics may participate in strong acts of penance such as the “Exodus 90,” or we may stuff our holy hours with Rosaries, Divine Mercy Chaplets, Litanies of Humility, or other beautiful devotions and media for graces and growing in virtue. These devotions are much needed, and I partake in them every day, but what may often get lost in the “doing” is the “receiving.”

How often do we just silently sit and contemplate the good things God wants to give us?

We may often relate with Martha in that we overemphasize the work we put in and forget to spend or “waste” time at Jesus’ feet like Mary.

This idea of receptivity brings me back to when I was a camp counselor. I remember observing a magnificent scene as the sun was setting behind the Rocky Mountains. My friend had said something along the lines of, “Isn’t it amazing to think that God had me in mind when he made these mountains?”

As a geological engineering student, this struck me.

To think that He built the Rocky Mountains through millions of years of tectonic processes and trillions of pounds of force so that I may enjoy an evening watching the sun set behind them and get a glimpse of His love for me.

How could I possibly think that this unfathomable love could be from something that I merited? All I could do at that moment was just receive it and marvel at it.

God’s love is so incredibly vast, and so incredibly inefficient.

He is the sower who spreads the seed on every kind of soil. He gives and gives and gives just so we can know that He loves us. He creates the Sun to radiate trillions of joules of energy so that a tiny bit of it can shine on me through a stained-glass window at Church. 

The God who created the universe humbled himself to suffer an agonizing and humiliating death, in which he couldn’t lift his hand from the wood of the cross to swat away the flies that were feasting on his face, so that He may share his Glory with me.

In a culture based on individualistic ideals, self-sufficiency, and output, it can be hard to imagine God loving us through no merit of our own.

In my duty-oriented, engineer disposition, it has been tough confronting my limitations and weaknesses as a missionary this year. This year, more than ever, I have seen the significance of the Holy Mass in my life and in this mission.

Too many times to count have I felt utterly useless in my attempts to help my friends experiencing homelessness confront addictions, understandings of self-worth, abusive relationships, and the overall darkness that often encapsulate their lives.

Through the understanding that there is nothing I can do for them apart from Christ, I come to rely on the Mass.

I am able to take the darkness and suffering I encounter on the streets, place it on the altar, and unite it to the Eucharist to be offered to the Father.

Through the Mass, I am able to participate in the greatest act of love, Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary for the salvation of the world.

This is the greatest thing I can do for my friends, and this understanding has been incredibly freeing. God IS going to give you more than you can handle on your own, and that’s when we have to rely on Him most.

As Pope St. John XXIII said, “It’s your Church, Lord. I’m going to bed.”

Phil is a first-year missionary from Maple Grove, Minnesota. He enjoys eating, going on long walks on the Minnesota beaches, and watching Monty Python.