Posted October 01, 2010:
A Truth That Sets My Heart on Fire

by Cathy Mitchell.

When I first came to Madonna House, I had "killed the last zombie" in the Plants vs. Zombies computer game. That kind of thing gets the adrenalin pumping for a while. Then what?

There was a place deep inside me that knew something was wrong with my life, that knew something was missing. My heart was barely pumping blood to my vital organs, the organs that tell me I belong, I matter, there is a plan for my life, I have something to give, and it is vital that I give it.

I had killed the last zombie. I had been having good times, times when the adrenalin was certainly pumping, but I did not have joy. I had good, like-minded friends among whom I felt welcomed and accepted, but I was only half alive.

I was living only for myself. I did not know that I was a vital part of an incredible living reality, the Mystical Body of Christ.

It is this truth that caught my heart and set it on fire when I first came to Madonna House. And it still does.

What does living in the awareness of the Mystical Body of Christ look like? I’ll give you a simple example.

When I wake up in the morning feeling like it is impossible to get out of bed, I can roll over and try and eke out a few more minutes sleep. Or I can cry out in my heart as I crawl out of bed, "Jesus, for the mother who was up all night with a sick child and now has to go and work all day. For her or for whoever you wish, Lord, I get up."

The Mystical Body of Christ is the Church. Not an institution but a Person with Christ as its head and we its members. In this Body, we are not isolated from one another. Whether we feel it or not, we are incredibly one with Christ and with one another. Our relationship, our communion, is beyond our understanding or imagining.

Moreover, through our baptism and the sacraments, each of us is given great power and responsibility. Our every thought, word, and action has the power to nourish the Body and make it grow.

Each moment of our day can be an offering if we learn to make it so. And like any worthy skill, this can be learned with a little practice.

A good example is of one staff worker who has been in MH for fifty years. She told us that each morning she makes her bed "exceedingly well" and offers it for priests.

I was at our house in Washington D.C. from 1986 to 2004. (As Cynthia Donnelly tells you in her article, the mandate of that house is to pray for the U.S. government.) Interceding for anyone or anything opens you more to that person or situation and to facing what is in your own heart.

Here’s an example of what this looks like: There is a debate in Congress, say, over the budget. Where is money going? Who gets what? And how much?

So at morning prayer we offer a prayer at the intercessions time: "For those debating the budget today, that they may listen to the voice of your Holy Spirit and be inspired toward good stewardship of these moneys entrusted to them and allocate funds according to truth and justice."

That’s a good prayer. It covers the bases, and soon morning prayer is over, and off to breakfast we go. At table, a conversation starts about a recent monetary donation we received "to purchase something we could use for the house," and the debate is on at our house.

Soon I see myself standing up for my areas of interest in the house or apostolate. (In Congress, it would be my congressional district, my constituency.) Suddenly I’m having a hard time listening to my sisters, let alone the Holy Spirit. A little bit of greed has started seeping in.

As the day goes on, the debate continues off and on, both in the House of Representatives and in Madonna House Washington.

Later, while working in the basement, I can hear water running, and I’m the only one in the house. That usually means that the person making a poustinia, who left a little while ago, has not properly turned off the faucet in the third floor bathroom.

I will be heading upstairs in a little while anyway, and not that much water is running. But our water bill is high, and our benefactors trust us to be good stewards of the money they give us. So do I make a special trip up three flights of stairs to turn off the water, or do I wait until I’m going up there anyway?

There are other challenges to listen to others and the Spirit throughout the day, challenges to respond in truth and justice.

So by the time evening prayer rolls around, that prayer offered in the morning has taken on a much deeper meaning for everyone in the house. When we gather at table over supper, we realize how much the challenges of the day, within ourselves and with one another, have lined up with what was going on in Congress.

When I can step back from my greed, my plans, my projects, my desires, and listen to the other for the good of all, that stepping back directly effects what is going on just a couple of blocks away in Congress.

In the Mystical Body, God’s economy is always solvent. Not even the smallest amount of good is ever wasted. I can choose to live in this awesome mystery, to live in it intentionally, and to offer every action, every moment, to the Lord for the needs of all his people.

The following is a rather exceptional example of how God uses our prayers, offerings, and sacrifices for others. It’s a story about a Poor Clare nun in Ireland who was blessed with a very special relationship with Jesus.

One night while she was praying in her cell, she had a terrible temptation against chastity. She had never experienced anything like it before. In fact the temptation was so powerful that the devil himself was there challenging her.

She kept crying out to Jesus for help, and as far as she knew, Jesus was nowhere around. Finally the devil left, and the temptation subsided.

A while later, Jesus himself came to her cell, and she immediately confronted him: "Where were you? The devil was here, and I had such temptations against chastity. I called out to you, but you didn’t come."

"I was here," replied Jesus. "If I wasn’t, you would not have been able to endure the temptation. What you didn’t know was that I gave you the temptation of a young prostitute. Through your struggle, she was able to resist the temptation she was facing and receive the grace of conversion."

In ourselves, we are so small and insignificant, but as part of the Mystical Body of Christ, we are of infinite importance.

By virtue of our Baptism and through each of the sacraments, everything we suffer, everything we endure, everything we love and rejoice in, every thought, word, and action is part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

Unfortunately, we also have the power to infect the Body through our sin. When we sin, we put up obstacles blocking the flow of grace to ourselves and others. But the good news is that, when we repent, that flow of grace is restored.

Through the Mystical Body of Christ, we have the power to restore the world to Christ. We may not see the fruits in this life, but God multiplies our efforts thirty, sixty, a hundredfold.

It’s all very simple, isn’t it?


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