In my humanity, I often forget that God wants not only life for us, but life in abundance. That doesn’t mean material wealth so much as spiritual abundance. Our God is a God of overflowing love — that’s how we came to be. And so it is in God’s very nature to want even more for us than we want for ourselves.
I was reminded of this once again during a trip with my daughter, two of her friends and their mothers, and I to the Windy City of Chicago – which turned out to have nary a breeze the week we were there.
But I did hear God’s whispers throughout, including on our penultimate day there, when we took a bike ride through the city streets and along Lake Michigan. Among our sights on the guided tour was one I wish to highlight in particular this day — a stop at St. Michael’s Church in Old Town.
One of my favorite parts of vacationing as an adult is finding signs of God’s life, including attending Mass in the places I visit far from home, only to rediscover I am home wherever God is present. And I find God especially present in the spirits of the people, and also, in a particularly marked way, his beautiful places of worship, where the thirsty come for water, the hungry, for food, and the weary, rest.
Before this stop, Mark, our tour guide, had explained various features and history of the buildings at which we paused, but we were only afforded an outside, pass-by look. I didn’t know if our stop at St. Michael’s would be any different, and yet I yearned to take a closer peek.
Conveniently, the church is under construction at the moment, so a service van was parked outside. This gave me my out.
I quietly slipped around the vehicle and, noticing Mark’s explanation was taking a while, decided to venture in. I could feel God drawing me.
“Come closer, child.” Nothing else mattered in that moment but wanting to be near to Him. All the while, I was aware of the others and not wanting to be separated, so I did not linger too long.
As I came out and rejoined them, Mark’s talk was winding down, and to my delight, he was inviting our group to pause a little longer than usual and go inside to take a look. Not only would I get a longer gaze now, but our entire group, including my daughter and friends, would now have a chance at that same sizing up of this house of God. (The girls couldn’t resist climbing the long, winding stairs up to the ambo…)
It is among one of my favorite memories of our visit. Even though it would have been lovely to actually experience Mass here, and to see God’s people in worship and join them, our visit didn’t fall on a weekend, and our tight schedule limited what we could take in, so this, I figured, might be our only chance to touch God in this way.
Not only was I grateful — I’d prayed before the trip that God would allow us a chance for worship along the way — but I learned the lesson again about abundance. All I figured I could hope for was a peek — and even that was taken a bit at risk. My quiet dash into the church was not part of the plan. But then, when all were invited in, I realized anew that God wants more for us than we even dream for ourselves.
It took me back to the World Meeting of Families in September 2015 at the Mass with Pope Francis, and how far back we were from the altar, and how we’d resigned ourselves to accepting a spiritual Communion, rather than sharing physically in receiving the Eucharist consecrated by our Holy Father.
When, to my great surprise, the Eucharist touched my lips, I found myself in tears. God had multiplied the loaves. Not only that, but after we ticketed pilgrims gained entrance, the gates were open to all. Many more than I could have imagined heard Pope Francis and worshiped the Lord with us that day. God offered us more than we could have wished.
I guess this is a lesson I will have to keep learning. My limited brain and heart cannot possibly conceive of all God wants for me, and for you. But I keep tasting the abundance, in small but delicious pieces, causing me to yearn for the plans God has for us, if we but only stay faithful and love him and others the best we possibly can.
Q4U: When and how has God shown you life in abundance lately?