The Lord finds ways in everyday situations to speak to us -- to bring something to light that otherwise might not be noticed. He offers situations analogous to the spiritual life, and if we are listening, they will remind us of Him. So it happened in my house the other night.
The evening had progressed as any other, but my face felt hot. Of course, I just thought it was hormones and paid very little attention to it. I weaved in and out of the evening activities: watching a movie with the kids, doing laundry, saying prayers and bedtime routine, etc. My face grew hotter and began to itch.
My daughter noticed first. "Mom what's that on your face?" she inquired.
"I don't know," I offered, "let me take a look." I felt it becoming increasingly uncomfortable, but had no idea what IT was.
Then, I looked in the mirror and saw the IT -- Poison Ivy!
The rash was red, angry and, now that I knew about it, extremely itchy. I had to do something to stop the itch. So, being late and not really wanting to visit an Urgent Care Center, I grabbed some lotion and an antihistamine and tried to get some sleep. That didn't really happen, and I arose in the morning groggy and all the more itchy.
It was Sunday and I had to get to Mass. I was tired and I looked just atrocious! I wasn't contagious and there was no good reason other than my vanity to consider myself too sick to go to Mass. So we rallied the troops and headed off, rash and all. It was there that I recognized a spiritual analogy for my itch.
An itch is a reminder that something needs attention; there's an irritation that needs to be relieved. The spiritual life is very much like that. Our conscience provides those spiritual itches that lead us to realize our prayer life isn't what it should be or that our time isn't being spent as wisely as it could be in preparing our souls for heaven.
How does one scratch a spiritual itch you might ask?
Here are three practical examples:
Make Time for God -- Don't fool yourself into thinking you're doing enough. Schedule time during the day to sit quietly in His presence and speak with Him. Have a Bible handy or some spiritual reading that will spark a conversation. In addition, remember at your meals to offer your bounty to Him and bless your food -- that is a prayer. And, at night, before you shut your eyes, tell Him that you're sorry for any mistakes you may have made during the day. In the morning when you rise, ask Him to be present in your day and offer it to Him. God wants you to spend time with Him. He loves you!
Love Your Neighbor -- Be willing to help within your family and in your community -- whether it's teaching your child how to pray and behave or volunteering at your child's school or at Church. Look around you and see where you can be Christ to others in your community and offer your service as a witness to the love of God and the love of neighbor. Believe me, if you serve others with the glory of God in mind, your reward will be great!
Forgive, Forgive, Forgive -- Starting with yourself, learn to take the pressure off, to do the best you can and to forgive injustices, inequities and mistakes that are made by you, and also those that effect you. The Sacrament of Reconciliation provides a concrete way to know that you are truly forgiven. It is important to remember, however, that all the grace from the Sacrament can be lost if we are too obstinate to forgive ourselves. One thing that pride can do is keep us obstinate, even in our inability to feel forgiven. Christ died for our sins; He took them upon Himself for the salvation of souls. He has already won the battle over sin, and He wants us to know His love in the grace that flows through the Sacraments.
Scratch that spiritual itch -- it's recommended to help spread the joy of Christ's infectious love. Don't prevent yourself from coming closer to Him by not responding to the urge to let His love grow in you. This is how others will come to know Him in and through you.
As for me, I have no choice but to treat the poison ivy and try not to scratch that particular temporal itch. But, I'll be scratching that spiritual one each and every day.