I love the planets, stars, astronomy, planetariums, and all things 'Universe.' I have always been awed by the night sky, which is especially visible when there is no 'light pollution' from a city. For me, gazing at the heavens, be it in pictures or when outdoors, has always been a very moving experience. Because the universe is created by God, it reflects God: mysterious, vast, not able to be fully known, yet knowable. Oh yes... and incredibly beautiful. The cosmos is awe inspiring, and because I feel this way I never miss an opportunity to visit a planetarium if I am in a city that has one.
On a recent trip my husband and I ventured into one such planetarium for a very interesting show. In the lobby was a huge model of the moon with the message taped to it, "Please do not touch the moon," (as seen to the left.) I love potentially off-beat or humorous photo-ops so I had to take pictures of the model and its unintentionally ironic message. After a bit of laughter, we moved on and went into the spectacular show about the universe. Since then I have had some more serious thoughts about the implications of the moon model with its sign, and I dare to disagree. Granted, I understand that the planetarium management was speaking solely of their precious model, and rightly so. But if taking this thought to a more symbolic level, I disagree. I say: go ahead, touch the moon!
In our spiritual lives we often allow ourselves to be limited in our growth. We want to pray more, we want to do more spiritual reading, and we want to grow in relationship with God. Yet we find all sorts of ways to deny ourselves this growth. Whether it is the mistaken belief that we do not have enough time or that we are not good enough, we have become attached to mediocrity in our relationship with God. Instead of really ‘going for it’ in terms of doing something to help ourselves grow in holiness, we think that it is only for the rarefied few, of which we are not. We think that we are not worthy or that the Lord will ask something far too difficult if we get too close to Him; if we hear His voice in our heart He might ask us something painful or which requires too much work. So instead of reaching for the moon, so to speak, we accept that we would never make it anyhow, so let's not dare try to touch it.
The problem is that we have become attached to fear. The fear is that if we try to reach for God, we might fail. I do not think we do this consciously, though in spiritual direction over the years I have heard people say that they are afraid if they get too close to God He will ask them to do something they would really hate to do or something which is too difficult to accomplish. There is really no truth to that idea at all. What God wants most for us is that we have inner freedom. Usually this requires that we do some inner work, such as recognizing and then working to let go of something such as anger, selfish tendencies, the lack of forgiveness, or fear. And it also means growing in the virtues, which again, takes work. But the result of the work is new freedom and new life. Not only that, but God has given each of us unique gifts for our unique purpose. If we don’t let ourselves discover what these are and how to use them, then we are not at all growing into our true selves. God’s desire for us is that we become freer to be the person He made us to be, and therefore to be happier. This brings us closer to Him, and that is really the point of it all.
The apostles had to go through this, too. They were fishermen for the most part, ordinary men living ordinary lives in Galilee. But their minds and hearts were open and they were searching for the Messiah. When they found Him, or rather when He found them, He immediately asked them to stretch farther than they may have felt they could. Jesus asked them to leave everything behind and follow Him. No matter how much the Holy Spirit moved their hearts, the apostles still had to dare to follow Him as He invited and on His terms. They had to step out in courage.
Not long after they took up with Jesus, He told the disciples to go out in groups of two, healing the sick and casting out demons. They must have been a bit frightened. Casting out demons? Healing sick people? Really? Yes, really. They did do it, however, and they returned successful. But had they not dared to listen and trust in Jesus they would never have been able to do it. They had to let go of fears and anxieties, trusting in the gifts they had been given, which included faith, hope, and love. Those gifts empowered them and enabled them to use the gifts of healing they received. They were able to stand up to demons with faith and hope, and to heal the sick with love. It was the power of God within those gifts that enabled the miracles.
We, too, can cast out demons and heal the sick. Every time we forgive someone we cast out the demons of unforgiveness, resentment, and hurt. In forgiving we heal the other and we heal our own woundedness. When we help someone who is poor, lonely, elderly or disabled, we are using the gift of healing in some form or fashion. We may not be able to undo their condition, but we heal some of the sense of being forgotten, ostracized, or the message that they are not productive and therefore are without dignity.
When we grow in our prayer life by taking the time to simply talk with the Lord and then listen to His voice spoken through our hearts or through people, inspiration, or events each day, miracles also occur within us. We can do things we never thought possible, such as survive a disappointment and grow from it, reach for a goal and make it, learn a new skill at work, change courses in life and find new opportunity, weather the storms of loss, broken promises, illness, and even broken relationships. If the Lord is with us in our journeying, just as with the apostles, we can grow from just about anything, even the most painful of events. The miracle may be in simply getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time until we can run again. Echoing St. Paul we, too, can say, “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
If we do not dare to touch the moon, we will never reach it. If we do not believe the promises of Jesus about new life, we will not attain such life. Jesus said, "I have come so they might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) He wants us to grow closer to Him. All we have to do is desire it and then try; that is, we have to put the time into it. He promises us that if we put in the effort we will indeed grow in holiness, receiving many gifts along the way, and so come to fuller happiness.
As I have said previously, it is not about material wealth, though that is also a gift from God. It is about growing in holiness and joy. It is about letting go of the attachments to fear and negativity which keep us from God. It is about letting go of our attachment to mediocrity in our spiritual lives, which makes us settle for being good, but not reaching for greater heights, which mean experiencing more deeply and abundantly the love of God. It means doing the work of letting God do His work in us so that we may come to know, love, and serve Him better.
Go ahead: touch the moon. Do not be afraid. Stretch with the Lord and He will let you 'see His face' more clearly. We should never let fear keep us from doing that which others may say we cannot do, such as becoming a saint. We can 'go for it' in our life of prayer and therefore in our Christian virtues. There is no limit to how much we can grow in holiness. And therefore there is no limit to who we can reach out and touch with God at the center. If we hope for it, and trust in God’s love, we can do all things in Him. So please, do touch the moon!
May we have the courage to dare to grow in holiness! May we ask for the gift of desire and ability to pray! May we let go of fear and false ideas about prayer and our own worth in order to grow in relationship with the Lord of Love! May we learn to relax and simply be ourselves with God in our prayer! And may we have the faith, hope, and love to reach out and touch the face of God! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
All the photos are mine. The first two were taken at the Vanderbilt Planetarium in Centerport, NY. The next photo was taken in Sicily on the way to Contessa Entellina, which is seen in the distance. And the last photo is of course the moon, as seen on a clear night in Baveno on Lago Maggiore in northern Italy.
Heart Speaks to Heart