The definition of Exhortation is “communication encouraging someone to do something.” Keep this in mind as I tell you exactly how Pope Francis’ new exhortation titled “Gaudete et exsultate” has wrecked me.
The title is translated into “Rejoice and be Glad” and what it is encouraging us to do is to become holy. Pope Francis explains what holiness is and that it is something that we can all be. He goes on to lay out what holiness is, how to attain it and explain the Beatitudes. There are people way smarter than me who can break it down word by word and paragraph by paragraph. That is not what I am here to write about.
The truth is that since the death of my oldest son Anthony I have not trusted God fully. If I am going to be real honest then I have to admit that I have never fully trusted God. I always have kept some control over my life. When I pray I tell God what I need and then expect Him to fulfill those needs like I placed an order at Amazon and He is the employee hired to fill the order. Time and time again I have come to realize this about myself and repent of it and think that I have changed it. But the real truth is that I have always been faking it. After Anthony died even more so.
I am attached to people, places and things in a way that turns them into idols. Including grief, the house that he died in and my anger at God and everyone else. I do not praise God. I accept that He is God and that He is there. I accept that He shows up in my life and I thank Him for good things He allows for me but I am thankful because I do not expect Him to do good things for me. And even that thanks is tainted with my anger that my son is dead. “Thanks for making this a good day, but You still allowed Anthony to die.” is the common way I thank God for anything.
As I read Pope Francis’ document I felt like someone has looked into my spiritual life and had seen all the ways that I am keeping God out of it. I tolerate Him. I have nowhere else to go. I know He exists, I know He created me and I know He is my only chance to see my son again or to keep my other children safe. But do I allow Him to love me? No. Do I believe He will care for my needs? No. Do I think God cares if I lose this house among everything else that I have lost? no.
And after reading the words of this exhortation I realized why I don’t. Because I do not believe God loves me like that. Still, after all these years that is what I believe deep down inside under all the pretending. I do not think He loves me as much as He loves those who He seems to be caring for. And in my mind, the evidence is in the fact that my son is in a grave.
Through the words of Pope Francis, I could hear God’s voice telling me to give Him a chance to care for me. He is asking for me to trust Him and I don’t know how to really do that. I know how to act like I do, but to actually put all my hopes and dreams in His hands with the trust that He wants me to be safe, happy and not suffering is so difficult for me. Especially on days when it seems like nothing works out.
So here I am sick, in pain, with a million things to do and things that I have come to admit I can’t do as I consider whether or not I am finally going to give up the control of my own life. I have played this game of earning God’s favor and love for so long. I have tried to love Him enough to convince Him to not allow me to be hurt anymore that I don’t know how to just sit in His presence.
This exhortation wrecked me. I have used it as an examination of conscience and I will go through it again in Adoration as soon as I can. My suggestion is to read it and let God wreck you too. Figure out exactly what it is the Pope is enouraging you to do. For me it is to not be afraid and to trust God with everything.