That has been my prayer today and yesterday, and I am now convinced that when we remain faithful the Lord takes great delight in that--especially when we least want to. Here's one missionary's story of how she tried to do that.
I don't honestly know what came over me this morning, but I was, and admittedly might still a tad bit be in a bad mood. (Insert shocked face here.) To be honest, I'm not that often in a straight up angry and plain bad mood, but this morning after our team meeting something was just not right inside of me. Earlier this morning in prayer I read through the day's gospel, and then saw a text from a friend reflecting on it. The gospel for today is Luke 11:37-41 and verse 41 just kept jumping out every time I read it.
"But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you."A friend of mine sends out daily reflection texts and sent me one this morning that I just can't quite get out of my head, and he was reflecting upon this gospel passage. It said: "'As to what is within, give alms, and behold everything will be clean for you.' When we give freely and generously to those in need we express love, compassion, kindness and mercy. And if the heart is full of love and compassion, then there is no room for envy, greed, bitterness, and the like. Do you allow God's love to transform your heart, mind, and actions toward your neighbor?"
The prayer of my heart after reading this was instantly, "Lord, may there be no more room left for envy, greed, bitterness, malice and anger left in my heart! May there only be room for love!" and the reason I tell you this is because I really meant that! Today of all days, I felt angry towards my brother (not my actual brother, but brother in a larger sense) and my first internal reaction when I was in conversation was not one of joy and excitement, but of self-pity and feelings of anger and annoyance. The place from which it stems was of virtually no import to me, but it wasn't until 2:00 that the rubber really hit the road and I had to "buck up," go to discipleship and share Christ with his disciple.
Now, being in a cranky and oddly energetic mood, going to discipleship was really the last thing I wanted to do, which is strange because I tend to look more forward to that part of the apostolate than anything else. Regardless, the two of us met up and walked over to the union together and I was literally straining myself to keep from flying off the handle bars and going on a pointless, tangential rant about absolutely nothing. When we got there we found a spot on some couches, sat down and I asked her if she'd be willing to open in prayer, I really had nothing to give at this point. I hadn't planned on praying with the day's gospel reading, but my mind was literally empty of what to do with her. So we read through the gospel a couple of times, letting the words sink in, and listening to what the Lord was telling us through them.
What a grace. Man, scripture is definitely living and effective, and today it cut through my heart like a double-edged sword. Praise God!
Verse 41, as quoted earlier, jumped out of the page again, so I knew that Jesus was trying to say something to me that I didn't quite understand earlier. I reflected, 'Ok Kelsey, what exactly is within you right now? And how can you give alms from that?' Well, inside of me was a very unrighteous anger, a sense of self-pity, and a desire to do nothing but storm off and pout for a few hours--there was not one feeling of charity nor joy (which yes, doesn't necessarily mean they aren't there, for love is more than feelings--it's an act of the will!) nor a desire to be in discipleship at that very moment. I was feeling far too selfish for that. But in order to be clean on the inside, I had to give spiritual alms, not necessarily waiting until Sunday and putting a check in the collection basket--I had to work with the present moment. At that moment, giving alms for me was to sit with my disciple and have a Christ-centered, rather than Kelsey-centered discipleship. Talk about spiritual poverty! Out of my nothingness I gave Jesus everything that I could give, and He rewarded me ten-fold.
As an example: this particular disciple is applying to be a FOCUS missionary, and the interview is this weekend. I so badly wanted to take her evangelizing, "barehanding" as we call it. I still haven't done it, and our discipleship was running really short on time (technically it was supposed to have ended, but another disciple was showing up in a few minutes anyway). We were talking about the interview and it struck me: how awesome is it that this girl wants to devote two years of her life to serve the Lord in his vineyard as a missionary?! That is just so incredible.
I saw my next disciple coming towards us and casually I turned to the girl next to me and exclaimed, "Hey, my friend wants to give up two years of her life and be a missionary, isn't that so awesome?!" And the rest of the conversation flowed from there. We came to find out that Jenna (that's her name, so feel free to pray for her!) was raised in a Christian home but had never heard the Gospel message. Insert totally casual gospel presentation here. We then proceeded to pray with her and in sum, I'd chalk it up to a success--only because I responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to talk to the person next to me. We didn't finish there, but after praying with her got to talk to her about mission trips and even exchanged phone numbers. It's kind of hard not to ooze joy, zeal and love after something like that happens. Needless to say, my bad mood had essentially dissipated and I'm convinced it's because I was fortunate enough to give alms out of my poverty.
And to be honest, I haven't felt this "clean" in a long time. Love truly does cover a multitude of sins!
"But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you."