Hey, I have a fun idea! Let’s talk about something that can be agonizing! Have you ever wanted something so intensely that you can feel it in your gut? I mean, you know when you can feel your stomach turn and stretch and ache? Let’s be real. It can be agonizingly painful.
This is an experience I’m sure many of us have become a little too familiar with over the past few months: aching for people, aching for experiences, aching for justice, aching for health, and aching for the Eucharist.
Quarantine hit, and I, like the rest of the world, found myself at home with no access to in-person Mass, let alone in-person adoration. This time taught me a lot, but one of the biggest things I learned was what it looks like to genuinely ache for something. Truly, the Blessed Sacrament was the pillar holding up every bit of my life, but I had no clue until it was no longer right in front of me. Prior to quarantine, I didn’t realize how much of a gift it was to be able to go to daily Mass and adoration. I knew they were important to me, but I didn’t realize how much of my life revolved around the time I spent in the chapel at St. Isidore’s.
I wasn’t Catholic yet. I had never received the Eucharist. I didn’t know what it was like to consume Jesus, but I missed the Eucharist with my whole heart. I could get on Facebook and watch Mass online, but I don’t think I’m alone when I say online Mass is not really a substitute for being in person. Suddenly, this pillar of my faith was no longer easily accessible, and that only served to increase the desire in my heart to receive.
Then I had the opportunity to go to camp for three weeks, and we had Mass every single day. I had the opportunity to get on my knees and pray the Mass for nineteen days straight. It was incredible. It was beautiful. It was breathtaking. It seemed to get more and more sacred every day. Yet, at the same time, it sucked. I wish I could find more graceful words, but that’s the truth. I was so close to the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, but I could not have intimacy with Him the way I wanted. He was so close I could reach out and touch Him, but I had to wait. I’ve never wanted something so badly.
I was a little bit bitter for a while. Why couldn’t I just go ahead and be confirmed? In the waiting, though, I came to a realization. To experience true longing is a gift. It means there is something in our lives that is worthy of being longed for. In a world consumed by instant gratification, the opportunity to truly practice patience and long for something is rare. What a blessing it is to have something worth waiting for.
Maybe longing is called longing because you can feel your heart stretching. Every fiber of your being is reaching toward what you want. I sit in the chapel, and I feel that feeling. The Host is consecrated, and I begin to ache. As I kneel, I can feel my heart stretch toward the altar in expectation, and then as I cross my arms and return to my pew, I am reminded that my hunger cannot be satisfied the way I want it to quite yet. I ache for full Communion with Christ and His Bride the Church. I can feel the longing deep in my gut.
Shortly after my first realization, I came to another realization: Jesus aches this way for ME. I have heard it said that He cannot be outdone by us in generosity, but He also cannot be outdone by us in love. This seems obvious, but sometimes I don’t always recognize it. Does His heart not ache for ours the way ours do for His? I believe the answer is that it does. He waits for us. He desires to be near to us. After all, He CREATED us. I don’t care how many times you’ve heard it before, I’m going to say it again. We were uniquely designed by the King of Heaven, and we are known deeply. We are known down to the core of who we are.
I go back to this daily. He sees every single bit of my mess, and He still wants my good. He still loves me.
He sees every bit of YOUR mess. He still wants YOUR good. He still loves YOU.
He did not create us just for kicks. He created us out of love for Himself. He treasures our hearts and holds them in His hands. He aches for us. To Him, we are worth waiting on. To Him, we are worthy of being longed for. Daily, I am the prodigal child and He is the One running out to greet me and welcome me home.
This consoled my heart so deeply. He understands our longing. He understands what it looks like to have your heart ache for something and He sits with us in that. Whatever it is that your heart is aching for, know that you are not alone. We have the privilege of serving a Creator who desires to understand us so deeply He humbled Himself to dwell in the same flesh that we do. He relates to our longing, and He is present in the midst of it. So, when the ache seems unbearable and you can feel your heart stretching in your chest, turn to the One who aches that way for you. Take a moment to rest in Him, and let His desire for you console you. There will always be something new to desire, but He is constant even when everything else seems agonizing.
Allison Dale is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying human development & family science and anthropology. She converted to the Church in September, and she finds joy in hammocking, long walks, little flowers, and pretty words. Her greatest joy, however, is being "big C" Catholic. You can find more of her words here.