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Feelings and Faith

We Americans like our feelings.  We spend a lot of time talking about them, wallowing in them, protecting them and exploring them.  We post them on Facebook, buy cars because of a promise from the manufacturer that a certain brand will make us feel a certain way, flip pages in magazines searching for articles and products that will make us feel better about ourselves, our lives, our families.

Feelings are fine, but they often don't matter much.  In fact, sometimes, they don't matter at all.

When I was teaching high school religion, I often told my students,  "If you don't remember anything else I teach you, remember this:  love is not a feeling.  It's an action.  It's what you are willing to do for the good of another."

My case in point was often an example like this:  It's 3 a.m.  You are woken from a sound sleep from you daughter or son who, standing next to your bed, says, "I'm sick."  Do you FEEL like getting up and taking care of the little person?  Probably not.  Your inclination is to stay in bed, cozy and warm.  But what do you do?  If you love your child, you get up and take care of him or her.  You act, not on the feeling, but in order to do good for another.

We all have things we must do in our lives that are done - not because we FEEL like it - but because we act out of love, duty, honor, decency, faith.  What else would drive a firefighter INTO a burning building, when every human instinct is to run out?  Why else does a wife visit her husband every day in the nursing home, despite the fact that her spouse, with Alzheimer's, seems to have no idea who she is?

Right now, I am not "feeling" Lent.  Or rather, I'm feeling Lent way too much.  My whole existence seems penitential.  I have given up, sacrificed, played out and prayed out every which way for months, for years.  The latest situation with Dark-Haired Daughter has left me bereft, and God feels very, very far away.  I don't even feel like praying.

But I do.

Yes, sometimes it is just "going through the motions".  But my intent is good:  to give glory and honor to God...even though I don't FEEL like it.  I don't FEEL like praying the Mass right now.  In fact, I FEEL just the opposite.  But I do.  I don't FEEL like offering up any sacrifice, as it seems that I have given everything, and there is nothing left.  But I do.

Why?  Because our Faith is not built on feelings, but on a relationship, and a relationship with Christ Jesus.  No matter what I FEEL, my Faith requires action: prayer, sacrifice, penance, meditation, and all the virtues. 

Despite my feelings of God being very far away, He is not.  He is right here, with me in the loneliness, pain and anger my family is experiencing.  What I feel is not all that important right now.  The only thing that matters now is Faith.

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