Feeling homesick for God
A Reflection for the Optional Memorial of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, virgin
Find today’s readings here.
At that time Jesus answered:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike (Mt 11:25).
When I was in elementary school, I used to get stomach aches when it had been more than a month or so since my last confession. I remember going to my parent’s bedroom at night to ask for Tums, and when they would ask me what was wrong, I was too embarrassed to tell them the real reason. I’d try to drop hints about going to confession into normal conversations, and we would eventually make our way over to St. Agnes.
I doubt my soul was ever in great mortal danger when I was in third grade, and I quickly grew out of this phase when I entered middle school (and began doing things worth confessing). But I was reminded of this visceral piety of my youth by today’s Gospel. Jesus says that God has hidden his truths from “from the wise and the learned” but revealed himself “to the childlike.” Some might see my affliction as an unhealthy side effect of that famous “Catholic guilt.” I sometimes miss, however, having a faith that was simple, yes, but also so deeply felt, even in my stomach. When Mark describes Jesus being “moved to compassion” elsewhere in the Gospels, a more literal translation would be that he was “moved in his guts.”
When we truly love someone, that love does not only live in your mind but pervades your entire being; it moves your guts. The feeling I had when I thought it had been too long since my last confession was the same feeling I had when I went to my first overnight Girl Scout camp and missed my parents. As I got older, I no longer got homesick even as I spent longer and longer amounts of time away from my parents. And I also lost some of the homesickness I used to feel when I spent away from God, in the confessional and in prayer. This reading from Matthew is a reminder that we should always try to recover our childlike qualities, to be quick to tears and love and the occasional stomach ache.