How Much Do You Really Want Me?
“Can we go to daily Mass every day this week?”
The question floated sweetly to my ears on a whisper from my oldest child’s lips.
I glanced down at her face, radiating with innocent joy, as she looked up at me, hopeful that I might say yes.
At that time, we were going through a rough spell. The kids rarely listened to my voice, let alone obeyed it. They constantly bickered and fought with each other. Not to mention, I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and the only thing I’d done for myself was sit on the couch for a couple minutes when sickness knocked me off my feet.
Just thinking about taking all the kids to Mass by myself made the nausea churn in my stomach.
But when the question came, my soul hungered for the Eucharist.
How could I say no to her request?
The next morning, we were dressed and out the door early, armed with water cups, snacks and the naive confidence that I. Could. Do. This.
The two oldest followed me into the sanctuary and we all genuflected in front of the tabernacle before sliding into our typical seats in the first pew.
So far, so good.
I let out a sigh of relief. Maybe I really could do this.
The ceremony began. Father processed down the aisle. Everyone sung a beautiful hymn.
And then my two-year-old went crazy. He bucked and kicked, screamed and hit, as though we were there for his own personal exorcism.
But I couldn’t take him out into the narthex and leave my two girls sitting in the pew. And I definitely didn’t want to do the walk of shame with ALL my children from the front of the sanctuary to the back. So, I wrestled my toddler, shushing into his ear, praying to God that he would calm down.
But apparently even God couldn’t hear me above the demonic noises we were making.
At that point, my youngest daughter realized she could take advantage of my situation and start picking fights with her sister. And, in the span of one of my racing heartbeats, we became a crazy, uncontrollable circus.
Internally, I threw up the white flag and cursed Confident Me for thinking this could ever be possible.
The back of my neck flushed beneath everyone’s stares, their eyes singeing my skin with scorn.
Why would she bring those children here if she can’t control them?
I can’t hear a thing the priest is saying.
They should have stayed at home. They’re ruining the Mass for everyone else.
Of course, no one actually said those things. It was only Satan whispering in my ear. (But man, sometimes he sounds so believable.)
So I sat in my seat, dodging my son’s bucking head and flying fists, blotting the sweat on my forehead and focusing all my energy on holding back the tears that threatened to pour down my cheeks. After all, the only thing that would be more humiliating is if I started crying, for goodness sakes.
And then our sweet, sweet priest stopped mid-homily and looked directly at me.
“Thank you for bringing your children to Mass today,” he said in his gentle, loving way. Into his microphone. For all to hear.
Couldn’t he see that I was trying NOT to cry?
The rest of the Mass went by in a blur. Literally. Tears piled high, testing the strength of my eyelids and my stubborn will.
Afterwards, several ladies approached us, thanking me for bringing my kids to Mass, assuring me that it’s okay if they make noise.
I thanked them with a quick nod and then rushed out the door, on the verge of losing the battle with my emotions.
When we got to the car, my four-year-old daughter whined about not getting to go to the park—their treat for doing well in Mass.
That was it. Battle lost. Tears came flooding down uncontrollably as I wallowed in my failure. Failure to control my kids. Failure to bear embarrassment and humiliation. Failure to go to Mass with my kids. Failure to do anything with my kids that could possibly fill me up.
Inside, I kicked Confident Me. Clearly, she was a big, fat liar.
I couldn’t do this. Not now, not ever.
But still, the hunger for the Eucharist lingered. I knew I needed it now—in my weakness—more than ever. But never again could I go through what I had just endured.
I simply wasn’t strong enough.
So I wept all the way home as my children stared at me, silent—for once—and absolutely horrified. Never before had they seen their mom cry. And boy was she unleashing it now.
When we got home, I told the kids I needed some time to myself, and then I shut myself in my closet and cried more. (Did I mention I was super first-trimester pregnant?)
All alone, I lamented to Jesus about how badly I wanted the Eucharist, but how I just couldn’t do it. Not with children.
Then, to my astonishment, Jesus replied.
“How much do you really want Me?” He asked. “Enough to be humiliated? You were worth the humiliation to Me.”
Until that point, I realized, my answer was no.
No, I did not want Him enough to be humiliated.
No, I did not want Him enough to have to work to receive Him in the Eucharist.
No, I did not want Him enough to endure scornful looks.
No, He was not worth the sweat, the tears, the embarrassment.
But after being called out, I realized that my answer—like Mary’s—must be yes.
The next day, I took my children to Mass again. Then again the day after that, and the day after that. On average, we try to make it three times each week.
Some days my kids participate, singing, kneeling, and responding as they ought. Some days my son sings the Alleluia louder than the entire congregation put together. Some days, my youngest daughter asks if she can offer a prayer request during the Prayers of the Faithful. My heart explodes on those days, as I thank God for the works He is doing in my children through the gift of the Mass.
Other days, my kids bicker and fight. Those days my son runs down the pew and I have to chase him down and wrestle him back to our seat. Those days I get poked in the face. A lot. One day, my son even discovered that his finger fits perfectly inside my ear.
Yet somehow, I now look forward to those harder days.
Then, as I kneel before the Eucharist, I can offer Him my humiliation, my embarrassments, and my weak, tired body. It is then that I can truly show Jesus how much I really want Him.
And only then—when I am at my weakest—can I truly taste rich sweetness of the Bread of Life.