Do you believe in God?
Yes, I do.
But do you believe him?
Our Scripture from today’s Sunday Mass reading is the beloved, and well known, Psalm 23—The Lord is my Shepherd. The psalm describes our Lord as the compassionate and merciful God who he is. In verdant pastures he gives me repose. He refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths. He is at my side, even though I walk in a dark valley. My cup overflows. He spreads the table before me in the sight of my foes. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
I believe him. I believe he loves me and sees me as the unique and beautiful person he created. I believe in the verdant pastures, of course: I have rested in them. I have a wall in my home displaying the fourteen faces of my children—my cup overflows. My husband holds me in his arms; in and through our sacrament, his rod and staff give us courage; he anoints us with oil. I have seen evil, lost loved ones, lived suffering, yet, I fear no evil, for the Lord is at my side.
In the Gospel of Mark read today, the Lord invites the apostles to come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while. He knew they were going to encounter more people when they arrived at their destination, yet he invited them to rest awhile in a deserted place. .
Where is my deserted place? In the home filled with life and activity? Am I ever alone? I think about my mantra, “Every minute a prayer, every moment to love.” I have a deserted place, a place where only I can be—my heart. And this place is mine alone, but it is also where I encounter the Lord. Just the two of us, in my deserted place, which is also a verdant pasture, beside restful waters, where he has led me, and where my soul is refreshed; I fear no evil for he is at my side; he protects me with his rod and staff; he gives me courage.
My life raising a large family, homeschooling, facing hardships, has never not heard the call to come away by yourself to a deserted place and rest a while. Often, I would be flippant with a “Seriously?” or more likely ignore it, stuck in the “How could I?”
Now I understand the difference between believing in God and believing him. I think I took the long way around to get to this deserted place, which is a verdant green pasture, beside restful waters. For many of us, prayer happens throughout the day, in our quiet space within the heart. Today I am reminded of the Lord as my Shepherd, and I pray his psalm, over and over and over.
Only goodness and kindness follow me. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, for he is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.