September 6th, 2011Immerse Yourselfby Abigail C. Reimel
I was watching a video on Catholic university’s website the other day. It was advertising the Catholic atmosphere on their campus. As the video ended, the words, “Take a deep breath, and immerse yourself,” slowly appeared on the screen, and then faded to black. I sat there staring at the blank monitor, those words resonating in my mind. It’s a very unique concept, immersing yourself in a religion as if it were a beautiful, deep lake just begging you to dive in and soak yourself. But the lake isn’t full of water, it’s full of love. And all you have to do is jump.
Yet, like any lake, it has its dangers. In water, some vicious fish might bite your skin, tear your limbs. In this lake, you leave your body behind and your soul swims free. There may be things you cling to, taking up the space the love is trying to fill. So, the love will push those things away; take them from you, to make room for Him. You may clutch your precious possessions close to you, but then you will sink to the bottom. And, in an attempt to save yourself, you will pull yourself out of the lake, wrapping your body around you like a towel. And you will tread the lake shore—determined not to give up your habits, your guilty pleasures.
But the shore is not nice, like the lake. It is filled with broken shells other souls have left there—forsaking them so they can swim. You look around the shore and notice people who have also chosen the land—the physical. Their feet are completely stripped of the skin, but still their hearts remain hardened. Across the shore you notice a small hut, and painfully you walk to it, hoping to find relief from the thorny ground. You enter apprehensively, and a bright light fills your eyes. You walk in and see a man sitting there with long, dark hair, a beard, and shining eyes. You stammer unintelligibly; you hadn’t expected this.
“Hello,” the man says, his voice is calm—yet mysteriously powerful. You start trying to leave, muttering stunned apologies, but his voice stops you.
“You do not need to leave. Come talk to me, what are you looking for?” He doesn’t sound angry, he almost sounds compassionate, and so you hesitate.
“I—I was… I was just looking for a place to rest my feet,” you feel foolish now, but the pain shooting up your legs gives you the courage to ask, “Do you have any shoes I could borrow, until my feet heal?” The man smiles gently, gesturing to a bed.
“Come, rest. Tell me what happened,” You slowly enter the room, and notice that the ground in the hut is dirt, swept clean of sharp things. In the corner you notice a pile of cracked stones and shells. You ignore the huge pile for now, and sit on the edge of the bed.
“I tried to swim in the lake, but I sank to the bottom. I managed to get myself back on shore, but once I started walking, the debris on the beach cut my feet. So I came here, looking for help,” you lower your eyes and start examining your injuries, grateful for the distraction.
“Did you like walking around the shore?” the man asks. At first, you think this is a trick question, but the man doesn’t show any signs of cruelty or sarcasm.
“No. Don’t you see what it did to my feet?” you ask him, holding up one of the bloody specimens for him to see. His brow creases with concern and he takes your foot in his hand, moving his chair closer to yours and setting the abused feet in his lap. You hesitate as his white robe starts to turn red, but he cradles your feet tenderly and asks,
“If the shore hurt you so much, why didn’t you go back to the lake?”
“Because,” you falter, “I didn’t want to sink again,”
“Weren’t other souls swimming freely?” He inquires, looking straight into your eyes. You begin to feel uncomfortable, but his gaze compels you to answer honestly.
“Yes. But, I didn’t want to give up my belongings. The lake tried to fill me up, and I wasn’t ready,” the explanation that had made so much sense to you moments before now sounded pathetic, and you blush with embarrassment.
“The people who were swimming, did they look unhappy?” He poses this question without looking at you; he’s too busy staring at your feet. You think he’s hiding a smile. You answer quietly,
“No, they looked joyful. They were calm, content, peaceful. Their faces were glowing. Actually,” you say suddenly—you’re beginning to realize something, “they remind me of you. They weren’t exactly like you, it’s almost like they were reflections of you.” A great warmth begins to spread over your body, and you can’t help but smile. Your feet, which seconds before had been a mess of torn flesh, are healing rapidly; new flesh is replacing the old right before your eyes.
“Those people,” the man starts to say, “are my children. They have given up their selfishness, pride, and greed. They have given up themselves to me, for me, trusting my will for them above all else. And because they have placed themselves totally within me, they don’t need to hold onto anything anymore. All they have is mine, and all I have belongs to them,” he lifts his head to look at you again, and this time he doesn’t try to hide the smile beaming from his face. “You, my son, are my child as well. And I called you to the lake. That lake is my love for you. Please, release your worries, cares, and willpower. Relax your grip; let me take care of you.”
Tears are streaming down your face now. Ecstasy is overtaking you, because you just noticed that the hands that completely healed your feet are irregular; there is a huge hole in the middle of each of the palms. You look up at his face again, and the light radiating from it drives you to your knees. You touch your forehead to his wounded feet, begging him to forgive you for insulting him. An intense pain takes you, and you claw at your chest, moaning. Lovingly he lifts your head, wipes your tears, and takes your hand and the pain leaves you. He leads you to the edge of the lake; your feet don’t suffer one scratch. Smiling, he nods toward the huge body of water. You don’t need any more encouragement, you understand. You take a deep breath, and then you jump. He watches you swim away, then slowly walks back to his hut. He picks up the broom leaning on the wall and sweeps the broken stones you left behind into the corner with all the others. Occasionally, you return to the hut, tempted to ask for the fragments back. But every time He reminds you of His love, and for the rest of your life you know He’s always going to be there for you.
This is what the video meant when it invited it’s viewers to “Breathe Catholic”. Christ is calling all of us, every time we go to Mass to receive the Eucharist, to take a deep breath and allow ourselves to be lost in Him.
So go ahead, immerse yourself.