“Ask a Priest: A prayer of mine has been answered… How can I give back to God?”

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Q: I’m 19 years old. I was raised non-religiously since my mom is a fallen Catholic and my dad is Jewish. Recently I met a girl who made me happier than I was ever before in my life. I just enjoyed being around her. I usually find true love to be a silly and childish concept, but meeting her has made me rethink it. We spent the whole night talking. A few days later, I messaged her, but did not receive a response for a few days. During that time I was waiting for a response, I prayed to God. There was nothing more in the world I wanted than for her to respond. I’ve never prayed before, so I did not recite any prayers but knelt in silent spirituality wishing for God’s help. I told God I would swear myself to him and not doubt if she showed my similar interest. The next day I got a message from her that showed just that. I’m contacting you for guidance because I feel like I have to give back to God. Almost like I owe him. What should I do? -M.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your note and for sharing your experience. God has a time and moment when he draws each of us closer to himself. This might be such a moment for you.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the relationship between God and man simply, in No. 27: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.”

The situation described in your e-mail brings to mind a verse from the Bible: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Your affinity for your friend could be the beginning of a deep love, and now that you understand something about love, you are already understanding something about the Almighty. “God is love.”

We are made in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26). God is a Trinity: three divine Persons in one God. This is the central mystery of the Christian faith. And what have those three Persons been doing for all eternity? They have loved one another. And since we are made in God’s image, it’s no surprise that we too need to love and be loved.

Enough theology for now. If you want to give something back to God, then you might consider two tracks. One, respect and cherish this young woman. Treat her well. One of the best things you can do here is to live chastely in your relation with her. That will push you to discipline yourself and to see her first and foremost as a person – a person who, like you, carries the image of God.

The second thing would be to try to learn more about God. He speaks to us in the Bible, especially through his Son Jesus, in the Gospels. (He speaks to us too in the Old Testament, but I’ll caution you that the OT is a little harder to interpret. Some things will sound strange to someone in the 21th century; they have to be understood in context. But that’s another issue.)

Also, you might want to browse the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Its question-and-answer format might help you get a handle on what God teaches through his Church.

Beyond that, I would suggest you try to make time each day to pray. Don’t worry about what words you use right now. Just speak to God as a loving Father. He created you, loves you, and wants you with him forever in heaven.

(If you need some set prayers, then you might browse here. To get daily meditations you could go to this link and subscribe under the “Daily Prayer” box. A good book to complement the Gospels is The Better Part; it is also available as an app.)

Let me know if you have any more questions. I will pray that you find your way to God.

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