One of the first places we can find ourselves surprised by God is in our prayer time.
As you pray, open your heart to the love of the Father. Sit quietly with him and allow him to pour his love into your heart until it overflows from there to others. You might find your plans for the day confirmed, revised, or redirected. You will find yourself astonished anew by the gentle and kind way that God wants to share his love and plans with you.
At the Meeting with Young People in Manila, Philippines in January 2015, Pope Francis spoke of the surprises that await those who follow the Lord with hearts open to his love:
“True love is both loving and letting oneself be loved. It is harder to let ourselves be loved than it is to love. That is why it is so hard to achieve the perfect love of God, because we can love him but the important thing is to let ourselves be loved by him.”
True love is being open to that love which was there first and catches us by surprise. If all you have is information, you are closed to surprises. Love makes you open to surprises. Love is always a surprise, because it starts with a dialogue between two persons: the one who loves and the one who is loved.
We say that God is the God of surprises, because he always loved us first and he waits to take us by surprise. God surprises us. Let’s allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Let’s not have the psychology of a computer, thinking that we know everything. What do I mean? Think for a moment: the computer has all the answers: never a surprise. In the challenge of love, God shows up with surprises.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
Think of St. Matthew. He was a good businessman. He also betrayed his country because he collected taxes from the Jews and paid them to the Romans. He was loaded with money and he collected taxes. Then Jesus comes along, looks at him and says: “Come, follow me.” Matthew couldn’t believe it. . . .
That morning, when Matthew was going off to work and said goodbye to his wife, he never thought that he was going to return in a hurry, without money, to tell his wife to prepare a banquet. The banquet for the one who loved him first, who surprised him with something important, more important than all the money he had.
So let yourselves be surprised by God! Don’t be afraid of surprises, afraid that they will shake you up. They make us insecure, but they change the direction we are going in. True love makes you “burn life,” even at the risk of coming up empty-handed. Think of Saint Francis of Assisi: he left everything, he died with empty hands, but with a full heart.
Ask God, “What do you have for me today? What are you trying to teach me, say to me, bestow on me today?” And then prepare yourself to be surprised—by his response in your heart and mind, or through the events, possibly unexpected or surprising, during the day.
—excerpted from Don’t Be Afraid to Say Yes to God! Pope Francis Speaks to Young People, by Fr. Mike Schmitz, The Word Among Us Press, 2018. Available at wau.org/books