Monday, December 2, 2013
It is possible to live for an entire lifetime, spiritually immature. It is possible to live in a dream world, as if bad stuff only happens to other people, as if personal choices had no consequences, as if Almighty God, was rather like a benign Santa Clause, morally neutral, making no demands upon our lives, who smiles even in the face of gross immorality and deliberate sin. The scripture readings appointed for the last days of the old liturgical year and these first days of Advent are absolutely filled with dire warnings about the consequences of such foolish thinking. Their bracing message is almost like an insistent drumbeat, hammering home over and over again, the same challenging warnings.
Life is always radically insecure. Time is always a limited treasure. Sickness and wars trouble and disasters certainly even death itself, are always a part of the human condition. So God’s Word challenges both the young and old, to stay awake and be alert. Watch and pray because we do not know, the time nor the hour, when the Lord will suddenly break into our lives and demand an accounting for our actions.
Friday, November 29, 2013
A valued and venerated prayer in our Catholic tradition is the Rosary. Our own Fulton J. Sheen once compared the experience of saying the Rosary to that of making music. Like playing an instrument, praying the Rosary is a tactile experience as we pass the beads through our fingers. Like music, we hear the sound of the words we speak taken almost entirely from the scriptures, and emotionally experience the mysteries these words recall to memory. The Rosary can make space in our busy day for God to speak to our hearts, even when we are tired and distracted. The words of the Rosary, like the words of love, again and again repeat those truths that give us hope and reassurance.
I would like to share a few thoughts about quiet prayer and contemplation. Have you ever noticed the way we usually relate quite differently with a stranger than with a close friend or loved one. With a stranger, for the sake of politeness, we must always keep a conversation going. Silence might indicate boredom or disinterest, so we usually chatter on about the weather, politics, or sports. When we are alone with someone we know and love, however, words may become unnecessary. Silently sharing a journey, a work, or just a few precious moments together can become an opportunity for quiet intimacy and communion. Confidence in a relationship, a deep commitment to the other, and the experience of being cherished may signify a growing love that finally is too deep for words. In the same way, one can be completely quiet and yet remain entirely intent upon the Lord. The more we know God when we are alone, silent, and recollected, the more of God we will desire. According to our Catholic tradition, ordinary believers, not just monks, nuns, and mystics, are all called by God in many different ways to share in this awesome spiritual reality. In fact, without tasting the goodness of the Lord, all our religious practice and even all our commitment to service becomes merely an outward show without any inward conviction or reality.
And so let us pray as Mary prayed, when she held in her heart those things she did not understand. Let us pray faithfully like our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, when in our own lives we know darkness, fear, discouragement, and spiritual dryness. Let us pray like Peter prayed with tears of repentance after he had denied his Lord. Let us also pray in moments of exultation and thanksgiving when God may enkindle our hearts and illuminate our minds with the consolation of His love. Let us pray in the Holy Spirit who pleads on our behalf with words that may not be spoken. Let us pray together when we are assembled in our churches; let us pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament; let us pray in the Liturgy and in our devotions; let us pray with our families and friends; let us pray alone in our inner rooms with the door shut. Let us pray for ourselves, for one another, for our beloved dead and for all the faithful departed, for those who have no one else to pray for them, and even for our enemies. According to the Lord’s own example and as He commanded, let us pray always, so that we may know, love, and serve God here on earth, and in eternity enter into that Beatific Vision for which we were all created.