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in Prayer

In the Stillness

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The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting the mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and the after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken the covenant. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 1Kings 19:11-14

So often we are compelled to look for God in the “big” things of life. This reading reminds us that God actually dwells in the small things. His presence, unnoticed, unless we are intentional about noticing it – slowing down, turning off the noise. No grand gestures. No displays of divine magnitude. God doesn’t work that way at least not since Jesus. He comes in the stillness. In the silence. Humbly. He comes through prayer. It is not by accident that we are called to focus on prayer always but especially during Lent. As a school community, we are going to be slowing down our pace on purpose to engage the school in deep prayer each morning. We are purposefully using visualization exercises to connect each individual to Jesus in prayer. We hope that the practice will become habit. God lives in the stillness that prayer provides. Additionally, Elijah remains connected to God despite those around him falling away. Turning to God makes one feel less alone. Prayer is a balm for whatever ails us. God is there.

Praying Together

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When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them… when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” 

Like some of you, I have long held prayer as a private thing, to do by myself. Even Jesus goes off to pray by himself.   

That is not what Jesus is saying in this passage. This passage is a reminder that we should not be going through the motions with our faith. Being superficial is what Jesus means by “so that others may see them.”   

We are not excused from praying or sharing our faith in public. We are called to be authentic in our relationship with Christ. Christ didn’t shy away from performing miracles or even praying with others, and neither should we.

I cannot tell you how many times I have shared with someone something I have been struggling with, just to receive an anti-climactic “I’ll pray for you.” I was challenged three years ago to pray intentionally with others. I have seen the change it has made in my relationships. It can change your relationships too. 

Tags: prayer

God of Kept Promises

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“Hosanna!” It’s a word we say or sing at each Mass as the priest prepares to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. For many of us, it is most likely a word that gets overlooked, quickly gotten through as just another part of the Eucharistic prayer. But it means something quite specific and quite special, offering a key to understanding the truth about our God.

Hosanna can be translated as “Please save us” or “Please, Lord, come”. In the Eucharistic prayer, then, as we say “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of Your Glory, Hosanna in the highest…,” we are first glorifying God and then begging Him to come and save us.

And what happens after we do? He quite literally hears our prayer and comes! The priest, acting in the authority of Christ, the Head of the Church, initiates the transubstantiation, and Our Lord is really and truly present among us. We beg for Him, and He answers our prayers, showing us in a very real and beautiful way that our God is a God of kept promises. Ask and receive. Beg for Him and He will come.

“Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40:11)

Ever the Good Shepherd, God gathers us to Him. He cares for us; He feeds us, physically and spiritually.

During every age since the first day dawned after the Fall, our world has seemed a darkening place, where a separation exists between Creator and created, not His doing but ours. We perpetuate that separation every day with our venial and mortal sins, and despite our continuation in this life of sin, when we beg God for hear our prayers and come to us and the priest offers the sacrifice to the Father, Our Lord arrives, and does something so miraculous, unexpected and overwhelmingly loving: He elevates us from our mundane, sinful lives to ultimately share in something we can never earn and certainly do not deserve. As Fulton Sheen writes, “Everything in nature has to have communion in order to live; and through it what is lower is transformed into what is higher: chemical into plants, plants into animals, animals into man. And man? Should he not be elevated through communion with Him Who ‘came down’ from heaven to make man a partaker in the Divine nature?”.

This call-and-answer dialogue that occurs in each Mass shows unequivocally that our God is the God of kept promises, not solely in the past but in the present and we can trust, also in the future. It is in real time  that He keeps His promise - “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) - so that He is here, now. All we need to do is ask and we can receive.

With the dark circumstances that constantly surround us in this world, without this well-founded trust in God, without His daily Eucharistic miracles, despair would be a threat to each and every one of us, and perhaps might even be our ultimate and inevitable conclusion, certainly non-believers struggle deeply in trying times such as we’re in now - but as Christians, and specifically as Catholic Christians, we have the ultimate hope.

So the next time you’re at Mass and the Eucharistic prayer begins, remember that you are asking God to come and save you. And He is.

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