Dear Friends in Christ:
Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming!
But Jesus is already here!
It is easy, especially at this time of year, to lose the forest for all of the trees. The entire point of Jesus’ coming into our world, abiding with us throughout our lives and His coming again in glory at the end of time, is to connect with us and to show us the Father’s love! The incarnation and nativity of our Lord 2000 years ago and his Second Coming mean little if we miss the opportunity to know, love and serve Jesus here and now. Knowing Jesus as only a figure from history, being a believer or not, and coming face to face with the Lord at the Final Judgement are both positions we really don’t want to be in if we do not have a personal relationship with Him! In the Prayer Over the Offerings in the Funeral Mass, the Church prays for the deceased, “we beseech your mercy that N., who did not doubt your Son to be a loving Savior, may find in Him a merciful Judge!” It is the real, concrete, personal relationship that we have with Him here, today, while we are living between Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago and His judgement of the world that is the determining factor for us. In other words, we have lots of people who know about Jesus and a lot fewer who actually know Jesus as their “loving Savior”!
Over the years I have been amazed by how many people are raised in the Church, attend CCE or Catholic Schools, get Confirmed, go to Mass regularly, get married and raise their kids in the Church, serve their neighbors, do good things, live morally and ethically and yet never pray! Really pray! They can repeat the Our Father and Hail Mary and maybe a few other prayers, but they are repeating – not praying. The words are on their lips and maybe even in their minds, but they have never or seldom let the words penetrate their hearts. They come to Mass, know the responses, listen attentively and respectfully to the readings and prayers but that is it. Oh, how my heart aches for these good people! But even more so, how much Jesus aches and longs for them. So close and yet so far away.
Reading and reciting are good. They are helpful and even a necessary part of our prayer, but reading and reciting are not the totality or essence of prayer. Prayer is a conversation. It is a conversation of love. It is a conversation of hearts, it is heart speaking to heart, cor ad cor loquitor! We speak with our hearts and from our hearts to Jesus and we allow him to speak from His heart to ours. Sometimes, our prayer is as simple as “I love you Jesus!” or “Lord, I am afraid and don’t know what to do, please help me”, or “Good night Lord!” At other times, it is “Thank You for loving me and letting me love you!” While still at other times, it is us just rambling on with the mundane events of our day. Most essential is that we don’t do all of the talking. Jesus wants His time too! When we quiet down a bit and still ourselves, we can hear His voice. We can hear the voice of Jesus in our hearts as He speaks to us in the scriptures, we can hear His voice as we unclutter the many distractions and worries that can fill the spaces of our minds. We can hear His voice in the silence of our hearts as we experience and feel His peace, His assurance and His love.
The words of the Mass take on their greatest power when they become the words of our heart and are part of that on-going conversation that we have with the Lord from when we wake up in the morning until sleep conquers us at night. Living, loving, talking, listening and just being with Jesus, knowing that He is with us in our every breath and heartbeat is our daily prayer. That is the spiritual oxygen that gives us life, strength, joy and peace. That is the life of prayer.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately