The message of these readings today seemed to me to be an encouragement to each and all of us to become more prayerful. By that, I don’t mean that we should say more Rosaries or Novenas or Our Fathers or Hail Marys; I mean that we should work at cultivating a constant awareness of the presence of God in us and then evermore communicate with that hidden God in good times and in bad.
We are accustomed to making time for prayer: for many of us that began with our mothers having us kneel at our bedside and thank God for the gifts of life and love and all the good persons that filled our life. Mother suggested that we ask God’s blessing on ourselves and those with whom we were bound with ties of love. She taught us to ask for God’s forgiveness for any wrongs we may have done that day and also God’s help for those with special needs, etc.
Nothing wrong with that, for sure. But there’s another kind of prayer that I think ranks above it: the prayer of ongoing consciousness that God is with us always and that conversation with that Divine Presence is always possible and always beneficial to ourselves and to those we pray for.
That’s what St. Paul has in mind, I feel certain, when he says to the new Christians in Ephesus (today’s second reading) that they must put away the old self of their former way of life…and put on the new self created in God’s way. That does not suggest a one-time, total, instantaneous transformation, but rather commitment to a process that absorbs the person gradually over a lifetime. It suggests the ongoing conversation, previously mentioned, between the person and the God present within him or her.
When things are going well, when we have no major crosses to bear, this prayerful conversation is a pure delight. But when, instead, our burdens remain with us, causing us pain and exhaustion, our faith in the ever-present God may be severely tested. And that’s when and where we need the example of the saints.
Saints are those people who, when the bottom of their lives has dropped out, lift themselves up again to the crucified and risen Jesus and ask that the drama of his death and resurrection be played out once more in them. They are able to do this because they have such a strong sense of the power of God’s very present love for them. They are the ones who say, “This is the chaos, the ugly raw material, the formless mass, out of which new life can and will come if I just allow the loving Spirit of God to enter it.”
That said, I wish you that kind of faith and the joy it ultimately brings.