Sunday, September 30, 2012

Be Challenged

Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. . . .  For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin. -St. John Chrysostom

This past week thanks to the Scriptures and our house superior here in Rome, Msgr. Kelly, I was confronted with two questions that challenged me to reflect deeper. These two challenges can impact the life of any believer, thus, I wish to share them with all of you. The first challenge: Do I put God above ALL things in my life? The second challenge: What keeps me from putting God above ALL things and do I have the courage to CUT IT OUT of my life?

Wow, talk about challenging questions. At first, my immediate response to the two questions is 100% yes! I would desperately like to believe that God is above all else in my life and that I have the courage to cut out anything that comes between God and me. However, in all honesty and upon further reflection, I have to admit unfortunately, the answer is no, not always. Those two questions confront me to more concretely ask myself, "What else do I put before God?" and "Why is it so hard to cut it out of my life?"

Each of us in our journey of faith need to be confronted with tough questions so as to not remain stagnate nor too lax. We are confronted day in and day out with distractions that keep us from putting God above all things. Some of those distractions are not necessarily evil or wrong, nevertheless, they can remain an obstacle that does not enhance our relationship with God.

Oh, how I wish it was so easy as the Gospel calls us to cut it off or to pluck it out of our lives. But then again if it were easy to do so, perhaps it isn't as much as an obstacle as we may believe. Yet, if it is difficult, will I have the courage and the trust to remove it from my life? Is it worth losing our eternal reward as the Gospel reminds us, it is better to enter into life crippled than to be thrown into Gehenna (Mk 9:47-48). Is anything in this life worth losing our eternal inheritance? I would imagine we would all say no, yet, many times we continue not to put God above all things! We continue to allow the distractions of this world to come between God and us.

So, what are we to do? Do we throw are hands in the air and give up? Do we really believe it just isn't possible? The answer to these questions is not easy, but there is really only one answer, PRAYER. Prayer has to be much more than petition. We cannot just simply allow prayer to be a list of needs that we have for God! Sure God tells us to ask for what we need, but it cannot be reduced to that alone. Prayer is about relationship and communication with our God. Prayer is about reminding ourselves who is God and who we are before God's presence. Prayer helps us to connect and thus be able to trust that God's grace will give us the strength to live for God alone. Living for God alone doesn't isolate us, rather, it enhances our gifts and enables us to greater respond to our call from God. Prayer reminds us it will all be okay and that when we put God first, rather than our desires or emotions, we will encounter greater joy, purpose, and meaning for our lives.

It may come as I surprise to some but I too don't always "feel" like praying. But I am sure a mom doesn't always "feel" like waking up at 3am for a crying baby nor a father always "feel" like working 12 hour days to provide for his family. Yet, the mother and father do and we must because love isn't only about "feelings" it is much about sacrifice. And it is in sacrifice that one can in unexpected ways encounter joy, purpose and meaning in their life.

Catechism of the Church

2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2727 We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of "this present world" can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the "love of beauty" (philokalia), is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life.

2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have "great possessions," we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

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