Accepting the Gospel's challenge
What is the challenge of the Gospel? Perhaps it is the invitation to accept a gift for which we can give nothing in return. The gift is the life-breath of God -- the spirit who is poured out on us through Jesus Christ. This life-breath frees us from fear and gives us room to live.
The person who prayerfully goes about his life is always ready to receive the breath of God allowing his life to be renewed and expanded. Someone who never prays, on the contrary, is like the child with asthma. He is short-winded. He creeps in a corner gasping for air. But the person who prays opens himself to God freely breathing again. He stands upright, stretches out his hands and he's free to boldly stride through the world fearlessly. That's what anyone can do when he accepts the gift of prayer.
There's the prayer of great faith and little faith. The prayer of little faith is where you depend on what's concrete for security. The prayer of little faith is filled with wishes wanting immediate fulfillment. This prayer eliminates the possibility for hope because you want to be certain about what is uncertain and you start thinking in terms of one bird in the hand is better than more in the bush. Your aim is getting what you ask for any way you can, instead of being directed toward God to make that wish come true. All the attention is on the gift rather than the one who gives it, God.
To appreciate and communicate God's breathe within us we have to enter into solitude. There we can unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and greediness and discover in our center that we're not what we conquer and achieve, but what is given us. We can listen to Jesus and discover that being is more important than having. We're worth more than the result of our efforts. Life is a gift to be shared rather than a possession to defend. In silence we recognize the healing words we speak are those that God gives to us. Love we express is part of God's love.
If we become silent and contemplative we can see the central things in life that can be overlooked by the inattentive, busy, distracted person that we can become. The contemplative looks not so much around things but through them going to the center. There he finds spiritual beauty. The beauty of physical matter is a reflection of its inner content. Consequently we have to become quiet and listen to God then God will hear and answer our prayers.
Look at your hands. Being touched by a human hand is consoling. It waits for the touch of another hand. It can create and destroy, caress and strike, be welcoming or condemning. One of the most life giving images is human hands reaching out to each another. The hand of the poor reaches for help and the hand of the charitable reaches to help -- all helping lift another's burdens. God can lighten our burdens, when we stretch out and clasp hands.
When we're in trouble we ask Jesus to help us and wipe away our tears, but do we invite him in? It's one of the characteristics of our society that although we maintain relationships, they seldom become deep relationships. Our life is filled with good advice, ideas and perspectives, but they leave us uncommitted. Only with an invitation to "come and stay with me" can an interesting encounter develop into a transforming relationship. When we pray do we say: "I've heard you Lord, my heart is changing -- please come into my home and see where and how I live!" Jesus is gentle and kind. Invite him into your home and God will answer your prayers. Your burdens will indeed be lightened.
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.