Monday, July 8, 2013
"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it"-Thoughts on Psalm 81:11
This past week at my parent's house there came the sound of loud chirping. I looked up to see a nest of house finches with three little birds, there mouths open wide to the sky. Those birds reminded me of the verse in scripture that says "open wide your mouth and I will fill it." How marvelous their trust, their expectation, that their parents would soon return with food. What a marvelous image of what we are to become if we are to be men and women of prayer. Fr Jean LaFrance was a French diocesan priest who wrote a lot about prayer. In his bookGive Me a Living WordLa France makes the bold assumption that "man's true nature is prayer." Hmmm. I suppose so. I never thought of it that way. By virtue of our baptism we are called to be "priests, prophets, and kings." Many people do not understand this. LaFrance has the following passage in his book that should help us understand. "What kind of man is the one who has reached the state of continuous prayer? He is the man alerted to the life of the Spirit in him. The deified man is not only in the act of praying, but he is in the state of prayer.....This is very important because man is prayer. His true nature is prayer. His true nature like the true nature of all things-ultimately, a tree, a mountain-is to be prayer. The mountain is a kind of prayer of the cosmos; that is why men build shrines on top of mountains. The entire earth is nourished by prayer. And in order that this prayer may spring forth, there must be men who put it into words and speak the meaning of the world. In other words, they are the priests who set free the prayer of the world. 'The liturgy is celebrated in churches, and the Holy Spirit dwells there. But may your soul also be the Church of God: to the one who prays incessantly, the whole world becomes a church.' (Silouane, p.30) You then become the priest of the world, the great celebrant of existence, able to render thanks even in the common labor of men, in art, science and technology. This is how you must pray the Canticle of the three children in the furnace and make the hymn of the universe rise up to the Father: the sun and the moon, the rain and the dew, the heat and the cold, the nights and the days, the heavens and the earth. And the psalm concludes with an invitation addressed to the priests, to the righteous, to the saints, and the humble of heart, that is to those who consecrate and consume their lives in prayer, as they offer he world to the Father through Jesus Christ. They liberate the prayer hidden in the heart of the world." I love that final phrase. The call to liberate the prayer hidden in the heart of the world is not for super spiritual people. It is for you and me. There was an old man who would sit in the church where St. John Vianney was pastor. The saint asked him one day-how do you pray? Easy, the old man replied, I look at him and he looks at me. Another image I enjoy is the image of St. Bernadette of Lourdes digging with her hands in the soil in obedience to the request of Our Lady. What she experienced was the ridicule of the crowds, but she kept digging and lo and behold, she found the spring, the hidden spring that contained the miraculous healing waters of Lourdes. Did not Jesus say "If someone thirsts let him come to me and let him drink, and I will give him living water. For whoever drinks the water given by the Samaritan woman (that of human happiness) will still thirst, but the one who drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty, and this water will become in him a spring of living water gushing up to eternal life." Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken about how the parish is to be a "school of prayer." Pope Benedict XVI even dedicated his Wednesday catecheses to this topic. Ignatius press has put these talks together in a book titled "School of Prayer." However, you do not learn how to pray from reading a book. You learn how to pray through prayer. You need a key, just as you need a key to start the engine of a car or to open the car. For purposes of prayer of the heart you can start simply be repeating the name of Jesus. Breathe in....Jesus....breathe out.....Jesus. Do it long enough and you may find your heart praying. You can do it by repeating a scripture verse...eg, "Your love is stronger than wine." You can pray the sinners prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner." Or, you can use the formula of Blessed Peter Favre, SJ who may soon be canonized, "Father, in the name of Jesus, give me your Spirit." Do not be discouraged. Our true nature is prayer. Are our mouths open like those three little birds....confident....trusting that we will get our daily bread. Pray, and you will become the priest of creation, you will liberate prayer that is hidden in the heart of the world, and not only will you be happy, you will be fulfilling your purpose, your mission, your God given destiny in this world. The Good News? This is free and it can be done anywhere by anyone. Why don't you begin now? "open wide your mouth and God will fill it."