The Catechism describes very beautifully the personal and covenantal communion with God in Christ – the communion that is for us to enter – called prayer. Outside of Christ, man hides from God, estranged from Him by the guilt of sin and the fear of Him that, in justice, arises in us because of our sin. But Christ came to save us from that estrangement, and He shows us on the Cross that we are loved by God “yes even that much.” Because of Him we are forgiven, and because of Him we are invited into the beatitude of divine communion. Jesus shows us on the Cross that He, God, calls to us as friend.
How is it then, that so much of the world – so much even of the “Christian” Western world – acts and lives and hides in hedonistic self-indulgence – as if God does not even exist? This is a mystery upon mystery! Upon the luminous mystery of God’s Self-sacrificial outpoured love for man yet in sin, is the dark mystery of man’s continued rejection of Him. Too many – even in the Church! – are too busy for God.
The Church is called to go, to proclaim God’s invitation, to announce His merciful compassion, to echo from mountain to valley the great news of forgiveness and of a new beginning for man – a new life. Yet the dark mystery continues! Even within the Church, the mystery of man’s self-preoccupations dim the luminance of the Gospel, and the Church turns not out to the fallen world that is so needful of His Good News, but she turns within, to programs and projects, to fundraisers and clubs, to dinners and bazaars and receptions of celebration of one another. Why is she this way? The Church exists to evangelize – but she hardly knows the word. Her work is worldly, because her prayer is worldly.
To share His good news, it must be alive in our own souls – it must be life itself to us! The Church was on fire in their own hearts, after the fire of Pentecost fell upon them. That fire spread. We need that fire today, and first of all we need to awaken and see how far from it we have lapsed.
We need our lives to be founded upon the communion of prayer with the living God – we need lives of personal relationship with Him, God the Holy Trinity. Such lives of prayer demonstrate what Jesus meant when He said, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” (Jn 15:4) Bearing fruit for the Lord – working works of worship in His name – depend on the reality or the falsity of that word applied to our lives: Do I remain in Him? Is my relationship with Him real, habitual, enduring, persisting? Or am I a part-time Christian? Is Jesus Christ my very life, my vocation – or is He a hobby for me?
Our prayer life grows and deepens exactly as our “knowing” of Him grows and deepens. Our prayer-communion with God is not based on a knowing-about God, but a knowing Him in a personal and increasingly intimate way. I want to write about prayer, because I see such a great need for deep and authentic prayer in the Church among the members: laity and clergy. The Church is called into a real and vital union with God! A shallow knowing merely about God will not do. A superficial and passing acquaintance with Him will not do. Every Catholic needs to meet God in Christ – coming “face-to-face” so to speak with Him – encountering Him on the holy ground of revealed truth – that a real relationship with Him can begin and can grow.
I know also that many Catholics want this vibrant, life-receiving relationship with Christ. Many want to have and to live a true, rich communion of prayer with Him. God wants that too, and He is very willing to pour forth His grace to enable that communion. So what is needed? To grow in prayer, we must pray. To advance, we must begin. To enter more deeply into His mystery, we must walk to the door, and knock. I’ll insert here a brief reminder that I did write about the grades of prayer, and how prayer does advance, in my book The Ordinary Path to Holiness. And other books are available. Many prayerful men and women in the Church have left a record for us, to help us learn, and grow. Are you willing to invest time in an investment with “guaranteed return”? The Lord promised that everyone who asks receives, who seeks finds, and who knocks will have the door opened for them. And His treasures beat the stock market every time!
This interior movement and growth – from real encounter with Him, to coming to know Him, to growing in that “friendship” that is communion – this is the journey of prayer, this is the path to holiness, this is the life of a disciple. Catholics, seek to meet Him in His Word, that a holy friendship can begin. He is our friend, truly and sincerely. He is life for us.