“My eyes are always on the Lord,
For He rescues my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and have mercy on me,
For I am alone and poor.”
It’s been said over and over in the last few days – we are living in strange times. No matter which side of the information overload you find yourself on, one thing is certain – these are uncharted waters. Uncharted waters frighten us and we often look for safety in things that are comforting – family, friends, sharing meals together and perhaps most importantly going to Mass and receiving Jesus. Right now the only one of those things we can do is stay home with family, and this is a great time to unplug and spend time in the presence of each member of our families at home with us. Since everything else seems to have been taken away we might become even more frightened (or bored) and turn to things that are unhealthy – bad things on our devices, information overload on our devices, eating or drinking too much and being mad at God, or just distant from Him.
But none of these things will bring us any comfort and will in fact push us further away from God, which is exactly what the enemy is hoping we will do. All things ultimately come from God, and whether God is punishing the world with this virus or just allowing it, doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we respond.
Jesus is the master of rough waters. He can calm our hearts just as He calms the waters in Matthew 8:
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ 26 And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27 They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’
Jesus asks the disciples why they are afraid, because they are with Him. When we are with Jesus, no matter the circumstance, we have no reason to fear. This is how the martyrs in the early Church were able to face death without fear and with love in their hearts and on their lips. This is how St Paul endured so many trials and hardships and yet remained strong and courageous – He was close to Jesus. This is how the Saints and martyrs through the ages have endured persecution, torture and death with loving attitudes, loving minds and loving hearts – they are so close to Jesus that He fills their hearts and they become mini-Christs in the world. When we keep our eyes on Jesus everything else falls away except His love for us and our love for Him.
Does this sound too hard for you and me? If we are truly close to Christ then this call to incredible love is not too hard, in fact it becomes a joy. Christ loved those who tortured, mocked and killed Him. He even asked His Father to forgive them as He hung on the Cross in agony! When we grow in intimacy with Jesus, we will be able to have this same kind of incredible love to share in the world – even in dark and uncertain times like the ones we find ourselves in now.
But how, you may ask, do we draw so close to Jesus?
The sacraments and prayer.
Since the Church is not having public masses right now that leaves us with confession (still available at some parishes) and prayer.
And we can all pray.
And we can all pray! And keep our eyes on Jesus.
Last week I suggested the prayer method called Discovery Prayer or Lectio Divina. And the key is be praying daily at the same time and for at least ten minutes. Another helpful hint to strengthen your daily prayer time is have a special or sacred place where you pray. That can be a favorite chair or corner of the sofa with an image of Jesus (you can print one you like) or a crucifix and perhaps a candle.
At the same time every day, in our sacred space, we use the five R method of reading the daily Gospel.
Read, Reflect, Respond, Rest, and Resolve.
When we spend time with the Gospels praying this way, we will grow closer to Jesus. We will know who He is, how He lived here on Earth, His teachings, how He related to others, how He loved others and also hear his Wisdom. In the reading of the Gospels a relationship will develop in the time spent reflecting and sitting in silence waiting for and listening to God. This relationship takes time and it takes showing up every day, but if we do this we will grow towards God and our hearts will open to Him. We will see the world differently and our eyes will be opened also – to see the world the way God does, with love and mercy.
If we are to be effective in forming a daily prayer habit three things are necessary: humility, confidence and attention. If we are humble we know that God is God and we are not. As God the Father said to St Catherine of Siena in prayer: “You are she who is not, I AM HE WHO IS.” Humility helps us get things in the right order, God first and everything else after Him. Developing our relationship with Him in prayer becomes a priority in our day.
Confidence is trusting God. It flows from knowing that God is in control and has a plan and that we can trust Him to guide the relationship in prayer. We don’t have to worry about praying perfectly, or just the right way. We show up and pray with the Gospels and God leads. Keep it simple and trust God.
Finally, paying attention in prayer is important as we grow in our prayer life. We all struggle with distractions. Everyone does, even the Saints did. The question is, what do you do when the distractions come? We just release the distracting thoughts and return to our conversation with God. We don’t fret or beat ourselves up because we are distracted. We come back to God’s Presence. In fact, every time we release the distraction and return to God, we defeat the enemy as we pick God. Don’t get obsessed with distractions. As you pray more you will become familiar with how to let them go and return to God.
We all have more time alone right now. For extroverts like me that can be a little scary. But time alone is time that can be spent in prayer, time spent growing closer to Jesus, training our hearts and minds to stay close to Him at all times. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, the darkness becomes light and we see the way to spread love in the world.
A few helpful prayers during this uncertain time when many of us cannot attend Mass, but can make a Spiritual Communion instead.
Act of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.
Litany of Trust from the Sisters of Life
From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.
That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church…Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.