Category Archives: Prayer

The Empty Tomb

Easter SunriseHappy Easter! The days of fasting are over; Lent has run its course and today, we rejoice! Dressed in our Sunday-best, prepared to celebrate with loved-ones with a feast, it’s easy to feel happy. It’s time for Easter-egg hunts, flowers and Alleluias. No matter how many times we have experienced it, the Easter season always feels refreshing and new!

Despite these feelings of goodwill, because we’ve all heard the story of the resurrection so many times, it can become commonplace. We simply tune-out when the Gospel-writers share the big news—we’ve heard it all before! Yes, we know Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, that He died on Good Friday and that the tomb is now empty. We’ve remembered His Passion, now let’s take a moment to step back, to pause before today’s parties. Let’s take a look at the Gospel again and hear the story anew:

Risen Christ WindowIn the Gospel of John, before day break Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. She arrives only to find that the stone has been removed and she hastily runs to tell Simon Peter. By putting ourselves into the scene, we can see how disconcerting this event would be for her! When she finds the Apostles, she cries out to them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (John 20:2) Peter and John run to the tomb. Again, it takes little imagination to see how their hearts must have been pounding, their heads swirling with theories as to what has happened. When they see the burial cloths, they believed.

What Do You Think?
It begs the question, if we were there, what would we have concluded? Or an even more pertinent question, what do we conclude today when confronted with the empty tomb?

Do we reason that Jesus has been “taken from the tomb” as Mary Magdalene supposes? Do we reach the conclusion that He is risen? Do we even know what we think? The Gospel message of Easter is not merely a news-story, no matter how sensational a story it is. No, Easter is supposed to impact our lives.

If we stop and ask ourselves these questions, we are confronted with a most astounding choice—either Jesus is who He says He is or He is a liar; either He is the Son of God, or He has deceived us; either He is risen from the dead, or it is a terrible hoax played on mankind for some sinister purpose.

Who Is Jesus?
This is the question that the empty tomb forces us to answer: who is Jesus? It is certainly more comfortable to sit on the sidelines and to watch this drama unfold with other characters taking on the roles. If we stop and ask ourselves that fundamental question—who is Jesus?—then everything about our lives should be affected by the answer.

“Either Jesus is who He says He is or
He is a liar; either He is the Son of God,
or He has deceived us.”

It may be easier to smile and go throughout the day enjoying the ham dinner then wrestle with these ideas, but there is no escaping this reality—the tomb is empty.

So today, as we bask in the good- feelings of the Easter season (and we rightfully should), let us also take a moment to stand before the empty tomb. Let us take a silent-moment and ask ourselves, just who is Jesus? May the grace and love of the Risen-One fill our hearts today and always!

Breathe in Me O Holy Spirit…

Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia CommonsSometimes I get caught up in trying to find the “perfect” words when I pray, which consequently usually leads to me not praying.  At other times I find that memorized prayers feel dry, that they are not my own words.  But one prayer that has seemed to remain above the fray for me is St. Augustine’s prayer to the Holy Spirit.  May the Holy Spirit fill our hearts today and always!  Enjoy:

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy,

Act in me O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy,

Draw my heart O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy,

Strengthen me O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy,

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

Amen.

—  St. Augustine

Do you Hear Something?

By Berthold Werner (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The other night I was at a friend’s house talking with the guys in the dining room waiting for dessert to finish baking. In the background, there was a very faint chirping noise that went away as suddenly as it sounded. Our host stood up and went to the kitchen to remove the cookies from the oven while we marveled at how he could even hear the timer. Someone commented, “if he doesn’t hear this timer, the next one is much louder” while pointing at the smoke detector. We all had a good laugh at that and proceeded to enjoy dessert!

The readings this coming Sunday, as well as those for last Sunday, have as their theme “God is calling.”   Last week we saw Samuel being called by the Lord while he slept and we heard the story of Jesus calling the first disciples to follow him. This week, we have Jonah being called to go to Nineveh and Jesus inviting Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John to follow Him as “fishers of men.” These inspirational stories highlight an incredibly important fact—God calls ordinary people to follow Him; people like you and me! A look at the lives of the saints confirms this reality—God calls ordinary men and women. It is in the answering of God’s calling that we participate in the extraordinary. After all, if Peter doesn’t follow after Jesus he remains Simon, a simple fisherman unknown to anyone outside of his small sea-side hometown. Instead, he answers “Yes,” follows Christ thus becoming Peter, a “fisher of men” and the first Pope.

“God calls ordinary men and women. It is in the answering of God’s calling that we participate in the extraordinary”

The Lord calls each of us to follow Him. Unfortunately, for many of us we completely miss it altogether! Maybe it’s because we expect to find God in a burning bush or some other awe-inspiring supernatural experience. Maybe it’s because our lives are so full of distraction and noise. Or perhaps it’s because we don’t know what to listen for. Like me and my friends sitting in the dining room awaiting cookies, if we are expecting to hear God calling like a loud buzzer we might miss the small, quiet sound of Him speaking to our hearts (see the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-13).

So how do we make sure we hear God speaking?
It’s one thing to say, “yeah, I’d like to have God speak to me” but quite another to actually prepare to hear Him. We need to move beyond the theoretical and into the practical. Here are some basic steps:

Pray and ask the Lord to speak:
We need to affirm that it is our desire to hear God speaking to our hearts and ask that He give us the “ears to hear” what He is speaking. In this prayer, we surrender our own desires and acclaim that we want to know and do His will.

Expect that God will speak:
If we go throughout our day without the expectation that God hears and answers our prayer, that He does indeed call out to us, we aren’t going to be looking for His love notes to us. He wants to speak to us, let’s pray with and live with great expectations.

Build in moments of silence:
Ever try to have a conversation with someone who never stops to listen? It is very frustrating! Sometimes we let the noise crowd out the silence we need to listen for His voice.

Take a moment to reflect:
At the end of the day, take time to reflect and ask ourselves “how has the Lord been speaking to me today? How did I respond—did I follow Him or ignore Him?” This daily Examen, as St. Ignatius called it, is essential to the spiritual life! Think of it like this, during an important conversation we make sure that we’ve understood what the other is saying, that we are on the same page, so to speak. Reflecting on our day and asking these types of questions helps us to make sure that we understand what God has been saying to us throughout the daily dialogue.

Pray for forgiveness and thanksgiving:
As we become aware of the times we chose to ignore God, let’s pray seeking forgiveness. For the times that we did respond to God’s voice, offer a prayer of thanksgiving.  Let us seek grace to respond more fully the next day.

The more we practice this process, the more sensitive we will become to hearing God’s call in our lives. And that is how we grow in holiness. Make no mistake, the Lord is calling each one of us—may we respond throughout our ordinary days in extraordinary grace-filled ways!

Waffles and New Year’s Resolutions

Waffles

I have two children, ages 9 and 6.  Just like parents around the world, there are the daily routines of getting them out of bed and ready for school in the morning.  My kids are fairly good about getting out of bed; they stretch, wipe the sleep from their eyes and stagger down the stairs for breakfast, hoping that it will be waffles – their favorite!

When I went to my daughter’s room recently she said, “Daddy!” in surprise as she was not expecting to see me until that evening.  She got up and started her normal morning routine.

“You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep”  Romans 13:11

When I went to her brother’s room, however, the scenario was a little different.  He was sound asleep, and very peaceful.  I hesitated before I quietly walked over and bent over to whisper near his ear, “It’s time to wake up.”  His eyes flickered with recognition and then promptly closed; he was very tired! So, I whispered again, “Son, it’s time to wake up.”  This time he replied groggily, “okay.”  But his eyes still remained closed.  Realizing that I really needed him to be out of bed and at the breakfast table, I said to him, “Should Daddy carry you downstairs?”  His only response was to slowly shake his head.  I picked him up (he felt like a wet noodle) and he laid his head on my shoulder.  It was one of those moments that as a parent I savored and stored up in my memory-banks for when he is 25.  Once I brought him down, I asked him if I should put him in his chair and he slowly opened his eyes and said, “yes.”  Once in place, he yawned and fully initiated the day by asking, “are we having waffles?”

Paul writes to the Romans, “you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep” (Romans 13:11) — a reading we heard this past Advent.  As we begin the New Year, we know that it is a time to reflect on our lives and to make some changes in living out our faith, among other things!  But often times, like my son, we are a little groggy as we “wake up.”  We make heartfelt resolutions, but don’t have the specifics that will truly effect change.  Thankfully God does not simply toss out the words, “it’s time to wake up” and then leave us to fend for ourselves.  Rather, He is right beside us waiting for us to ask for his help.  We can ask Him to carry us, saying, “Lord, I want to wake up, to better follow you.  But I don’t know where to start or how to go about doing it.  Please help me.”  Our Father rejoices with our desire and our prayers!  And what a feast awaits us – the “True Bread” from heaven!  This, I assure you is much better than waffles!