Daniel Chodowiecki (1726 – 1801) Betende Frau mit Rosenkranz, 1773
God has the power to heal the wounds and divisions in my life and in our world. Today I will collaborate with the Lord by praying for those I find difficult to love or respect, and those I fear or resent.
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 43-45)
Francois-Barthelemy-Marius Abel (1832-1870) Figure kneeling in prayer, 1856 Watercolor and brown ink on medium weight off-white wove paper By Shepherd Gallery (Flickr: ABEL – Figure Kneeling in Prayer) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
So often my prayers are imperious.
I forget prayer is a time of self-emptying, of surrendering myself to God.
Today I will pray to be blessed with the knowledge of God’s will for me and the grace to carry it out.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Mark 10:35
James Tissot (1836-1902) Jésus engage les apôtres à se reposer (Jesus Commands the Apostles to Rest) between 1886 and 1894 opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper Brooklyn Musuem
[Jesus said,] “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
I know some days I am heavy with pain, fatigue, and discouragement. I know others carry heavy responsibilities, grief, and stress. I know the world is heavy with violence, racism, and injustice.
I don’t know how to heal the heaviness. But Jesus does. I will practice turning my attention to Jesus. I will trust him with my burdens, the burdens of others, and the world’s burdens. I will rest from my tendency to do-it-myself and let Jesus help me through the day.
Early christian image of Christ as the Good Shepherd Fourth Century A.D. Museo Epigrafico, Rome
[The shepherd] walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. John 10:4
We follow Jesus into quiet, secluded places to pray. We follow Jesus to dine with the poor and the outcasts of society. We follow Jesus to touch those with untouchable illnesses. We follow Jesus to wash the feet of others. We follow Jesus to forgive those who betray us. We follow Jesus to love our enemies. We follow Jesus to do the will of God, however counter-cultural it may seem. We follow Jesus to die to ourselves and rise to new life.
Rembrandt (1606-1669) The Raising of Lazarus, circa 1630-1632 oil on oak panel Los Angeles County Museum of Art
[Jesus] cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” John 11:43-44
Sometimes I feel emotionally and spiritually dead, but Jesus calls me to come out of the tomb of depression and sends people to untie the bands of sadness, self-hatred, and self-preoccupation so that I may again relish the gifts of life, love, and companionship.
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
Chronic pain is probably the most distracting, tiring, energy-draining, hope-depleting experience I’ve ever had. Last night’s wakefulness kept me struggling to put my focus on God. “Help!” was as complicated as my prayers got.
Whether or not I believe God is with me in the desert of pain, God is there. Whether or not I can feel God in the bleakness of pain, God is there. Whether or not I continue to experience physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain, God is there. In the moment, in the pain, in the prayer.
I told the devil last night, “You ain’t gonna get me yet.”
Ecce Agnus Dei, 1455/60 Giovanni di Paolo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John points to Jesus as the one who will be sacrificed to save us. Yet I like to meditate on Jesus as the one who came to be with us because of God’s great love for us; who suffered pain and understands our suffering when we are in pain; who struggled with human emotions such as sorrow and anger and understands our struggles to move through grief and let go of resentment; who patiently teaches us, prays with us, and eats with us; who died and rose from the dead to give us the hope of eternal life in perfect love and union with God.