Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
Our Lord is clearly teaching us to “pray continually, and not lose heart.” He consoles us, “Will God not do justice for his chosen ones, who cry to him day and night, even if he delays in answering them? I tell you, he will speedily do them justice.”
St. Pio of Pietrelcina advises us on the practice of persevering prayer:
My usual manner of praying is this. I no sooner begin to pray than my soul becomes enveloped in a peace and tranquility that words cannot describe. The senses become inactive, with the exception of my hearing, which is sometimes not inactive. Generally, however, this does not bother me in the least and I must confess that even if a great deal of noise were to be made around me it would not disturb me at all. From this you will understand that I rarely succeed in using my mind in discursive prayer.
It frequently happens that at certain moments when my mind wanders from the continual thought of God who is always present to me. I suddenly feel the touch of our Lord in a most penetrating and sweet manner in the depths of my soul, so that more often than not I am obliged to shed tears of sorrow for my infidelity and of love for such a good and attentive Father who calls me back to his presence.
At other times I experience, instead, a great aridity of soul; I feel so oppressed by my many bodily ailments that I am incapable of pulling myself together to pray, no matter how much I want to. This state of soul is becoming so intense that it will be a miracle of our Lord if I do not die of it. When the heavenly Spouse of souls is pleased to put an end to this martyrdom, He suddenly sends me an irresistible spiritual fervor. In an instant everything is changed and I feel so enriched by supernatural grace and so full of strength that I am ready to defy the whole of Satan’s kingdom.
All I can say about this prayer is that my soul seems to be completely lost in God and that in those moments it gains more than it could in many years of intensive spiritual exercises.
Praying is talking, listening to and being with GOD. We cannot persevere in it if it is practiced only as a monologue or the mere recitation of an incantation in expectation of instantaneous results. We can only persevere in it if it is instead thought of and felt and experienced as a total outpouring of the soul, an eager and hopeful attempt to bridging the spirits of the child within us to our Divine Parent.
Praying must therefore become an emotional exchange of words spoken and heard in the deepest recesses of our hearts, a dialogue of love and affection defying space and time. Aside from a blessing, a prayer may perhaps be the only example of an immateriality emanating from the human soul, capable of transcending materiality.
So, in praying, it is vital we commit to a daily prayer time with God, like keeping a daily “date” with someone we love. Praying must become a habit, persevered upon not because we are only in need of support and companionship, but because we are also in need of understanding and hope. Making prayer a daily habit is the first sign of perseverance.
But once we are in the encounter, we always wait for the voice of God, speaking to our minds, through our hearts and for our spirits. The will of the Spirit is not our will; the will of the Spirit actually fulfills it in ways and means we did not expect, in ways and means we do not deserve. In persevering prayer, we will realize that there is always the “most appropriate time and place for everything.” Humility and patience in prayer are the second signs of perseverance.
In persevering prayer, we will surely be transformed. Our daily “date” with God gives us regular and frequent opportunities for knowing the will of the Spirit, for accepting these expressions of love for us, and for initiating our own expressions of love for him. Once we learn why we must love and understand God, we make reparation for our offenses against him, and we promise to obey him from now on. Thus, through a regular prayer habit, we are moved to love him more and more each day, leading us to desire learning more about him and to try doing what he does, sharing his love to and for others, in the family and in the community. Obedience and charity are the fruits of persevering prayer; justice and peace are the fruits of obedience and charity.
And through persevering in these works of mercy and compassion, we are moved towards a more intimate relationship with him. We are inevitably drawn into a silent, self-surrendering immersion in him, in which actions become inactions, in which “who we are” and “what we have” are gradually taken away from us, in which the “subject” becomes the “object” of infinite Mystery. At this point, persevering prayer has reached its most consummate level in passive prayer. It is in passive prayer that we are ultimately brought into the eternal union with divine Love.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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