Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Loving God is but a recognition that God loves us

"God's motive is not to exact punishment on those who have failed or disobeyed, but to befriend those who have not yet understood the reality of divine love" (Paul Philibert,OP The Priesthood of the Faithful: The Key to a Living Church, pg. 106).

Pater Tom once observed that many Christians do not become saints, that is, holy "because they imagine that holiness means imitating the lives and behavior of others whose circumstances are utterly alien to their own". In his little book, The Need and Blessing of Prayer, directed to Christians engaged in the modern world, Fr. Karl Rahner wrote:

"Man does many quite diverse things. He does not have the gift of always doing one thing, although he bears a secret, perhaps unacknowledged and semiconscious longing always to do just one single thing; something that is everything and worth the effort, the heart's final exertion and love" (pg. 1). Of course, that one thing is to pray, to be with God in awe. Because prayer is the most necessary thing, Rahner writes that "it is also the freest, the most avoidable". Prayer, he insists, "only exists when we do it freely, always with a new love." If not done in this free, intentional, relational, loving manner prayer "does not exist".

Even as people of faith, at times it is easier to a read a book, even Scripture, or watch religious programming, listen to inspiring music, than to pray. We are good at avoiding prayer and calling it a kind of prayer. Prayer, as Rahner insists, is a need. It is through prayer that, as God's priestly people, we make our daily sacrifice to Him. Our sacrifice is not merely our lives, but our very selves. Our avoidance is conscious and leaves us empty. Only prayer fills us up. Only prayer opens us, not only to the mystery and wonder of God, but to divine love. To understand that we are loved with an unbounded, divine love is the first and absolutely necessary step on the path to holiness. Any other beginning, like obedience, starts us down a dark path that quickly dead-ends. This is all summarized in the title of a work by Kierkegaard: Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. This work begins:

"Father in heaven! What is man without Thee! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee! What is all his striving, could it even encompass a world, but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee: Thee the One, who art one thing and art all!"

So, a prayer, from Fr. Philibert's book: "Lord, today let me care and give love without resentment, just as you did."

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