Sunday, February 6, 2011

Deceptive simplicity

The words deceptively simple mean for me something that is easy to understand, but difficult to do. When we look at what Jesus asks of us, namely to love the Lord our God with our entire selves and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, I can comprehend this, at least to some extent (especially with his parable of the Good Samariatan in Luke's Gospel, Jesus certainly expands my understanding). I find there are two really big obstacles to doing this: myself and other people. By other people I am referring to what I wrote yesterday; not people in and of themselves, at least not most of the time, but how I often relate to others. Similarly, spirituality is nothing but opening ourselves to God by practicing the spiritual disciplines, foremost among which is prayer.

When I think of opening myself to God in prayer, I think about listening, which is summed up well in one of the Gospel acclamations we frequently sing during Mass at my parish as we prepare to hear it proclaimed: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. You have the words of everlasting life." This, too, is deceptively simple (i.e., easy to understand, but difficult to do). Yesterday, while attending the final day of the Southwest Liturgical Conference here in Salt Lake City, I went to a workshop led by Dr. Barbara Sutton of St. John's University (Collegeville, MN) on Visio Divina, or Seeing the Word, which is a wonderful way of practicing lectio divina. Cutting to the chase, what I like about lectio is that it works on the assumption that God has something to say to me everyday and not just something, but something important!

In my pastoral and teaching experience I would say that the biggest challenge many people have in opening themselves to God (i.e., listening) is that it is hard for them to believe God wants to talk to them. I would be less than honest if I did not admit that sometimes I feel that way, too. Despite myself at times, I have found that God is faithful. Hence, whenever I quiet myself and listen, that is, open myself, God always has something to say to me, which is the most important message I will receive all day. It always comes as a great relief to me when I realize, yet again, that all of this depends on God's love and fidelity and not on my inconstancy.

Does Jesus not tell us in today's Gospel that we are both "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world"? Remaining savory and bright is very much dependent on us staying connected to God through prayer. To that end, don't get too hung up on how to pray, just pray. Finding the right technique is not what brings us into God's presence because, as St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle even now reminds us, we must "remember that we are in the holy presence of God." Recognizing this is a matter of awareness, of paying attention to the circumstances in which I find myself at any given moment.


  1. How thought provoking and how beautiful. When I read the words about believing that God wants to talk to me, I pause. Does God? Well of course, but how often do I stop to consider that? And then to listen? How do I remember that I "am in the holy presence of God?" Paying attention, it might just be the hardest thing.

  2. Thank you for this post. Because of the world I live in, I cannot seem to remember that God is not like all the people in my life whom I not only have to make an appointment to talk to but I better have what I want to say to them down pat as I am only going to have their ear for however minutes I am penciled in their appointment books for. I am being crushed under the expectations of performing perfectly for everything else in my life, that I forget that there is no perfect way to pray. I guess even when I am saying, "I am mad at You, but I love You, and I am sorry." I am really praying. That is so difficult for me to get my head around.


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