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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fr. Bob Warren's Week Reflection: Last Supper

Last Supper
We hear a great deal about prayer in the gospel today. The whole gospel is a prayer. In fact, it is the longest prayer in the bible. In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see the apostles after Jesus ascended. They are together in the upper room and like Jesus in the gospel they are at prayer, bewildered and frightened. Living two thousand years later, we lose sight of drama of the moment.
Try to imagine how that small band of followers must have felt without the leadership of Jesus Christ. They had pinned all their hopes on Him and, now, He was gone. We get some idea of how they felt from the Ascension Story when the angel asks them ‑ "Why are you standing, looking up into heaven?" We can sense their indecision, their lack of direction, their refusal to let go and their sadness.
Most of us here have experienced the pain of separation from loved ones and the emptiness it can often leave, sometimes, never to be filled. These disciples had not been the most dependable group of friends or followers of Jesus. When the chips were down at the time of Jesus' execution, they all took off except for John. They all left and ran away like frightened children. Jesus was abandoned.
Then something unexpected happened. Jesus rose from the dead and He came back to them. But now, He had gone and left them a second time. They had hoped that He would stay with them, but He did not. He was gone and once again they were alone. They were frightened for their safety. They were scared for their lives and for their future. And, because they were so frightened, they are driven to prayer. In fact, we are told constant prayer.
Perhaps, because like us in a similar situation, it does not seem that there is anything else that can be done except prayer. Have you ever felt that hopeless, helpless and fearful that depression covers you like a cloud so you turn to God? It is a shame that it often takes a hopeless situation before we turn to God. Perhaps if He had been part of our lives all along, the situation may not have been so hopeless. We should not wait until things get desperate before turning to Him. We should not wait for a disaster before we pray.
Prayer can be a difficult practice for many of us. What does it mean "to pray"? There was a song some years ago that really sums up prayer very well. It was called "Reach Out and Touch". Prayer is a reaching out to touch someone and that someone is God and all that God involves and includes. One of the best ways of reaching out to God is in the mass. While it is not our only form of prayer, the liturgy, the mass is the principal prayer for the Christian community. It is the prayer Jesus gave us as the memorial, the link and the connection, to the spark of life between ourselves and our God.
All through biblical history, God demanded that His people come together as a group and as a community to worship Him. Then there is private prayer when we are alone without God. There is no set pattern and really no rules. During those times we simply talk to God in our own words like we would to a friend. These are times when you say whatever you feel to God. Talk about anything. Talk to Him about your life. But, also talk to Him about His life and the things He did.
But, whatever you talk to Jesus about, be sure to pause now and then to let Him reply. He might want to talk to you. When He speaks to us, it will not be His voice but an inner feeling. Always remember prayer is not a monologue where we do all the talking. Prayer is a dialogue and God also wants to talk to us. You cannot have a relationship with anyone unless you talk to them. It is the same way with God. You have to make time to speak to Him and to communicate with Him.
Prayer is not just a personal matter. There will always be time when we pray for our own needs. But, our prayers must also include those around us and even those we do not know. That is why we say "Our Father" and not "My Father". Often we try to make our prayers productive. They have to yield something or we try to change God's mind. Ideally, just place yourself in God’s presence, open yourself to Him, be receptive and let Him change you.
Private prayer is so important. Jesus showed this when He went off by Himself to pray, when He was pushed, shoved, shouted at and when He was stretched to His limit. He drew strength and regeneration from periods of private prayer. His disciples observed this and feeling frazzled themselves said, "Lord teach us to pray".
Perhaps, we all need to ask the Lord, "Lord, teach us how to pray". Teach us how to pray to find a deep sense of peace and wholeness. Teach us to pray from the heart. Teach us how to pray when we feel far from any shore, far from any person and adrift without a sense of direction. Teach us to pray when we are overwhelmed by day to day living. Teach us to pray when we are feeling great, everything is going well and we are joyful. Teach us how to pray when we are celebrating.
But, above all, in all situations when convenient and inconvenient, in season and out of season, for God's sake Lord, "Teach us how to pray".
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A. Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
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Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
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