Homily for November 26th, 2016: Luke 21:34-36.
On this last day of the year in the Church’s calendar she gives us this short gospel reading from Luke’s gospel, just two verses. It contains Jesus’ command: “Be vigilant at all times and pray.” What wonderful advice to take with us, as we cross the threshold of a new year.
But is it realistic? Can we pray always? I asked that question myself sixty-seven years ago, as a 21-year-old seminarian. The question forced itself on me through the reading a spiritual classic: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. He was a Carmelite lay brother who worked in the kitchen of his monastery in
where he died in 1691. The book tells on how Brother Lawrence was constantly
thinking of God, and praying to him, as he worked all day in the kitchen. Paris
Could I do that? I asked myself. What if I decided to think of God during some daily recurring activity? After several false starts I resolved to think of God every time I went up or downstairs. I resolved to turn to the Lord God whenever I went up or downstairs. I would repeat the holy name of Jesus at each step. I’ve been working on this now for 67 years. I could never tell you how much it has helped me and how much joy it has put into my heart.
Why not try doing something like that yourself? If prayer of the stairs doesn’t appeal to you, what about resolving to turn to God whenever, during the day, you must wait? Every day offers us many such times. We wait in line at the post office or bank, at the supermarket, at the doctor, in traffic – when we walk to or from our cars. Why not turn these empty times into times for prayer? Short prayers are best: “Jesus, help me;” “Thank you, Lord;” “Lord, have mercy.” Or simply the Holy Names, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph” – or the name of Jesus alone – repeated with every step, every breath, or every heartbeat. These are perfect prayers which take us straight into presence of Him who loves us more than we can ever imagine, and who is close to us always, even when we stray far from Him.
I leave you with two quotations from Brother Lawrence: “In order to know God we must often think of him; and when we come to love him, we shall then think of him often, for our heart will be where our treasure is.”
To which Brother Lawrence adds: “You need not cry very loud. God is closer to us than we think.”