19th Sunday O.T (A)
MENTAL PRAYER AND INTERIOR SILENCE
- Some ideas of today’s Sunday liturgy
- The necessity of mental prayer
- The need for silence and interior recollection in order to listen to what God is telling us.
1. Some ideas of today’s Sunday liturgy
Today’s Gospel, which recounts the episode of Jesus walking on the water, presents to us an important aspect of Christian life, without which, it is impossible to be faithful followers of Christ: prayer.
- Prior to this remarkable episode, St. Matthew states: “he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds he went up into the hills by himself to pray (vv.14:22-23).”
- It was a very hectic day, after having just performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, and perhaps, the most logical thing would be for Jesus and his disciples to spend some time to rest. And this Jesus did: but it was a rest, spent in private prayer, alone with God the Father.
- Here we see how Jesus, as in other occasions (cf. Mk 1:35; 6:47; Lk 5:16; 6:12), spends some moments of prayer; before he chose his apostles, early in the morning; after a hectic day of teaching the crowds; and so on… e.g., His priestly prayer prior to His Passion, during His agony in the Garden, and while on the Cross…Jesus prayed.
This is Jesus’ way. This should also be our way, as Christians, if we are to be faithful followers of Christ, if we wish to tread upon the path of holiness to which He calls us; grow in our knowledge, intimacy with and love for God through mental prayer, a private conversation with God in a recollected manner.
2. The necessity of mental prayer
First, we must be convinced of the vital importance of prayer. Without prayer, knowledge of, friendship with, and love of God would be impossible: “He who flees from prayer, flees from everything that is good,” says St. John of the Cross.
- Without prayer, it is impossible to progress in the spiritual life. We can undergo the most powerful moments of conversion and fervor, having received a tremendous amount of grace but, without fidelity to prayer, our Christian life would soon reach a dead end.
- Without prayer, we cannot receive the help we need from God to be holy, to undergo a deep interior transformation…
Prayer can be differentiated into vocal (Our Father, Hail Mary etc.) or mental prayer, which in turn, has many forms (meditation, contemplation etc.).
- Nevertheless, mental prayer is nothing but a friendly and filial conversation with God -who we know loves us-, opening our hearts to Him, and talking to Him what concerns us, as one talks to a friend, or to a loved one.
- Topics for mental prayer are diverse: one could talk to God about anything. One could also take advantage of these moments
- to get to know Him more (meditation of the Gospels);
- adore Him;
- atone and repair for our sins and those of others;
- ask Him not only for our personal needs but those of others as well (conversions, vocations, for those who are suffering);
- thank Him;
- say acts of love;
- console Him and seek consolation;
As you see, what you have in your heart could be a topic of conversation with God
3. The need for silence and interior recollection in order to listen to what God is telling us.
At the same time, mental prayer does not only consist in talking with God but also listening to what God tells us or asks from us. Hence, the necessity of interior recollection and silence.
- This idea is patently expressed in the 1st reading (1 Kgs 19:9a, 11–13a) of today’s Sunday liturgy.
“At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the Lord said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord — but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake — but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire — but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
- We should strive to listen to His voice in the midst of interior silence and recollection. God reveals Himself and speaks through a tiny whispering sound. Hence, we must fight all the noise and agitation in our life by dedicating moments of prayer in silence and at the same time overcome that interior noise we may have within us, product perhaps of our lack of effort to combat our memory, imagination, passions etc.
- Saint John Paul II warns us: a human being enters into participation in the divine presence “above all by letting himself be educated in an adoring silence, because at the summit of the knowledge and experience of God there is His absolute transcendence.”
- Cardinal Robert Sara comments on the drama of our culture and on the importance of silence:
“[W]e are the victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. We get lost in struggles for influence, in conflicts between persons, in a narcissistic, vain activism. We swell with pride and pretention, prisoners of a will to power. For the sake of titles, professional or ecclesiastical duties, we accept vile compromises. But all that passes away like smoke. In my new book I wanted to invite Christians and people of good will to enter into silence; without it, we are in illusion. The only reality that deserves our attention is God Himself, and God is silent. He waits for our silence to reveal Himself.
Silence is more important than any other human work. Because it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and toward others so that we can place ourselves humbly at their service.”
- It is certainly a common experience that sometimes we give more importance to what we say than to hear what God wants to tell us. And it is exactly the opposite.
- Thereupon, it is important to fuel the belief that God speaks to me leads me to open my ears to understand what he is saying. Sometimes we do not listen, because we don’t want to, out of fear, because we shun whatever compromise: Do not be afraid to pray, do not be cowardly (St. Josemaria). Listen! Very often our prayer must consist in being quiet and putting ourselves to listen attentively to the words Jesus addresses to us (St. Josemaria), so as to know and discern what He wants from us.
Dear brethren in Christ, let us imitate Christ’s example. Let us be convinced of the vital importance of mental prayer in our Christian life. Let us be generous dedicating some time for silent mental prayer daily so as to grow in our knowledge, friendship, intimacy and love for God.
May the Blessed Virgin Mother, Teacher of prayer and contemplation help us.
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