In the reading (Luke 9.51–62) earlier this evening, Jesus is travelling to Jerusalem for the last time.
Along the way, He meets three men who have heard His call in their hearts. These encounters teach us three tough lessons about what it means to follow Christ. This evening I am focussing on just one of them.*
To follow Christ, we have to transfer our sense of security. We have to relocate it from ourselves to God. Throughout our lives we have been taught to rely on ourselves for success and happiness, but we have to unlearn that lesson. We have to learn to rely wholly on God, plugging all our efforts in life into His Grace.
This is what was meant when Jesus answered and said,
Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”
Christ is trustworthy, but He is not predictable. When we follow Him, we have to agree to go one step at a time – He refuses to give us a full-life outline in advance. When we follow Him, we have to stop pretending that we can keep our lives under control by our own efforts. Accepting Christ’s friendship, we agree to follow Him, to put our lives under His leadership.
We are on an unpredictable adventure. We do not know where God will lead us, nor what He may ask us to do. When we join Christ’s army, we have to hand him a blank cheque.
We all want to make this transfer of security from self to God. Many of us are here because we know that we know God. By depending more fully on Him, our lives will be brought the meaning and fruitfulness that we all long for.
But how do we do that? How do we become more faithful followers of our Lord, more hope-filled disciples, more stable Christians? This transfer of security from ourselves to God is a virtue – the virtue of hope. Like all Christian values, it was planted in our souls like a seed when we placed our trust in God. It’s already there, we have to help it to grow, which we can do by exercising it.
One of the mot effective ways to exercise this virtue is by practising a long-standing tradition of beginning each day with a prayer – often called a morning offering.
This is a prayer we say before the day begins – perhaps immediately on getting out of bed, or perhaps after our shower and before we head to breakfast.
It’s a short prayer,† putting everything in perspective: thanking God for the gift of another day; asking God for guidance and protection; renewing our promise to accept and do whatever He asks of us as we continue on the adventure of following His unpredictable path.
This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Sunday 30 June 2013.
* The other two are: 1. Following Christ means persevering through difficulties; 2. Following Christ means actively taking risk.
† One example is: “Lord, you have brought me to the beginning of this day. By your power, keep me on the road to salvation ; do not let me fall into any sin today, but grant that all I say, all I think, all I do may glorify you. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (catholic-forum.com)
John Mary Vianney was the son of a peasant farmer, and a slow and unpromising candidate for the priesthood: he was eventually ordained on account of his devoutness rather than any achievement or promise.
In 1818 he was sent to be the parish priest of Ars-en-Dombes, an isolated village some distance from Lyon, and remained there for the rest of his life because his parishioners would not let him leave. He was a noted preacher, and a celebrated confessor: such was his fame, and his reputation for insight into his penitents’ souls and their futures, that he had to spend up to eighteen hours a day in the confessional, so great was the demand. The tens of thousands of people who came to visit this obscure parish priest turned Ars into a place of pilgrimage.
The French State recognised his eminence by awarding him the medal of the Légion d’Honneur in 1848, and he sold it and gave the money to the poor.
The noble task of man, to pray and to love
Consider, children, a Christian’s treasure is not on earth, it is in heaven. Well then, our thoughts should turn to where our treasure is.
Man has a noble task: that of prayer and love. To pray and to love, that is the happiness of man on earth.
Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When the heart is pure and united with God it is consoled and filled with sweetness; it is dazzled by a marvellous light. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax moulded into one; they cannot any more be separated. It is a very wonderful thing, this union of God with his insignificant creature, a happiness passing all understanding.
We had deserved to be left incapable of praying; but God in his goodness has permitted us to speak to him. Our prayer is an incense that is delightful to God.
My children, your hearts are small, but prayer enlarges them and renders them capable of loving God. Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an overflowing of heaven. It never leaves us without sweetness; it is like honey, it descends into the soul and sweetens everything. In a prayer well made, troubles vanish like snow under the rays of the sun.
Prayer makes time seem to pass quickly, and so pleasantly that one fails to notice how long it is. When I was parish priest of Bresse, once almost all my colleagues were ill, and as I made long journeys I used to pray to God, and, I assure you, the time did not seem long to me. There are those who lose themselves in prayer, like a fish in water, because they are absorbed in God. There is no division in their hearts. How I love those noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette saw our Lord and spoke to him as we speak to one another.
As for ourselves, how often do we come to church without thinking what we are going to do or for what we are going to ask.
And yet, when we go to call upon someone, we have no difficulty in remembering why it was we came. Some appear as if they were about to say to God: ‘I am just going to say a couple of words, so I can get away quickly.’ I often think that when we come to adore our Lord we should get all we ask if we asked for it with a lively faith and a pure heart.
—from A Catechism on Prayer,
by St John Mary Vianney, Curé d’Ars
inThe Divine Office.
This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Saturday 4 August 2012.