by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Lent is a time when we are invited to ramp up our prayer. We are called during these weeks to spend more time in prayer — in conversation with Jesus. The Lord is interested in our lives, just as he was with his first disciples.
In our prayer, we should praise God for his goodness, thank him for his blessings, ask him for his mercy and intercede for our needs and the needs of those we love. However, during prayer, we should not do all the talking. At the Transfiguration, the heavenly Father instructed Peter, James and John to listen to Jesus!
During seminary formation, we were given the opportunity to experience an aspect of pastoral ministry each year. One year, we participated in prison ministry. A group of us were assigned to visit weekly St. Louis County Prison. We were part of the prison chaplaincy. The inmates could request the opportunity to meet with us.
On one occasion, a prisoner holding a Twinkie came into my office for a conversation. He sat down and immediately began telling me about all of the injustices, all of the terrible experiences and all of the adversities in his life. He had this special ability to go from describing one experience to the next without ever taking a breath.
He talked for more than 20 minutes without ever pausing. I had not said a word. I thought to myself: “If he just takes a bite of that Twinkie, I might have an opportunity to say something.”
Sometimes, I think that is how Our Lord feels during our prayers. He is interested in everything about our lives. He desires for us to share with him all that is happening — the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the ordinary and the extraordinary.
However, for our prayer to be a true conversation, then we must also seek to listen to what Jesus is attempting to communicate to us.
Our Lord is constantly attempting to reveal himself to us through the everyday events of our lives. Part of our prayer should be asking Jesus: “Lord, what is it that you have been attempting to say to me through all of the events, the encounters, the experiences and the conversations of the day?”
We should read a short section of the Gospel every day. However, we should not read the Gospels like we read a newspaper, a magazine or a novel. We are not just reading for information. We should read the Gospel with an expectation that Our Lord wants to say something to us that applies to the unique circumstances of our lives.
Some days, Our Lord wants to give us a glimpse of his glory by providing us with experiences of beauty and inspiration. Some days, Jesus is attempting to comfort us and strengthen us as we experience the cross in our lives.
Jesus does not promise us that we will never suffer or experience adversity. However, Our Lord does assure us that we will never be alone. He will be with us through it all.
This Lent, let us try to increase our ability to listen to Our Lord. To do this, we have to block out the noise of the world. Our churches and eucharistic adoration chapels are excellent places to retreat from the world and to allow ourselves to listen for God’s voice in our hearts.
This Lent, I encourage you to attempt to attune the ears of your heart to the voice of the Lord. God wants to let us know that we, too, are his beloved sons and daughters. Let us learn to listen better to God this Lent.
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