Thursday, October 11, 2012

Prayer as a school of Hope

PRAYER AS A SCHOOL OF HOPE The first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me anymore, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. (CCC 2657). The Holy Spirit, who instructs us to celebrate the liturgy in expectation of Christ’s return, teaches us to pray in hope. Conversely, the prayer of the church and personal prayer nourishes hope in us. The Psalms in the concrete way teach us to fix our hope in God: I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. (Ps. 40:2). As St. Paul prayed: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope ’ (Rom 15:13). When you have been plunged into complete solitude… you are never totally alone. St. Augustine in his homily on the first letter of John, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness- for God himself was created to be filled by God. But this heart is too small for the greatness to which is destined. It must be stretched. How do we do this? “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [symbol of God’s tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put honey”? The vessel that is your heart must first be enlargened and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste. This requires hard work and is painful, and in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined. (1 John 4:6). To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly, we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer: - We must learn what we can truly ask of God-what is worthy of God. - We learn that we cannot pray against others. - We must learn that we cannot ask for the superficial and comfortable things that we desire at this moment- that meager, misplaced hope that leads us away from God. - We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. But who can discern his errors? Clear me from the hidden faults (Ps 19:12, 18:13). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Your encounter with God should awaken your conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of you and those of your contemporaries who shape your thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to Good itself. For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. It must be something which is constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the church and of the saints, by liturgical prayers, in which the lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly. Prayer has to have this element of intermingling of public and personal prayer. This is how we can speak about God and God speaking to us. In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope and thus we become ministers of hope for others. Hope in the Christian sense is hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the ‘perverse end.’ It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope. Fr. Joseph Baptist Nyamunga, SSA Tweet@ omuhulundu Blog:

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