Someone must have been praying for me last night or this morning, because I had so much new to me, or deeper than before insights this morning during my meditation time. I did pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit last night before falling asleep, but I've done that before and didn't wake up the next day having a few spiritual epiphanies before 10 a.m.
While I learned many things this morning, I'll focus this post on my latest take of Jesus as the Way, as in the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6). More specifically, that Jesus showed us the Way to live, and that what was primary was staying focused on his mission, following the plan of his Father, and the way he ensured that focus was by ensuring he prayed every day. The other aspect of the way Jesus lived, was by his gentle attentiveness to the people he encountered in his life.
1) Jesus modeled the primacy of daily prayer.
Our Parish priest two weeks ago focused on one of the frequent lines in the Gospel about Jesus going off to pray. For some reason that seed didn't grow roots immediately then (it may have been that my kids were not listening and I was distracted myself telling them to listen), but after reading what Fr. Bartunek wrote in the meditation passage, it became very clear. All emphasis added to the below quote from The Better Part is mine.
Christ was perfect, sinless, without any selfishness, laziness, or pride.
His character was flawless, as firm as the mountains and as gentle as a mother's caress.
His mind was beyond brilliant, filled with radiance of divine light and understanding.
No emotional scars from a difficult family upbringing. (Mary was without sin too, and Joseph was a saint.)
No personality disorders or imbalanced self-esteem.
No lacks, no wounds, no imperfections at all,
and yet over and over again in the Gospels
we see him go off to be alone in prayer:
"In the morning long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place to be alone in prayer and prayed there." (Mk 1:35)
Christ was perfect, God from God and Light from Light, and yet he needed to reserve time just to be alone with his Father; he needed to go off to pray. He even had to get up early to make time for it. Sometimes he had to stay up late in order to make time for it. But he always did it.
If he who was perfect, needed prayer in order to fulfill his life's mission, what does that imply for us, who are so imperfect, so weak, so vulnerable to every sort of temptation, and wounded by every kind of sin.
Christ was a man of prayer and as he himself put it, "no disciple is greater than his master." (John 15:20)
My realization was if I am going to have any spiritual knowledge, any depth to my relationship with the persons of the Holy Trinity, any insight into God's will during the unpredictability of the day's events, I need to pray and battle against the distractions that keep me from either morning or nightly prayer.
2) Jesus modeled the Golden Rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Lk 6:31) in his gentle, attentive, friendly way with people.
In the passage I was reading this morning Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law not with a word, or a wave of his hand, but instead, "He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up." (Mk 1:31)
That is gentleness, that is attentiveness.
I thought about this because yesterday I was trying to teach my 12 year old that he should say hi to his classmates when he sees them outside of school, using their name, and by showing in his face that he is glad to see them, glad that God created them and that they are in his life.
After reflecting this morning I was thinking, what do most people want--not all people, some people are turned inward from being wounded, or other reasons. But what do most people want? Or to put it another way, which people make the biggest impression on us and stick with us long after we don't see them regularly?
To the first question, I remember some of my parenting books teaching that we should show each of our children on a regular basis, especially when we see them after a separation during the day, how happy we are when we see them, how blessed we are that God gave this little person into our care. The feeling of love, and joy that we show them that they are in our lives, is what people hope to experience beyond the home as well. When someone walks into the office building, or the school building they are hoping the person they meet or see, will maybe stop from another conversation or something, and just say hi in a a way that says, "Geez, great to see you again." It might not be the same as a mom to a kid, but the more sincerely friendly it is, the better we feel, right?
To the second question, which people make the biggest impression on us, and are most memorable to us, I think it is the persons we meet that have the goodness and generosity, and the focus on people, rather than tasks or things, that they show to others they are really glad they get to be around them on a given day. I've known a couple of people like this in my life, and the book, Tuesdays with Morrie was written about a guy who exemplified this.
How did I come to this realization? When I read the line, "He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up," I prayed:
Lord, please - I know and thank you that you are near. Please take me by the hand - if it is your will, and help me up.
Then the next line I read from Fr. Bartunek was, "Christ is a man whose whole attention is focused on others."
This then led me to think about not just what I was asking my son and other kids to do, and how I know I love to be treated, but how do I act? Am I treating others the way I want to be treated---not just with fairness or common respect or decency, but how I really want to be treated?
I know what I want Jesus to do for me--take me by the hand. How do I like people to act toward me? I like when they greet me by name, with a smile and look of friendship on their face.
Again, how do I act toward others?
Since this isn't the confessional, I'll leave it as I found another missing piece of self-awareness, in conjunction with a deeper understanding of the teachings of Christ, that could make a real improvement in how I am following Christ in my home, and in my relationships outside the home.
And if my morning meditation was not enough, by 1 p.m. I had also spent an hour in prayer alone, before the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a chance meeting with our Priest/Pastor in the rectory. I had forgotten something there earlier before I went to pray, and he was unexpectedly home from the hospital where he is a chaplain. We had such a great talk. I told him about some of this, and more, not that he is my official spiritual director (don't have one of those yet), but he really encouraged me.
The other thing I noticed is that when I walked into the church this morning, I immediately had this feeling that I was in love with God. In love with Christ. In love with the Holy Spirit.
I have been praying for this, and I felt this way yesterday too when I went outside in the early evening. I looked at the sky. It was beautiful, AGAIN. Seems like I see a beautiful, fills me with awe sky everyday. This time I looked and I just felt in love with God looking at it.
I really felt driving home from Church and after seeing our priest today, as though Jesus did will to take me by the hand to help me up, so he did.