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Prayer Paves the Path to a New Way of Life

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The intimate communion the disciples witnessed when they came upon Jesus in prayer can become our  lived experience. Jesus reminds us we are adopted sons and daughters of His Father, who is now Our Father. (John 20:17). The instruction which they received as they walked with Him can be realized in our own lives if we learn how to walk with Him daily. The same Jesus who instructed the disciples is alive with us today. He has been raised from the dead. We need the eyes of faith to see Him - and the courage derived from faith to accompany Him. Through grace we are made capable of living an entirely new way of life, beginning right now. In the words of the Apostle Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1). All of this can be realized if we learn to pray.

WAHINGTON D.C. (Catholic Online) - Our Gospel is a continuation from the account we heard at Mass yesterday. Right after the disciples find Jesus in prayerful communion with His Father and He teaches them how to pray, He continues the lesson. Luke offers us these insights on persistent prayer and the love of the Father:

And he said to them, Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'?' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks, receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
(Luke 11:5-13)

Prayer leads us into a life of loving communion with the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit. We enter into the communion which Jesus has with the Father. Prayer offers us the fuel needed for  life, the wind in our sails. We who are baptized into Jesus Christ now live our lives in His Body, the Church, of which we are members. (1 Cor. 12:27) The call to live in Christ invites our continual response to God's invitations of grace. Prayer makes it possible. Prayer opens our often closed lives to an ongoing, dynamic relationship with a loving Father. 

The intimate communion the disciples witnessed when they came upon Jesus in prayer can become our  lived experience. Jesus reminds us we are adopted sons and daughters of His Father, who is now Our Father. (John 20:17). The instruction which they received as they walked with Him can be realized in our own lives if we learn how to walk with Him daily. The same Jesus who instructed the disciples is alive with us today. He has been raised from the dead. We need the eyes of faith to see Him - and the courage derived from faith to accompany Him. Through grace we are made capable of living an entirely new way of life, beginning right now. In the words of the Apostle Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1). All of this can be realized if we learn to pray.

By living our lives within the communion of the Church we place ourselves in the home where we can receive this grace, this divine life, and be converted. It is mediated to us through the Sacraments, which are encounters with the Risen Christ. This grace also instructs our lives and reforms our hearts as hear, pray, believe and choose to live the Word of God. We are offered heavenly wisdom in the teaching office of the Church. Grace works within us, recreating us into the Image and likeness of God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, the first born of a new creation. (Collossians 1:15)

God created us in His Image. Our freedom is patterned after God's freedom.The Catholic Catechism reminds us that in man, true freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image. (CCC #1712). Our capacity to always choose what is true and good was fractured by sin. The Catechism explains the consequence, Man, having been wounded in his nature by original sin, is subject to error and inclined to evil in exercising his freedom and the remedy,  He who believes in Christ has new life in the Holy Spirit. The moral life, increased and brought to maturity in grace, is to reach its fulfillment in the glory of heaven. (CCC #1714, 1715)

Our relationship with God was broken. We were wounded by original sin and human freedom became corrupted by pride. The self sufficiency which leads to idolatry replaced the loving assent to the plan of God. Our ability to grow in  freedom by always directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good was fractured by the fall from grace. The Catechism is clear and insightful. 

Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history. He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error: Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness. By his Passion, Christ delivered us from Satan and from sin. He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us. (CCC #1707, 1708)

By God's grace, fully received in Christ, the way has been opened for us to live in an even fuller communion with God than our first parents had in that Garden called Eden. In Jesus we arenot only saved from sin the death which it earned but we are being re-created, re-fashioned and made entirely new.(2 Cor. 5:17) He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelations 3:20) He comes to lives in us and we come to live in Him. Prayer opens the door to the house wherein we learn what all of this means. 

Through prayer, life becomes a classroom where we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - in Jesus. Through prayer, we receive new glasses through which we will see the landscape of life. Through prayer, darkness can be dispelled and the path of progress illuminated by the light which comes from the Holy Spirit. Yes, we still struggle with disordered appetites. We still stumble and fall back into living in a way which is at odds with God's plan. However, through prayer we find the Way back home. 

Even those things which once dragged us down can become an invitation to turn toward the One who liberates us. We are given a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend its mysteries, and equips us to be converted, made new by grace. Through prayer, we are drawn by love into a deepening relationship with Jesus whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; His relationship with His Father is opened  to us; the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new.

Through prayer, heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts. We begin to comprehend the mystery and meaning what it really means to be partakers of the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) Our life becomes a true participation in the inner life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Though that participation will only be complete when we are with Him in the fullness of His embrace - in Resurrected Bodies in a New Heaven and a New Earth - it begins now through prayer. 

God holds nothing back from those whom He loves. He gives us the Holy Spirit, His life and energy. The same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead will even quicken our own mortal bodies! (Romans 8:11) Living faith mediates the mystery of God's loving plan. It grows in us by prayer. Prayer opens our spiritual eyes to behold the Divine Design in our own lives. We see that we walk with Him and He guides our path along a plan and a pattern.

For the Christian, the center from which the Divine design proceeds is the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is the central patch of cloth from which the pattern of progress in holiness and wholeness proceeds. It is also where the pattern returns. Seeing this pattern requires the renewed vision that comes through  living faith and prayer makes that possible. In prayer, we find the strength to pull ourselves up, after the inevitable falls which accompany daily living, by grasping the wood of the Cross, the door to the new world to come. Our fractured freedom is healed by the splint of that Cross and we learn to love its wood.  

The Early Christians reflected upon the Cross with the insights which can only come from an intimate communion with God experienced in prayer. They saw the Cross as a second tree at which the new creation began again in Jesus Christ, the New Adam. On that Cross, the Living Word, through whom the Universe was created, re-created it anew. From His wounded side, His spouse, the Church, was born and betrothed. The blood and water which flowed down is the fountain of grace offered through the Sacraments. How did they discern such deep insights? After all, they were men and women just like us. They really, truly, prayed. As result, they probed the depths of the mysteries of the faith. So can we.

They wrote of the beauty revealed at the Cross with words drenched in the dew of prayer. Let us to reflect upon some of it as we conclude. Theodore the Studite, an eighth century Abbot of the First Christian Millennium, wrote: How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a King on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death but now a tree brings life
. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality- that shame should become glory!

A fourth century Deacon named Ephrem wrote hymns which gained him a title still mentioned in the Syriac Liturgy to this day -- the Harp of the Holy Spirit. In a sermon he proclaimed: He who was also the carpenters glorious son set up his cross above deaths' all consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life.

Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist. We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death, like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living.

We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead. Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all embracing sacrifice of our love and our lives.

The beauty of their words, the profundity of their insights, proceeded from the depth of their prayer lives. The same Lord to which they clung - and in whom they found such wisdom - still walks with us and we walk with Him. Jesus invites us today to ask, knock, seek and persist in prayer. Prayer paves the path to a new way of life. 

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