September 25, 2011

The Gift of Intercession


In striving to love someone the way that person really deserves to be loved we often discover how important it is to turn to the Lord in prayer.  When our hearts are pierced by the plight of those we most love we find ourselves needing to pray. Spouses, sons and daughters, and parents all have needs which only the Lord himself can meet.  In fact, the more we strive to be faithful in loving those God has put in our lives, the more we see the limits and weaknesses of our own humanity.  It is an existential and personal experience of the human frailty.

This is why, when it comes to truly loving those God has put in our lives, we must constantly humble ourselves and ask the Lord to help us.  It is by beautiful paradox that the more we love someone we also see how much they suffer, and the more we see this, the more their plight moves us to humbly seek God on their behalf.  Sometimes their sufferings can even be difficult occasions of intense anxiety for us.  Yet in the face of such anxiety and heartache, prayer can easily become humble movement in the depths of the heart in love, for love and by love. This is the secret of the Cross.  When it comes to the demands of love and the poverty of our hearts, God is ready to provide if we are willing to ask and He always gives in excess of our openness and trust in his love.

To pray with hope out of one's own poverty before the painful misery of the beloved, this is the beginning of the priceless gift of intercession.  It is so rare, so beautiful, so human and so divine - all at once.  Such prayer only happens when the heartache of the one we love becomes our heartache too.   It is in this poverty of heart from which springs a prayer deeper than words, or thoughts, or feelings.  It is prayer in the core of our humanity, prayer from the center of our hearts.  The Holy Spirit produces this prayer.  This prayer cannot cease even in the face of the most intense anxiety and fear.  In this prayer, He is the bond which joins hearts together - a bond stronger than death.  In the power of the Holy Spirit, our frail cries to God are joined with the cries of the one we love and at the same time the Holy Spirit joins them to the cry of Christ Crucified - His last wordless cry which echoes forever as the triumphant hymn of heaven where He reigns risen forever.  Because of his great mercy and love, our heavenly Father never fails to answer such prayers.

This union of hearts in prayer is an entry way deep into the communion of saints -- these kinds of petitions and intercessions are what help bring God's mercy to bear on our misery.  On this point St. Dominic would encourage his friars that when they ran out of tears for their own sins they should begin to weep for the sins of others.  This heart to heart compassion when joined with prayer becomes a source of grace in the Body of Christ. When we let such deep compassion carry us into prayer we discover two things:

First, our trust in God is limited by the boundaries we impose on Him.  He is capable of infinitely more than anything for which we can ask or even imagine.   But something in us pulls back from this God who is not only capable of infinite love, but is eternal love Himself.  Indeed the One from whom we can ask anything might also ask anything in return.  And so we are afraid.  But voices from heaven constantly call to us, "Be not afraid!"

Second, the only way to make space in our lives for God to act, the only way to overcome our lack of trust, is by prayer.  God has permitted this moment in the life of this person He has given you to love because He is about a great purpose -- not only for the two of you, but for all those He loves.  He wants us to enter into a deeper friendship with each other and with Him - this is the whole purpose of his plan, of those things He has willed and those things He has permitted that His Will might be done.  Here, prayer is both the means and the end - because true prayer always ends in friendship with God.