July 2, 2009

Reflections on the year of St. Paul

I am so grateful for the Year of St. Paul we just celebrated. It renewed my love of the Scriptures and it opened me to the great task of evangelization that still needs to be done. It also helped me rediscover St. Paul as a man of prayer.

In a future post, I would like to explore this them more deeply. But for now, I will simply draw attention to what he held as the priority of prayer. It is an example for all of us. There are lists of hardships that he endured throughout his letters. There is only a couple references to "advanced experiences" of prayer. But he only mentions these in passing. What he like to dwell on in his prayer is how the Lord teaches him to renounce self-reliance. The Lord showed Paul that the only way to persevere in hardship and weakness was to turn to the Lord in faith. God's strength alone is sufficient for us in our weakness.

Quite a few of us forget this basic truth about Christian prayer. No matter how advanced we think we are, prayer has little to do with our own achievements but rather God's power. Prayer is ultimately in this life, as St. Therese describes it, a cry of the heart. It is essentially a cry of trust, reliance, and surrender. Through our prayer, the Lord is able to show in glory in our weakness - even when all seems ill.

This reveals to us something important about the discipline of the Christian life. We live moral lives disciplined for the sake of the Lord out of love for Him, as a loving response to the love He has lavished on us. This discipline of daily prayer, reading the scriptures, loving those entrusted to us, taking care of the poor in our midst, associating with the lonely and abandonned - this discipline is sometimes quite difficult. We often fail or come to our limits. But this seems to be where the Lord likes us to be -- at these moments, He shows us his glory - it is in our weakness that His strength is revealed.