February 11, 2011

Holy Conversation and Christian Faith


Prayer is a conversation with God.  But what a conversation!  The Lord has already initiated this dialogue.  He has already spoken the first word - even before we make the sign of the Cross.  As his Word, already knocking at the door, empties Himself into our heart, we find something beyond words to offer to God.  What is the Word that gives us speech, that gives us the confidence to address the Almighty, to entrust to Him our deepest sorrows and joys?  The Word is Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead.  By the gift of the Holy Spirit, this Word continually comes to us in new ways, ready to shower unique and un-repeatable blessings on us.  If we attend to Him with faith, if we cling to Him with our whole being, which means clinging to Him on the cross, we free God to do great things, to transform not only our own lives but through our obedience, the whole world.

There is one heart that received this Word so completely that it transformed all of history, saved the whole human race from death and imbued the world with new meaning.  She was not only among poor herself, but she was deeply concerned for the plight of those who seemed to have no hope, the hungry, the despised.   Her concern looked to God: waiting in hope for his saving action, trusting in His goodness and love.  She clung to God with complete confidence.  The Lord was drawn to her humble simplicity, a humility that only his grace can produce in the human heart, that the human heart can only receive as it surrenders to his great love.  He waited with even greater hope in her, entrusting to her not only his divine plan, but his very self.  Her response, her answer in this holy conversation?  "Let it be done to me according to your word."

St. Augustine explains that she bore Him in her heart even before she bore Him in her womb.  St. John of the Cross marvels at how she sees men able to have real joy because, in her Son, God is now able to cry.   Heaven declared her full of grace, but her neighbors thought her disgraced.  Yet in every generation there are those who call her blessed.  She pondered all these things in her heart.

Mary's faith in the Lord, a faith born of humble simplicity, deep trust and true hope, a faith filled with love, a faith that constantly pondered the ways of the Lord, this faith is a model for anyone who wants to really pray.  It is a living faith that Christ's death on the Cross has opened up for us, a faith entrusted to us, produced in us through the Holy Spirit who overshadows our lives.  Such faith takes the holy conversation we have with God far beyond any mere exchange of ideas.  We can trust in Him because He trusts even more in us.  When we say "yes," when we trust in the Lord, the Word of God permeates our humanity, transforming it from within, making it super abundantly fruitful for great and hidden purposes.  It is in the fulfillment of this divine dream we discover the truth about ourselves and about God, truths which both we and God are meant to marvel at together as real friends, a true unity of love, life and light.  For our part, we must think on the Lord with the ready obedience of living faith: surrendering every thought to Him, trusting with confident hope that "He who is mighty has done" and will do, "great things."