From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
We live in turbulent and uncertain times. Tensions can run high even among friends. Our readings this week addresses the issues of accountability and reconciliation with each other. Both are incredibly important in today’s world. Each of us will face times of disagreement and even intense discussions bordering on disputes. By being watchmen for each other, we find a message of hope through caring for one another and helping one another to navigate the challenges of life. We are called to do so with honesty and truth (simplicity), with kindness, patience and mercy, and with respect and love for one another. St. Paul’s letter offers us the pathway forward. He tells us that we have laws and commandments, a moral code of conduct to follow. Most importantly though, we are called to love one another! When we do, with Christian charity and good intentions, we will safeguard the moral codes –especially where it matters. We will have truth in how we treat one another and grow in relationship. He reminds us that we are to ‘love our neighbor as our self.’
It begins with love grounded in respect, kindness and gentleness, recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of each person and situation. We are accountable to help each other to grow in our love for God. We are accountable to help each other in our respective and unique journeys. We are accountable as the watchman that he calls Ezekiel – and all of us – to be. A watchman is on alert to help our brothers and sisters when they go astray. We are to quietly help them to see when their actions hurt us, or others. Not with hatred and anger and a desire to win. Not with harshness and hyperbole and exaggeration. That type of approach does nothing but harden the heart of others – and ourselves. Rather, we need to approach them with encouragement and persuasion, kindness and gentleness, generosity of spirit, and humility. Our goal should not be to humiliate –but to collaborate and build up. We are all sinners, and we all need to lift each other up, helping our brothers and sisters to regain the right path – the path of truth and Jesus Christ.
We need to remember though that relationship is a two-way street. We have an accountability to listen to truth spoken to us. Our Psalm says “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” The truth of God often comes to us through the encouragement from others. We need to hear that voice with joy and thanksgiving. We need to be sure not to let our hearts become hardened by our own sinfulness. A hard heart can’t feel, can’t respond and can’t love. A hard heart is a closed heart and so it can’t receive. Prayer, sincere prayer, can help to open our hearts. For where two or three are gathered, there He is in the midst of them. It is our Lord Jesus who can lead us to resolution and reconciliation of differences. This is because prayer – true, consistent and intentional prayer – opens our minds and hearts to God’s voice. Jesus never told us it would be easy – but he promises he will always be with us. When we come to the Lord, we must listen with open hearts and respond to his Divine Providence and guidance with humility and generosity of spirit. Simply put, we need to be God led and God inspired in all that we are about.
As Vincentians, we will face tough conversations with neighbors in need from time to time as well. This is particularly true during this time when resources are limited and need is enormous. Given the nature of the work we are doing, this is to be expected. The question is how we deal with these issues. Do our hearts harden as tensions rise? Or do I seek God’s mercy and compassion – God’s will in every situation? Do I always start in prayer for everything I am about to do? Do I ask God to help me to have an open and loving heart that I might be open to the help He wants me to offer to others? Do I always leave in friendship and love, even when we disagree? Do I come humbly, with patience and kindness in my heart?
Father, give me the grace and humility to love others as myself, recognizing within each person your presence. Allow me to set my pride aside so that I might see the full value of another’s thoughts and ideas. Help me to be continually in prayer with you Father, and to intentionally enter into prayer with others that you might be in our midst. Open my ears, my heart and my mind that I may listen to hear your voice and will for all things that I do. Allow me to be guided by your Spirit and to act in friendship and charity in all that you ask of me. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen