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April 25, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 13

COLUMNS

Believe as you Pray »

In Light of Faith »

photo: MSGR. Timothy Keeney

believe as you pray

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 or 22:1-14, 16-17, 20
John 14:23-29 or 17:20-25

W e have all seen wedding pictures, and one of the highlights of a wedding is when we first see the bride.

A common compliment at weddings is telling the bride that she is one of the most beautiful brides we have ever seen.

That compliment is always true because a bride on her wedding day is seen through the eyes of the love of her bridegroom and the happiness of those around them, as the bride and groom form a new family. A wedding photo helps us to recapture that moment and continue to have that reality live on.

The Book of Revelation today gives us a picture of a bride. It is us, the Church of Christ, the New Jerusalem.

Our wedding dress is the idealized city of Jerusalem, brought to perfection and fulfillment by the bridegroom. The gates, the jewels and the angels all speak of God bringing to fulfillment hisconvenant love for his people, the twelve tribes of Israel.

There is no longer a temple in this New Jerusalem or a need for one. A temple was needed in a city of fallen people, a place of encounter but one that was mediated. Even in the temple the place of the most intimate encounter was reserved only for the priests.

Now the perfected city, the bride in her entirety, is the place of that encounter, and all God’s people are now a priestly people.

The Bride is the Holy of Holies who is united with her Bridegroom — Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.

In part of the reading from Revelation, not read today but connecting the two parts we do read, is a description of the dimensions of the city. It is a perfect cube, as was the Holy of Holies in the temple. This leads us to see that as the Bride of Christ, the Church is now the Holy of Holies. Because of Christ’s Spirit living in us, Christ now encounters us directly in our lives and as the Church.

This is the true picture of who we are. We still live in time and are still affected by our sins. But that does not make this picture of us as the Bride of Christ any less true.

We are His most beautiful bride. We are perfected by His love and mercy, not because of any merit of our own. So we need to pull out our wedding album regularly to remind ourselves of how Jesus sees us.

Seeing that picture of who we are also calls us to live out our lives in that image.

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in light of faith

Finding God in the Verbs

As long as I can remember, I have been an avid reader. However, with an appetite for books that far exceeded the limits of my pocketbook, I developed a longstanding relationship with the public library that continues to enlighten and challenge me on a regular basis.

Last week while perusing the shelves in the religious book section — one of my favorites — my eyes lit upon a book that immediately captured my attention.

The title: “Finding God in the Verbs” aroused my curiosity. I checked out the book, and happily it did not disappoint.

Over the years, my search for God has led me to find God in nature, in people, in the events of life, and of course in prayer. However, I can honestly say, that even as a writer, it never occurred to me to look for God in verbs.

The book, co-authored by two members of the Quaker religion, J. Brent Bill, a minister and author, and Jennie Isbell, offers a unique perspective, inviting readers to make a list of the verbs used when praying from the heart.

According to the authors, the verbs we choose can provide important insights into our perception of God and the role we ascribe to divine intervention in our life.

Using words such as teach, nourish, enlighten, guide, and help are words that invite God to be actively engaged in our life in a way that involves us. In other words they imply a kind of partnership with God as we move and work through the joys and challenges of life.

On the other hand, words such as change, grant, transform, make or remove may imply that our perception of God is a bit like a divine Santa Claus or Superman whose role is to fix our problems and grant our requests with little effort beyond asking.

The authors make a point of saying that words do matter, pointing to the fact that prayer is the most important conversation we will ever have. However, in keeping with Quaker tradition, they note that as important as words may be, listening is even more important.

It is reminiscent of the words of Teresa of Avila who counseled her nuns about the importance of listening when we are in the presence of someone who is more intelligent than we are. That someone, of course, is God, and listening, I might add, is a verb and a very active one at that.

Listening in prayer does not mean we enter into a position of passive surrender, but that we gaze with affection towards the One to whom we are listening.

Those who have tried this know that active listening requires a great deal of effort. While the practice may invite a renewed appreciation for silence, it is also about entering (another active verb) into that secret room where Jesus instructed his followers to go when they pray.

It is about being quiet so as to hear the voice of God that is described in the Book of Kings as a gentle breeze. Listening to God does not involve so much an audible sound as it does a quiet revelation deep within that makes the Good News of Biblical times forever new.

Perhaps this is best described by the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero who wrote:

“This is the beauty and the prayer of the Christian life; coming to understand that a God who converses with humans has created them and has lifted them up…. He has lifted us up so that he can talk with us and share his joys, his generosity, his grandeur.”

He goes on to say that God is a God who converses with us and because he converses with us, at least half of our prayer time should involve listening. Archbishop Romero calls human beings God’s other self.

Indeed we have been created in the image and likeness of God and we are called to know God but we can only come to know God if we make time to converse with Him and that kind of conversation requires listening as well as speaking.

Just as Adam and Eve once walked with God, so we are called to walk and talk with God, to listen and to come to know God as truly as another self, for it is in God that we find our truest identity.

During the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor, a cloud overshadowed Peter, James and John and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him.”

These words were not meant simply for the three apostles who were privileged to witness the transfiguration. They were meant for all of us.

Like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, Jesus was revealed in the breaking of the bread, but Scripture reminds us that their hearts were burning within as he walked and talked with them.

It was in the walking, talking, listening, and remembering the breaking of the bread that led them to recognize Christ in their midst. And so it is with those who walk, talk, listen, revere and consume.

Our God is not a passive God but a God who is forever re-creating the world anew and inviting us to be partners in the process.

What an awesome privilege and responsibility! So let us be attentive and alert, attuned to his every word so we too can find God in the verbs.

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