by Mother Mary Loyola
“Art Thou a stranger and hast not known the things that have
been done in these days?” To whom He said: “What things?”
(Luke xxiv. 18, 19.)
Some of us, may-be, are deterred from visiting our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by a false conception of what a visit should be. We suppose that the occupations which fill our heads and our hands from morning till night must all be laid aside at the church door and sternly forbidden entrance, much in the same way as we bid our dog lie down in the porch and wait for us. We read that St. Bernard thus dismissed all secular thoughts, and we conclude—though his biographer does not say so—that they returned at the end of his prayer, and not before. Self-mastery such as this demands an effort to which few of us feel equal. Do what they will, the mind of the doctor and the lawyer will run more or less upon their anxious cases, the student’s head will be full of his examination, the mother’s of her household cares. These thoughts, if indeliberate, will be at least persistent, and if quite deliberate will become sinful. In either case they render prayer an impossibility—hence we stay away.
Now do we find this view of prayer borne out by the practice of God’s servants? Of David in perplexity and trouble we read: “And the Philistines coming spread themselves in the valley of Raphaim. And David consulted the Lord, saying: Shall I go up to the Philistines? and wilt Thou deliver them into my hand? And the Lord said to David: Go up, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into thy hand…And the Philistines came up again…And David consulted the Lord: Shall I go up against the Philistines?…He answered: Go not up against them.”(2 Kings v. )
Of David in a mood of joy and thankfulness we are told: “And King David came and sat before the Lord, and said: Who am I, O Lord God, that Thou shouldst give such things to me?” (1 Par. xvii.)
See, too, the simplicity and confidence of Ezechias on receiving the threatening message of Sennacherib: “And Ezechias took the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it, and went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.”(Isa. xxxvii.)
A common complaint is that daily worries and anxieties so invade our minds that our prayer has no chance. But is this our feeling about a talk with a trusty friend—a man of sound judgment, wide experience and influence, on whose interest in all that concerns us we can count with certainty? Should we say: “I had half an hour with him this morning, but my mind was so full of that affair I could find nothing to say”; or: “I had it all out with him this morning, and am ever so much better already”?
Why not deal thus familiarly with our best Friend? If Ezechias could spread out his letter before the Lord in that old Temple, which was but a shadow of the better things to come, why may not we carry our good news and our bad before the pitying human Heart of Christ, with us all days on purpose to hear every day—and, if we will, every hour of the day—all we have to tell Him, and hearing all, to help in all?
Had our Lord said to us: “I will prosper any spiritual concerns that you commend to Me, but really you must look after your own temporal affairs, and I shall count it an irreverence if you bring such things into My presence”—had He said this, there might be some excuse for the pains we take to shut Him out of the cares and business of everyday life.
But has He said this, or does all we know of Him go to prove the exact contrary? Did He count it an irreverence when the sick were thrust upon Him at every step; when a paralytic let down from the roof and laid at His feet stopped His teaching; when messengers came one upon another to draw Him here and there for some temporal need: “Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick”(John xi); “Lord, come down before that my son die” (Ibid. iv)? Did He refuse the invitation at Cana? And if, for a brief space, He delayed the miracle designed from all eternity to manifest His tender interest in the joys as well as in the sorrows of home life, was it not obviously to show how Mary’s heart beat in unison with His, and to honour His Mother’s prayer?
“Lord, come and see,” said the weeping sisters as they led the way to the grave. Look at Him between them, listening now to one, now to the other, as they tell the history of the past three days—how they had watched and waited for Him, and counted on His coming, and He came not. See their tearful eyes. See the eager Heart, longing for the moment when He may reward their trust and turn their mourning into gladness.
What should we have felt and said that day at Bethany if, after raising Lazarus, He had turned to us and made Himself our listener, placing Himself, as was His wont, at the complete disposal of the one who wanted Him? Should we have felt shy of trying to interest Him in the details of our life, in our little joys and troubles? Or would our hearts have opened out to Him, and simply emptied themselves in His presence?
Do we want an ideal visit to Christ? Let us seek it in Nicodemus’ talks by night; in the centurion’s urgent pleading for his servant; in the unburdening of soul that we see in Zaccheus and in the sisters at Bethany. And let us frame our own visits on such models. If a big worry threatens to invade prayer, why not take it straight away into prayer, giving it the place and time it wants, making it the subject-matter of our intercourse with God, and so turning a hindrance into a help!
Of course we must do all this with reverence and a certain amount of watchfulness, or our prayer will be no prayer at all, but distraction pure and simple. But if we put our case before our Lord and talk it over with Him, representing our difficulty, asking His advice, listening to His whispered word in answer, our time of prayer will be what He wants it to be—a time of rest, and light, and strength.
Some may say that this so-called prayer is very unsupernatural, and that the results of such a compromise between prayer and distraction will not be very satisfactory. It may be so; we can only reply that there are times without number when this is the only method of getting results at all, and that our Lord’s method of dealing with His own and theirs with Him was eminently natural.
No, surely, our difficulty is not due to want of sympathy on the part of Christ our Lord. It can only come from our failing to recognise the full purpose of the Incarnation and its bearing on every detail of human life. Had His act of Redemption been His one motive in coming amongst us, He might have come straight from His throne at the right hand of the Father to the cross on Calvary. But the proof of love greater than which no man can give did not satisfy Him. He wanted, as “Firstborn amongst many brethren,”(Rom. viii) as Head of the human family, to place Himself in intimate communication with it on every side—to touch, as far as might be, every point, every experience of human life, entering personally into its mysteries of joy, and fear, and love, and sorrow. And so we have the years of infancy and childhood and youth, and—precious above all— the blessed years of the public life, when “the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us,”(Acts i.) proving by every word and act His desire to be associated with us His brethren, His right to His name of predilection—the Son of Man.
He it is Whom we find waiting for us when our turn comes to pass across the short stage of life on earth. He calls us to Him, calls us by our name, one by one. He bids us take Him to our hearts as the nearest and dearest of our friends, Who alone can stand by us when all others fail. He bids us cultivate His friendship, and try it and prove it. And He promises that we shall find Him what all have found Him who have put their trust in Him—what Martha and Mary, and Paul and Bernard, and Teresa and Margaret Mary have found Him—the “Faithful and True,”(Apoc. xix) “Jesus Christ yesterday, and to-day: and the same for ever.”(3 Heb. xiii)