March 24, 2013
Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed saying, Father, if you are willing to take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them “Why are you sleeping?” Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” Luke 22: 39-46
I am completely overwhelmed by the readings for this Sunday. They are rich, but so familiar, that it takes quite a lot of readings to settle myself down into prayer. Since the readings are so familiar every distraction claims priority in my ill focused mind. The words “Why are you still sleeping?” keep echoing back to me. Sleeping? Me?
“Why are you still sleeping?”
Don’t you love the persistence of our Lord when you have allowed a smidgen of His word to penetrate your heart? Yet, much like the befuddled, grief stricken apostles, I have no idea where I am being led with this question. It is much easier to fall asleep, to complacently put aside His request for my attention rather than allow His word to unsettle dormant desires in my soul. I like feeling like I have everything under control. But when you let the word of Jesus echo in your heart and mind, you will soon feel a stirring in your soul; the troubling of sleepy, complacent waters. And yes, you will find that all is not well there, you need Him, desperately. Persist, be brave and keep praying! Because you and I are needed when the hour of darkness falls on us in our own time.
“Why are you still sleeping?”
The call of Christ to awaken in each of us the desire to cultivate a heart of unceasing prayer is becoming more and more urgent. Maybe I am feeling this way because recently, at a Lenten retreat, I was struck by an image a gentleman shared with us. He received this image during our meditation time. At first he had been a little distracted by the fast paced music that was playing quietly in the background, thinking that it was not very “Lenten”. But he persisted in his prayer and soon enough he settled in and could see in his mind Jesus walking very quickly with His disciples following behind. The man caught up with Jesus and asked him why He was walking so fast. Jesus replied “because there is not much time.” It sent chills down my spine.
Or maybe it is because our new Pope Francis has, like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, pinpointed spiritual poverty as the prevailing sickness of the wealthier nations of the world. And it is a sickness that has left us sleepy and complacent as objective truths are replaced with the dictatorship of relativism. We are being enslaved by our baser desires, and many of us are not in the least bit aware of it. The farther we go down this path the harder it is to desire truth - to seek it out with the energy and fervor that are needed to stay awake and endure in the dark mysteries of life, and we have already progressed so far down this path as a culture. The words of Jesus in the gentleman’s meditation “there is not much time” fall even harder on my heart after I hear this.
Why are you still sleeping?”
Remember the C.S. Lewis quote that I used in my post on John 6 last summer? It was a quote, spoken by an elderly Christian man as they await a decisive battle against evil, from his book That Hideous Strength:
Have you ever noticed,.....that the universe, and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?....I mean this,....If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family- anything you like- at a given point in its history you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and that there's going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and codices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing." Pg.280-281
In our distracted, social networked, trans-gendered, create- your- own- truth world the time we have to reach souls is diminishing fast. We are entering into a time where straddling between faith and culture will no longer be possible. Are we doing enough? Are we giving our young ones, not just words of truth, but a living relationship with Truth Himself? Are we teaching our own little ones how to pray more deeply and more intimately with Christ, so that their love for their Lord will override the incredible pressure to side with a culture that increasingly cannot acknowledge objective truth, and is, in fact, hostile to it? If not we need to wake up, and we need to wake up now. If we cannot teach our own children that Jesus wants you to persist in prayer, through all the struggles and through all the grief in our lives, how in the world are we going to be light for those who lurk in some of the darkest shadows of despair? And, again, the pervasive and growing hostility to our faith, as well asl the ever-present distractions that surround us, make these outreaches even more urgent!
“Why are you still sleeping?"
One way to help us to awaken those around us who practice our faith, but may not live it intentionally, is to teach about prayer and to let every one know that it is in prayer that we learn to love Jesus with passion and with courage! It is in prayer that we begin to discern His voice, and as we persist through our distractions and through our sleepiness, we will begin to know that He is always intimately present. We really need to let the Spirit into our imaginations and let Jesus show us how we are written into His story. To give to one another the courage to cry out to Jesus like Bartimaeus did, persistently. Or to run the gauntlet of accusers -- those 'voices' that discourage us and would keep us from seeking out the Lord -- like the sinful women with the alabaster jar; so that you can weep at His feet and receive His tender love and forgiveness. We need to give our young people the inheritance that is theirs by their baptism. They are sons and daughters of the Father.
If you have perceived that persistent call of Jesus, to awaken your soul to prayer and to help others awaken as well , as always He does not leave us orphaned and alone. There are growing ministries responding to this call. One that I participate in that has focused on reaching out to our children is One Heart ~ One Fire Ministries.
Peace and Grace to all of you!
Update:Here is another link, to an article written by Matthew Archbold on the National Catholic Register. Again, I can her His voice: "Why are you still sleeping!"