April 9, 2017
The Rev. J.D. McQueen, II - All Saints’ Episcopal Church, San Diego, CA
Today we enter into Holy Week, one of the great (if not the greatest) opportunities for encountering Jesus in the Church year for several reasons:
After 40 days of Lent, we’re in peak spiritual shape or at least are more spiritually aware than usual.
- That makes it easier to get caught up in the zeal of Holy Week,
- With the finish in sight, there’s a kind of renewing of spiritual energy to make a special sacrifice
This energy also comes from a greater sense of community
- Billions of other Christians worldwide are preparing for Easter
- HW liturgies give more opportunities to gather as a parish family
Not only that these liturgies are different from the usual Sunday Mass
- Focused on the most action-packed, narrative portion of the gospels
- Reflected in dramatic liturgies that capture our attention, help to engage our Christian imagination
All these things create a special atmosphere for encountering Jesus in mental prayer.
- This is more than saying our prayers or praying for others – both of which are great, so don’t stop doing that.
- Mental prayer, or meditation, is different – this is where our relationship with Jesus becomes personal.
And when we open ourselves up to see what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives and the lives of others,
- we begin to experience what spiritual writers have called “fire from above,”
- Which is simply the love of God awakening, illuminating, and igniting our human experience.
- It’s us saying “yes” to God’s desire to make our lives shine like the burning bush.
There are several different ways to pray like this:
You can imagine yourself in the gospel scene, observing what’s going on or even engaging it.
- One of St Teresa’s favorite ways of praying was to imagine herself with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane;
- either praying for Him or just talking to Him.
You can practice “lectio divina” or “holy reading,”
- which is nothing more than reading slowly and deliberately through the gospels,
- and when something grabs your attention, pausing to think about it.
Something that I’ve personally found helpful is taking a passage of scripture and prayerfully putting it in your own words, as if you were simply acting as a witness, trying to tell someone what happened
[I’ve put together/printed out…]
Don’t worry about not doing it right – simply giving that time to God is a success.
- And when it seems like a struggle, like nothing’s happening and you want to quit, recognize that you have another great opportunity: to stay with Jesus even though you’d rather be doing something else, and to console Him for no reason other than love.
- Imagine yourself with Jesus in the garden, when all the other disciples have fallen asleep;
- Or during his trial, scourging, or crowning with thorns, when the other disciples have scattered
- Imagine yourself helping to carry the cross, or standing at the foot of the cross.
Don’t be surprised or get frustrated or discouraged if this is difficult or you forget – just start again. And remember especially that St. James tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” which means that if we’ll just open our hearts, Jesus will be happy to enter into us.