April 20, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

We build our trust in God by faithful prayer

Every year as I administer the sacrament of confirmation, I choose a preaching theme that seems timely for our candidates. This year, I am focusing on our need to build our trust in God.

Building trust in God is a lifelong work of love as we grow in the spiritual life. Our culture does virtually nothing to encourage us to acknowledge our love and need for God.

Last October, Pope Benedict XVI declared Mother Theodore Guérin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods here in our archdiocese, a canonized saint of the universal Church.

God so loves us that he gave us our own saint in our part of the world. St. Theodora had a profound trust in God’s Providence. She lived an all-consuming love for Christ.

Mother Theodore is a saintly example close to home that shows us how nothing in the world can matter more than to build our trust in God. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive in the sacrament of confirmation help us to do that just as they empowered St. Theodora.

But what is our part? How do we build our trust in God? This week, I offer some simple thoughts about how we can build our trust in God.

As many folks know, I often recall our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II’s reminder that just as in the days of Jesus when some Greeks came to Philip and the disciples and said, “We want to see Jesus,” so in our day, people want to see Jesus.

People don’t want us just to talk about Jesus. They want to see the compassionate Jesus. The pope said that if we are to show the face of Jesus to the world, we must contemplate the face of Jesus—in the Gospel and in prayer. That is what St. Theodora did.

Another holy woman of our time, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, said: “I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do. Sometimes, I feel so helpless and so weak. I think this is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on him 24 hours a day. All of us must cling to God through prayer. My secret is simple: I pray. I realize that praying to Christ is loving him.”

She said that we need to find time to quiet ourselves. “In silence, God listens to us; in silence, he speaks to our souls. In the silence of the heart, God will speak.”

We need to take time to pray—no matter all the things we have to do.

In his first encyclical letter to the Church, “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict reminded us that people who pray are not wasting their time. He reminds us that we need to pray in order to balance the contemporary tendency to activism.

The examples of St. Theodora and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta show us that time devoted to God in prayer moves us to want to love and serve our neighbor.

Pope Benedict references a letter for Lent in 1996 that Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer” (cf. “Deus Caritas Est,”#36).

Sometimes when we pray, we might doubt the goodness of God. Pope Benedict says, “Often we cannot understand why God doesn’t intervene [in our suffering].” He says that is when we should cry out “like Jesus on the Cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ” [Mt 27:46]. He says, “Even in times of bewilderment and failure to understand the world around us, we Christians continue to believe in the ‘goodness and loving kindness of God’ ” (Ti 3:4) (cf. Ibid.,#38).

St. Theodora suffered greatly as a missionary here in Indiana. Prayer sustained her.

It is the Holy Spirit who makes something good of our prayer, not us. Our part is to do it. Helped by the Holy Spirit, we can pray and grow stronger in trusting in God.

Our prayer doesn’t have to be complicated. The holy priest, St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, told about an elderly man who would come into the parish church of Ars every day, rain or shine.

One day, the Curé asked him, “You come here every day. What happens?”

The man answered, “Nothing. I look at Jesus. He looks at me. We like each other.”

Like St. Theodora and Blessed Teresa, by faithful prayer we build our trust in God. We need God. We cannot be sure of a lot of things in life, but this we can count on: God will not fail us. His son’s suffering, death and resurrection are more than adequate assurance. †

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