Friday, February 18, 2011

Friendship With Christ

Noman's second retreat meditation was about friendship with Christ, with a special emphasis on the indispensable role played by prayer in developing and maintaining that friendship.  Jesus is the one who initiates the relationship, and invites us into friendship with him.  "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20).  "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn. 15:15).  "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Mt. 18:20). The fulness of Catholicism is responding to this invitation, and having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  We don't want to have it said of us that "he came to His [friends] and those who were His [friends] did not receive Him (Jn. 1:11).  This friendship is crucial to our success, the only measure of which, ultimately, is the amount of grace in our hearts at death.  Death happens; it's the one thing the world wants to conquer, but can't.  We want to live.  And if someone saved me from drowning, he'd be especially precious to me; I'd acknowledge that I owed him my life.  That is the case with Jesus, who saved our souls.  Our goal should be to become his best friend.  The way we do that is through prayer--adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication (ACTS)--a conversation whereby we open ourselves up to our friend, and let ourselves be known.   In the Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Inuento, Pope John Paul II writes that "training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer... Prayer develops that conversation with Christ which makes us his intimate friends: 'Abide in me and I in you' (Jn. 15:4)...  Learning [the] Trinitarian shape of Christian prayer and living it the secret of a truly vital Christianity..." (#32).  We can't live a vital Christianity if we are  not people of prayer.  FCJM had the privilege in 1991 of praying with Pope John Paul in his Vatican chapel.  The Pope was hunched over with eyes closed for a half hour, and more, several times groaning in the Holy Spirit.  At one point JP II whispered to the tabernacle.  The Lord answered his prayers rather dramatically: communism fell; dictatorships collapsed; World Youth Day took off; vocations flooded to the priesthood, and more.  St. Edith Stein was renowned for her remarkable dedication to prayer even before she became a Carmelite nun.  People marvelled that she could keep it up with her heavy workload of teaching, translations of St. Thomas, and intense work with the poor.  She responded that her ability to do things increased correspondingly with the number or things that had to be done.  She didn't think of it as her using her talents, but rather as God working through them.  He expanded her time to accommodate the increasing number of things she needed to do.  If we believe that the more we pray, the better we'll get things done, God will not be outdone in generosity.  Our goal is to become contemplatives in the middle of the world, which we accomplish through friendship with Christ.  Friendship is sacred, and much more important than acquaintanceship.  The result of prayer is that we'll be happier, as we are always happier after spending time with close friends.  Noman wants to pray now, but before leaving, echoes the words of a close friend: "He who has ears, let him hear" (Mt. 11:15).

He who has ears, let him hear.

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