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Prayers from the Genesee
The following passages are taken from Father Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book “A Cry For Mercy,” published in 1981. He lived from February to August 1979 with the Trappist Monks of the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. Instead of keeping a dairy as he did when he first stayed in 1974 with the Trappist Monks, he wrote a prayer a day.
The prayers in this book were the result of an experiment, an experiment in writing to the Lord. When I look back at my six months of writing prayers I recognize that these prayers hide more than they reveal. They reveal a fearful heart, a cry for mercy, rays of hope, the power of the Spirit the needs of the world, and finally gratitude. They even reveal a movement from a self preoccupied introspection to the beginning of an inner freedom that offers space for the pains of others and responds to grace with gratitude. But I have come to realize that what remains hidden is prayer.
Rereading these prayers, a year after I wrote them, I now see that my words are no more than the walls that surround a silent place. These prayers are only the context for prayer. If anything has become clear, it is that I cannot pray, but that the Spirit of God prays in me. This divine prayer cannot be expressed in words, it dwells in the silence before, between and beyond the words of a searching heart. Prayer is the breathing of God’s Spirit in us. Prayer is the cry of the Spirit, “Abba, Father,” coming from the innermost depths of our being. Prayer is the divine life in us, a life of which we are only dimly aware and which transcends the capacities of all our senses. Thus I must say that these prayers hide the prayer of God, which can never be printed in a book.
The mystery of life is that the Lord of life cannot be known except in and through the act of living. Without the concrete and specific involvements of daily life we cannot come to know the loving presence of one who holds us close. Our limited acts of love reveal to us God’s unlimited love. Our small gestures of care reveal God’s boundless care. Our fearful and hesitant words reveal God’s fearless and guiding Word. It is indeed through our broken, vulnerable, mortal ways of being that the healing power of the eternal God becomes visible to us. Therefore, we are called each day to present to our Lord the whole of our lives--—our joys as well as sorrows, our successes as well as failures, our hopes as well as fears. We are called to do so with our limited means, our stuttering words arid halting expressions. In this way, we will come to know in mind and heart the unceasing prayer of God’s Spirit in us. Our many prayers are in fact confessions of our inability to pray. But they are confessions that enable us to perceive the merciful presence of God. Our prayers are as unique as our individual lives. The prayers in this book are those of one human being. May there be many more prayers by many more people so that the everlasting prayer of God, which cannot be expressed in words, will continue to make itself known.
1. A Fearful Heart
Tuesday, February 20
Today, 0 Lord, I felt intense fear. My whole being seemed to be invaded by fear. No peace, no rest; just plain fear: fear of mental breakdown, fear of living the wrong life, fear of rejection and condemnation, and fear of you. 0 Lord, why is it so hard to overcome my fear? Why is it so hard to let your love banish my fear? Only when I worked with my hands for a while did it seem that the intensity of the fear decreased.
I feel so powerless to overcome this fear. Maybe it is your way of asking me to experience some solidarity with the fearful people all over the world: those who are hungry and cold in this harsh winter, those who are threatened by unexpected guerrilla attacks, and those who are hidden in prisons, mental institutions, and hospitals. 0 Lord, this world is full of fear. Make my fear into a prayer for the fearful. Let that prayer lift up the hearts of others. Perhaps then my darkness can become light for others, and my inner pain a source of healing for others.
You, 0 Lord, have also known fear. You have been deeply troubled; your sweat and tears were the signs of your fear. Make my fear, 0 Lord, part of yours, so that it will lead me not to darkness but to the light, and will give me a new under standing of the hope of your cross. Amen.
Wednesday, February 21
Thank you, 0 Lord, for this day. I did not feel your presence, I did not hear your voice, I did not see your gentle face, but the raging fear of yesterday was gone, at least for many hours. Thank you for the quiet hours in the bakery, the quiet hours in my room and the quiet hours in church. I could think, read, and pray a little, and I even had a moment in which I could imagine that I might one day feel peace and joy again. Thank you, 0 Lord, for these good things. I read about “knowing you,” about the ways one comes to a knowledge of you, and I pray that what I understand with my mind will descend one day into my heart and give me inner light.
I call to you, 0 Lord, from my quiet darkness. Show me your mercy and love. Let me see your face, hear your voice, touch the hem of your cloak. I want to love you, be with you, speak to you and simply stand in your presence. But I cannot make it happen. Pressing my eyes against my hands is not praying, and reading about your presence is not living in it.
But there is that moment in which you will come to me, as you did to your fearful disciples, and say, “Do not be afraid; it is I.” Let that moment come soon, 0 Lord. And if you want to delay it, then make me patient. Amen.
Wednesday, February 28
0 Lord, it is a great grace that I can be in this monastery during Lent. How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of this season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death?
Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess. 0 Lord, I am self-centered, concerned about myself, my career, my future, my name and fame. Often I even feel that I use you for my own advantage. How preposterous, how sacrilegious, how sad! But yes, Lord, I know it is true. I know that often I have spoken about you, written about you and acted in your name for my own glory and for my own success. Your name has not led me to persecution, oppression, or rejection. Your name has brought me rewards! I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. 0 Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.
Monday, March 5
Listen, 0 Lord, to my prayers. Listen to my desire to be with you, to dwell in your house, and to let my whole being be filled with your presence. But none of this is possible with out you. When you are not the one who fills me, I am soon filled with endless thoughts and concerns that divide me and tear me away from you. Even thoughts about you, good spiritual thoughts, can be little more than distractions when you are not their author.
O Lord, thinking about you, being fascinated with theological ideas and discussions, being excited about histories of Christian spirituality and stimulated by thoughts and ideas about prayer and meditation, all of this can be as much an expression of greed as the unruly desire for food, possessions, or power.
Every day I see again that only you can teach me to pray, only you can set my heart at rest, only you can let me dwell in your presence. No book, no idea, no concept or theory will ever bring me close to you unless you yourself are the one who lets these instruments become the way to you.
But, Lord, let me at least remain open to your initiative; let me wait patiently and attentively for that hour when you Will Come and break through all the walls I have erected. Teach me, 0 Lord, to pray. Amen.
Saturday, March 10
0 Lord, life passes by swiftly. Events that a few years ago kept me totally preoccupied have now become vague memories; conflicts that a few months ago seemed so crucial in my life now seem futile and hardly worth the energy; inner turmoil that robbed me of my sleep only a few weeks ago has now become a strange emotion of the past; books that filled me with amazement a few days ago now do not seem as important; thoughts which kept my mind captive only a few hours ago, have now lost their power and have been replaced by others.
Why is it so hard to learn from this insight? Why am I continuously trapped by a sense of urgency and emergency? Why do I not see that you are eternal, that your reign lasts forever, and that for you a thousand years are like one day? O Lord, let me enter into your presence and there taste the eternal, timeless, everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, preoccupations, and worries “Seek first the Reign of God,” you said, “and all these other things will be given you as well.” All that is time-bound will show its real meaning when I can look at it from the place where you want me to be, the place of undying love.
Lord, teach me your ways and give me the courage to fol1ow them. Amen.
Saturday, March 17
0 Lord Jesus, your words to your Father were born out of your silence. Lead me into this silence, so that my words may be spoken in your name and thus be fruitful. It is so hard to be silent, silent with my mouth, but even more, silent with my heart. There is so much talking going on within me. It seems that I am always involved in inner debates with myself, my friends, my enemies, my supporters, my opponents, my colleagues, and my rivals. But this inner debate reveals how far my heart is from you. If I were simply to rest at your feet and realize that I belong to you and you alone, I would easily stop arguing with all the real and imagined people around me. These arguments show my insecurity, my fear, my apprehensions, and my need for being recognized and receiving attention. You, 0 Lord, will give me all the attention I need if I would simply stop talking and start listening to you. I know that in the silence of my heart you will speak to me and show me your love. Give me, 0 Lord, that silence. Let me be patient and grow slowly into this silence in which I can be with you. Amen.
2. Cry for Mercy
Saturday, March 24
0 Lord, when shall I die? I do not know and I hope it will not be soon. Not that I feel so attached to this life—--I might be much more attached to it than I realize—--but I feel so unprepared to face you. I feel that by letting me live a little longer, you reveal your patience, you give me yet another chance to convert myself, you offer me more time to purify my heart. Time is your gift to me.
I remember how I felt ready to die five years ago, when I left the Abbey after a seven-month stay. Now I do not feel that way. I feel restless, not at peace, guilty, doubtful, and very dark. Let my time here be a time of change: a change to inner tranquility, deep trust in your forgiveness and mercy, and complete surrender to you.
Thank you, Lord, for every day that you give me to come closer to you. Thank you for your patience and goodness. I pray that when I die I will be at peace. Hear my prayer. Amen.
Monday, March 26
0 Lord, the great spiritual teacher Isaac of Nineveh said: “He who knows his sins is much greater than he who makes someone rise from the dead. He who can really cry one hour about himself is greater than he who teaches the whole world; he who knows his own weakness is greater than he who sees the angels.” These words, 0 Lord, are so true. I realize that my preoccupation with my sinful deeds is a way of avoiding a confrontation with my real sinfulness. An avoidance of a confrontation with my real sinfulness means also an avoidance of a confrontation with your mercy. As long as I have not experienced your mercy I know that I am still running away from my real sin.
Come, Lord. Break through my compulsions, anxieties, fears, and guilt feelings, and let me see my sin and your mercy. Amen.
Friday, March 30
Dear Lord, show me your kindness and your gentleness, you who are meek and humble of heart. So often I say to myself, “The Lord loves me,” but very often this truth does not enter into the center of my heart. The fact that I get so easily upset because of a disappointment, so easily angered because of a slight criticism, and so easily depressed because of a slight rejection, shows that your love does not yet fill me. Why, otherwise, would I be so easily thrown off balance? What can people do to me, when I really know that you love me, care for me, protect me, defend me, guide me and sup port me? What does a small—--or even a great—--failure mean, when I know that you are with me in all my sorrows and turmoil? Yet time and again I have to confess that I have not let your love descend fully from my mind into my heart, and that I have not let my knowing grow into a real, full knowledge that pervades all of my being.
In the coming weeks, 0 Lord, I will be able to see again how much you indeed love me. Let these weeks become an opportunity for me to let go of all my resistances to your love and an occasion for you to call me closer to you. Amen.
Wednesday, April 4
0 dear Lord, today I felt the gripping power of my anger. I kept being imprisoned by violent, hostile feelings toward people who had not done for me what they had promised, and in my mind I kept creating angry speeches and vengeful reproaches. Even though I kept trying to direct myself to you, I found no way out of these feelings. I constantly discovered myself back in the center of my rage and could do nothing but present my fury to you. I saw how my rage revealed the degree to which I still belong to this world and its promises and rewards. I even realized that there was no proportion between my inner turmoil and the outer incidents which triggered it. But I could not shake off my anger.
I am humbled before you Lord, aware of how much I depend on your grace to come to the meekness and gentle ness of heart that I desire. I feel much calmer now, especially after I wrote down some of my angry feelings. But, Lord, do not test me too often. I want to taste less of my anger and more of your sweetness and love. Give peace to my heart. Amen.
Monday, April 9
Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you. You are the incarnation of Divine Love, you are the expression of God’s infinite compassion, you are the visible manifestation of God’s holiness. You are beauty, goodness, gentleness, forgiveness, and mercy. In you all can be found. Outside of you nothing can be found. Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere? You have the words of eternal life, you are food and drink, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are the light that shines in the darkness, the lamp on the lamp- stand, the house on the hilltop. You are the perfect Icon of God. In and through you I can see the Heavenly Father, and with you I can find my way to him. 0 Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One, be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide, my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy and my Peace. To you I want to give all that I am. Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant. Let me give you all—--all I have, think, do and feel. It is yours, 0 Lord. Please accept it and make it fully your own. Amen.
Tuesday, April 10
Dear Lord, your disciple Peter wanted to know who would betray you. You pointed to Judas but a little later also to him. Judas betrayed, Peter denied you. Judas hanged himself, Peter became the apostle whom you made the first among equals. Lord, give me faith, faith in your endless mercy, your boundless forgiveness, your unfathomable goodness. Let me not be tempted to think that my sins are too great to be forgiven, too abominable to be touched by your mercy. Let me never run away from you but return to you again and again, asking you to be my Lord, my Shepherd, my Strong hold, and my Refuge. Take me under your wing, 0 Lord, and let me know that you do not reject me as long as I keep asking you to forgive me. Perhaps my doubt in your forgive ness is a greater sin than the sins I consider too great to be forgiven. Perhaps I make myself too important, too great when I think that I cannot be embraced by you anymore. Lord, look at me, accept my prayer as you accepted Peter’s prayer, and let me not run away from you in the night as Judas did.
Bless me, Lord, in this Holy Week, and give me the grace to know your loving presence more intimately. Amen.
Friday, April 13
0 dear Lord, what can I say to you on this holy night? Is there any word that could come from my mouth, any thought, any sentence? You died for me, you gave all for my sins, you not only became human for me but also suffered the most cruel death for me. Is there any response? I wish that I could find a fitting response, but in contemplating your Holy Passion and Death I can only confess humbly to you that the immensity of your divine love makes any response seem totally inadequate. Let me just stand and look at you. Your body is broken, your head wounded, your hands and feet are split open by nails, your side is pierced. Your dead body now rests in the arms of your Mother. It is all over now. It is finished. It is fulfilled. It is accomplished. Sweet Lord, gracious Lord, generous Lord, forgiving Lord, I adore you, I praise you, I thank you. You have made all things new through your passion and death. Your cross has been planted in this world as the new sign of hope.
Let me always live under your cross, 0 Lord, and proclaim the hope of your cross unceasingly. Amen.
3. RAYS OF HOPE
Monday, April 16
Dear Lord, the women who saw the angel at the empty tomb came away with awe and joy. Yet, at the same time, they experienced fear. I have felt this myself today. I am filled with joy during these Easter days, but I still feel fear, apprehension, and distance. 0 Lord, I wonder if I would recognize you as did Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and the travelers to Emmaus. Is my heart able to recognize you? Have I really given you all my attention while you spoke with me during the years? Do I have eyes that can see and ears that can hear? Please, Lord, do not pass me by, do not ignore me. Show me your loving face and let me hear your consoling voice; all will be different. Do not let me be so busy with the affairs of the world that I do not even notice that something is happening that is really real!
Come, Lord, show me your face and lead me always closer to you. Amen.
Sunday, April 22
Dear Lord, this afternoon I shared my feelings of guilt and sinfulness with one of the monks. He gave me good advice. He kept urging me to move away continually from introspection and self-preoccupation and to concentrate on expressing my love for you.
What most helped me was his remark that nothing more terrible could happen than what had already happened: your death, 0 Lord, which is the most terrible, sinful, and frightful event in the whole of history. We human beings killed you, our brother, Son of the Most High. Whatever will happen--—hunger, oppression, or war--—can never be worse than what has already taken place. But you overcame the worst. You did not reject us, but made your death the sign of our redemption. Your love became fully visible to us in and through your death. Whatever evil I did or will do, you have already suffered it and showed me that it is never so evil that I cannot return to you. 0 dear Lord, let me never doubt your forgiveness but let me always remember that you died for my sins and rose from the dead as a sign of your forgiving love. Let not my guilt, but your love, guide me. Amen.
Wednesday, May 2
Dear Lord, you once said, “The will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me.” These words are a source of consolation this day. They show that you are doing all that can be done to keep me in your love. They demonstrate that indeed you entered this world to save me, to free me from the bonds of evil and sin, and to lead me to your Father’s house. They reveal that you are willing to struggle against the strong powers which pull me away from you. Lord, you want to keep me, hold onto me, fight for me, protect me, help me, support me, comfort me, and present me to your Father. It indeed is your divine task not to lose me! And yet I am free. I can separate myself from you, and you will never take this freedom away from me. Oh, what a wonder of love, what a mystery of divine grace! Please, Lord, let me freely choose for your love so that I will not be lost to you. Amen.
Thursday, May 10
Dear Lord, in the midst of much inner turmoil and restlessness, there is a consoling thought: maybe you are working in me in a way I cannot yet feel, experience or understand. My mind is not able to concentrate on you, my heart is not able to remain centered, and it seems as if you are absent and have left me alone. But in faith I cling to you. I believe that your Spirit reaches deeper and further than my mind or heart, and that profound movements are not the first to be noticed.
Therefore, Lord, I promise I will not run away, not give up, not stop praying, even when it all seems useless, pointless, and a waste of time and effort. I want to let you know that I love you even though I do not feel loved by you, and that I hope in you even though I often experience despair. Let this be a little dying I can do with you and for you as a way of experiencing some solidarity with the millions in this world who suffer far more than I do. Amen.
Sunday, May 13
Dear Lord, I bring before you all the people who experience failure in their search for a creative, affectionate relationship. Many single people feel lonely and unable to sustain a friendship for a long period of time; many married people feel frustrated in their marriage and separate to go different ways; many children cannot speak to their parents; and many parents have become afraid of their children. All around me I see the hunger for love and the inability to experience it in a deep and lasting way.
O Lord, look with favor on us, your people, and impart your love to us—--not as an idea or concept, but as a lived experience. We can only love each other because you have loved us first. Let us know that first love so that we can see all human love as a reflection of a greater love, a love without conditions and limitations.
Heal those who feel hurt in their most intimate self, who feel rejected, misunderstood, or even misused. Show them your healing love and help them on the way to forgiveness and reconciliation. Amen.
4. THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT
Thursday, May 17
Dear Lord, teach me the way to poverty. It is so clear that possessions lead to many false worries and that these worries prevent me from paying attention to you. You are with me all the time, you want to speak to me, you want to guide me, teach me, counsel me, and you want to show me where to go. I know that you stand at the door and knock. But I am so busy with other things, that I cannot hear you; so preoccupied with what to read, what to write, what to say, or what to do, that I do not realize that all those problems would not exist if I listened to you and stopped listening to my own inner turmoil. Help me, Lord, to become poor, in all the meanings of that word. Show me how to use the money that comes my way, show me how to use the knowledge I have acquired, show me how to use the relationships, and contacts that have become part of my life. Let all this not prevent me from following you but rather become a way to serve you and your reign. Let me become free from all my false worries and concerns, and live with a poor and free heart so that you alone are my Lord. Amen.
Friday, May 25
Dear Lord, even when I know everything about you, even when I have studied all the Scriptures with care, even when I have a great desire and willpower to work in your service, I can do nothing without the gift of your Spirit. Often I realize that the clearest vision of the true life, and the most sincere wish to live it, is not enough to make me a true disciple. Only when your Spirit has entered into the depth of my being can I be a real Christian, a man who lives in and with and through you.
You made it clear to your friends that they should not leave Jerusalem but should “stay in the city until they are clothed with the power from on high.”
0 Lord, I pray for the power of your Spirit. Let this power invade me and transform me into a real disciple, willing to follow you even where I would rather not go. Amen.
Saturday, June 2
Dear Lord, let your Spirit give me the power to overcome all hesitation, to take away all fear, and to remove all shyness. May your Spirit helps me respond gratefully to you, speak freely about you to everyone I meet, and act courageously to let your kingdom come. You, Lord, not only gave me a baptism in water but also a baptism in the Holy Spirit. Let that baptism in your Spirit become visible in my life. Let it allow me to experience your presence not only through the dark ness of faith but also through new sensitivities that allow me to see, hear, taste, touch and even smell a reality that reaches beyond what my natural senses perceive. Let your Spirit bring reconciliation, joy, peace, gentleness, and generosity into the hearts of those with whom I live and for whom I work. But most of all, 0 Lord, let your Spirit fill me with love so that all I think, say and do will be done out of love for you who lived, died, and rose from the dead for my sake. Amen.
Monday, June 4
Dear Lord, I pray that you will let your Spirit do his restoring work in me, even though I myself do not experience his presence directly. I would like to suddenly feel a strong wind, to see fiery tongues, to speak foreign languages, and to be so full of your Spirit that I could do nothing but announce the Good News to all who want to hear me. But this expresses more impatience than faith, more desire for the spectacular than quiet hope, more impulsiveness than deep and persistent love. You are sending your Spirit, Lord, I know. Even after a few months here I have sensed your work in my soul, a very quiet ongoing work. My experiences of darkness, guilt, and despair have lost their intensity, my moments of restlessness and fatigue occur less frequently, and in the midst of all my distractions I notice that my inner eye turns to you more easily than before. No dramatic changes are present, but yet I am aware of movements far beyond my own comprehension.
I thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Spirit. May the weeks to come strengthen and deepen the Spirit’s presence in me. Amen.
5. THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD
Wednesday, June 13
Dear Lord, you are the Truth. When I keep myself rooted in you, I will live in the Truth. Help me, Lord, to live a truthful life, a life in which I am guided not by popularity, public opinion, current fashion, or convenient formulations but by a knowledge that comes from knowing you.
There may be times during which holding onto the Truth is hard and painful, and leads to oppression, persecution, and death. Be with me, Lord, if that time ever comes. Let me then experience that to hold onto the Truth means to hold onto you, that Love and Truth can never be separated, and that to live truthfully is the same as being faithful to a loving relationship.
Lord, bring me always closer to you who are my teacher, always teaching me out of love. Amen.
Thursday, June 28
0 Lord, you came to bring peace, to offer reconciliation, to heal the separation between people, and to show how it is possible for men and women to overcome their differences and to celebrate their unity. You revealed your Father as a Father of all people, a Father without resentments or desires for revenge, a Father who cares for each one of his children with an infinite love and mercy and who does not hesitate to invite them into his own house.
But our world today does not look like a world that knows your Father. Our nations are torn by chaos, hatred, violence, and war. In many places death rules. El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Iran, and many other countries have not experienced peace for many years. Even in countries which are officially at peace, such as Spain, Italy, and Turkey, violence is never absent. And our own country, is it not more warlike than peaceful?
O Lord, do not forget the world into which you came to save your people; do not turn your back on your children who desire to live in harmony but who are constantly entangled in fear, anger, lust, violence, greed, suspicion, jealousy and hunger for power. Bring your peace to this world, a peace we cannot make ourselves. Awaken the consciousness of all peoples and their leaders; raise up men and women full of love and generosity who can speak and act for peace, and show us new ways in which hatred can be left behind, wounds can be healed, and unity can be restored.
O God, come to our assistance. O Lord, make haste to help us. Amen.
Sunday, July 1
Dear Lord, by the power that went out from you a woman was healed of an illness no doctor had been able to cure and a young girl was called to life. You revealed that God is the God of life, in whom no death can be found.
0 Lord, I pray, touch our death-oriented world and call forth new life. Bring life, joy, and new vitality to those who are walking in the shadow of death, to those who are ill and dying, to those who are depressed and in despair, to those who are resentful and violent. Wherever I look in this world, I see the power of death at work. I see it in the conflicts between nations as well as in the rivalries between people. Do not let your people be conquered by these dark forces, but let your life-giving power enter their bodies, hearts and minds, and let them recognize you as the Son of the God who is not a God of the dead but of the living. Amen.
Tuesday, July 3
Dear Lord, your apostle Thomas wanted to see you and touch your wounds. He was not satisfied with the enthusiastic words of his friends. He wanted to experience your presence with his own senses.
How I can understand that desire! Haven’t I been praying to you often and fervently to let me see you and touch you? And what do you say? “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Are you asking me to stay in the darkness of faith and surrender to you that feverish and impatient desire for a direct, sensible experience? Are you inviting me to live my life in simple faith, obedient to the witnesses who saw you after your death and who based their teaching on the fact that they indeed saw you alive?
0 Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. Amen.
Saturday, July 7
Dear Lord, today I thought of the words of Vincent van
Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained; and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love.
My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love. To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.
O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the sea remains the sea. Amen.
6. A GRATEFUL HEART
Wednesday, July 18
Dear Lord, no one knows the Father in heaven except you and those to whom you choose to reveal him. How pretentious and faithless it is to want to know God through study, spiritual discussion, or good works. All the books I have read, classes I have attended and retreats I have made cannot give me any true knowledge of God. Only you can reveal him to me. Knowing God, your Father, is indeed the greatest gift you give.
To whom do you choose to give this knowledge? To the learned and clever? No, to mere children, to those who hardly think about themselves but who are open to receive gifts which they themselves cannot understand or imagine.
Will you choose me, too? I often wonder if my knowledge about God has not become my greatest stumbling block to my knowledge of God. But you, 0 Lord, can open any door and walk through any wall. You can find in me the child who always desires to receive the knowledge of your loving Father. Come, Lord Jesus, and choose me. Amen.
Thursday, July 19
Dear Lord, you say, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” These words stayed with me today because I realized how often I complain about my yoke and hear others complain about theirs. So often I consider life and its many tasks and concerns burdensome, and then it does not take much to become pessimistic or depressed, to ask for attention to my “unique” problem, and to spend much time and energy in expressing annoyance and irritation.
You do not say, “I will take your burden away,” but, “I invite you to take on my burden!” Your burden is a real burden. It is the burden of all human sin and failings. You carried that burden and died under its weight. Thus you made it into a light burden.
O Lord, turn my attention from the false burden to the real burden, and let me carry your burden in union with you. I know that only then will I be able to over come the temptations of bitterness and resentfulness, and live joyfully and gratefully in your service.
Let me better understand your words, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Amen.
Monday, July 23
Dear Lord, do I want to see signs from you as the Pharisees did? I certainly do not desire miraculous cures or great solar phenomena, but I often find myself hoping that you will touch my own and my friends’ hearts in a very distinctive way. I often desire an inner feeling of peace, tranquility, and sweet ness in which your love and goodness can be tasted.
But you, 0 Lord, ask me to accept the sign of Jonas, the sign of your death and resurrection. You want me to recognize your presence not so much in unusual outer or inner events, but in the painful experience of living in the belly of the sea monster. You do not take your friends out of this world but want them to taste its bitterness with you so that by sharing in your death they can share also in your resurrection.
I pray that I can be faithful to you with no other sign to rely upon than the sign of Jonas. You yourself gave me that sign, and that should be enough.
In you, 0 Lord, I put my hope. Amen.
Friday, July 27
Dear Lord, how often have the worries of the world and the attraction of wealth choked your word! For your word to grow deep roots and to yield a rich harvest, it needs a free, open, and untroubled heart. I know, Lord, that your word has power, that it can transform heart and mind and can become so strong that it speaks as if by itself. But how can your word be effective when it is received by a thorny heart, a heart constantly and scrupulously reflecting on what happened yesterday and anxiously anticipating what will happen tomorrow, a heart perverted by guilt, jealousy, envy, and lust, a heart always restless and in turmoil? It is no surprise that such a heart prevents your word from bearing fruit.
0 Lord, give me a heart that can receive your word the way good soil receives the falling seed, and let your word produce new life and new love in the midst of this barren world. Amen.
Thursday, August 2
Dear Lord, it seems as if many pains and struggles are being brought to my attention this week. Car accidents, serious ill nesses, death, depression, loss of faith, inability to pray, feeling of impotence, and many other events and experiences cry out to you for healing, hope, faith, courage, and strength. 0 Lord, be with your people; do not leave them in fear and despair, but let them know that you are a faithful God who has made a New Covenant with them and will not go back on your word of love.
Most of all, 0 Lord, I pray that you help all who suffer to look to you who have carried all the sufferings of the world and have died to bring new life. May those who are in agony and pain see in your cross a sign of hope, and may they catch a glimpse of the mystery that they can make up all that has still to be undergone by you for the sake of your body, the Church. Help us to see that in our suffering we can indeed become intimately connected to your ongoing work of salvation.
0 Lord, show all who are in pain your boundless love and mercy. Amen.
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