Friday, September 4, 2020

"Nurture in Us What is Good"

I wanted to take note once again of another very rich "Collect Prayer" from the Church's liturgy (it's too easy to miss the content of these prayers from Sundays and the days that follow during the week). 

This is from the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite, a week which ends on Saturday, September 5. Here again we find several basic facets of our relationship with God expressed and interconnected in a concise plea for His grace.

We could benefit from praying and meditating on these words personally any time of year, and it might be useful to have a book that "collects" the Collect Prayers, especially the series from the six month-or-so period after Pentecost. This is the longest continuous stretch of Ordinary Time in the liturgical year, lasting until Advent begins the new annual cycle. 

The first half of the Church year is strongly marked by preparations and celebrations of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus: Advent and Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter with its season culminating in the great feast of Pentecost.

However, we should not grow inattentive or distracted after the Easter Season ends. The fire of the Holy Spirit continues to illuminate the weeks and months that follow, so that this "Ordinary Time" (which does not mean "down time" or "insignificant time") represents the continuation of Pentecost. In these weeks, especially, we implore the Lord to strengthen and bring to fulfillment His grace that He has given us through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

Consider our prayer over this past week:

This is a prayer full of the awareness of our dependence on God and our confidence in His tenderness and goodness, in His fatherly care for us whom He has made His children.

God is the "giver," the Source of all goodness, and He calls us to know Him and love Him in Christ, to call Him by name - "Abba, Father" - with the love and grateful reverence of children. This is how we begin, even now, to share in God's own life that He has opened up to us through Jesus in the Spirit, the inexhaustible life of the Trinity, of the God who is Love.

Note again that not only does God give us this vocation. He also gives us the power, the expansion of freedom, which carries our response to His calling and our cooperation with it as we journey in faith, hope, and love to our fulfillment. He gives us His life, His goodness, in which we are destined to share.

In this prayer, we ask for Him to work the great mystery of His wisdom within us. We ask Him to "put into our hearts" the love of His name, and to "deepen" our awareness of His awesome and wonderful reality, His infinite goodness. Then we ask Him to "nurture" the goodness that is this new life in Christ, to watch over, care for, and "keep safe" this life that has been poured forth into our hearts through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

We ask the God who is Love, with what is truly "filial" (childlike) confidence and affection, to continue to foster - through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit - the growth of that new life in the Risen Jesus Christ which is the "beginning" of our eternal destiny. We ask Him to strengthen this "belonging-to-Him" which is our good, to draw us and care for us along the mysterious journey of our growing-in-Him, and to "keep safe" this life He has nurtured, until it reaches its fulfillment.

God is so good! He wants so much to love us and give Himself to us. Even if we feel dead as a stone, He wants to transform us into His sons and daughters, and heirs to the Kingdom where His love will be all, in all (see 1 Corinthians 15:28).

And when we begin to ask Him to give us what we can't give ourselves, it is because His love is already at work in us.