The natural seasons of the year give a rhythm to life. Each season provides nature with something it needs to keep growing.
The same thing happens in the Church, with liturgical seasons. In each liturgical season God sends us graces we need in order to keep growing in wisdom, holiness, and happiness.
But these graces don't benefit our souls automatically, the way sunlight benefits plants. Rather, we have to take them in on purpose.
But how? How can we bathe in the supernatural sunlight that will make us grow, make us better, make us change, during this liturgical season?
Today the Church reminds us of the most effective method we have for drinking in all the graces God wants to give us during this Lent: prayer.
- Today's First Reading tells us that "The Lord God took Abram outside..." and had a conversation with him. That's prayer.
- The Psalm gives us an example of King David's prayer in the face of danger, "Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me..."
- St Paul, in the Second Reading, reminds the Christians in Philippi that while most people occupy their minds "with earthy things... Our citizenship is in heaven." Our attention is on God - that's prayer.
- Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus leads his three closest disciples away from the hustle and bustle of life, up to the top of a high mountain, where he can be alone with them, and give them a lesson in prayer.
Prayer brings many benefits to our lives. One that is often overlooked comes across in this Gospel reading.
One of the reasons that Jesus brings Peter, James, and John up the mountain is because they need to see a glimpse of Christ's divine glory.
Just as Lent is bringing us closer to Christ's passion and death, so in St Luke's Gospel the Passion is drawing nearer. They are on the way to Jerusalem.
- Jesus knows that when his followers see him betrayed, scourged, and crucified, they will be shocked and disheartened. They don't know this, but he does.
- He knows they will need something to hang onto in those dark moments, something to give them hope and encouragement. This experience on the mountaintop is exactly that.
- It is meant to give them a deeper knowledge of Christ's greatness.
God wants to do the same with us.
Even better than a good coach, parent, or doctor, he knows what lies ahead for each one of us: the triumphs and the temptations, the success and the struggles.
- He wants to equip us to get the most out of each of them.
- He wants to outfit us for each stage of our life's journey.
If we don't go up the mountain with him and give him a chance to do fill us with his grace, we won't be ready when the future comes.
All of us have to ask ourselves about our prayer lives. We need to be honest. If our prayer life hasn't grown in the last year, we need to do something about it.
God still has so much he wants to do in our lives. Improving our prayer life will give him room to work.
One way to do that is by instituting a daily quiet time.
- We never let a day go by without taking a shower, because we know our bodies need that cleansing.
- We never let a day go by without eating, because we know our bodies need that nourishment.
- Many people almost never let a day go by without exercising, because they know their bodies need that stimulation.
It's very simple to do.
Choose a time and place in which you won't be interrupted. Then do three things:
- First, Remember. Remind yourself that Christ is with you and wants to be with you. Think of all the blessings he has given you.
- Second, Read. Take out a spiritual book, a Bible, or your favorite prayer book and read a paragraph or two, slowly. No rush.
- Third, Reflect. Think about what you read. Listen to what God wants to say to you through it. Apply it to your life.
Before you know it the fifteen minutes will be up, and you will have received a word of encouragement from God to help you live the life he wants you to.
Prayer is the secret to drinking in all the graces God has in store for us. Today, he is hoping we'll decide to become better pray-ers. Let's not disappoint him.