In your own Holy Week walk with Christ, what are some practical points of cultivating the prayer of simplicity and recollection? First, in freedom, fully give God your undivided attention. Desire to speak only to God. That means refraining from texting, from looking at our emails, from googling the net on our I-phones, looking at Instagram, whatever. Desire to speak only to God: to listen and to let yourself be loved. Let your heart lay itself open before God.
There’s a song I really like by one of my favorite artists, and the refrain says: “I’m not asking you to be someone you’re not. I’m only asking you to give all that you’ve got.”
In laying our hearts open before God, we have to be who we truly are and no one else. In other words, as the Catechism on prayer says, “There are no masks before God.” There are no hiding places before God. There’s no reason to hide before God. Allow everything to be exposed to the light of His love and allow Him to speak to our hearts in whatever way He wants to speak and to say whatever He wants to say.
Sometimes, we receive the message, but not with words. Sometimes, that message can come, not on the level of the head but on the level of the heart. There can be certain messages that can be perceived emotionally through the heart; if the message is anything but gentle, delicate, or reverent, it’s not from God.
Because other messages can be transmitted. They can come from ourselves. They can come from our subconscious. They can come from our own inhibitions, our own false self. There can be messages within us that can come from our own wounded self-image. There could be messages that come from the enemy. And if any message being transmitted, even if it’s a message of correction, even if it’s a message of a call or need for conversion, if it’s in any way accusatory, it’s not your Advocate.
If it’s in any way, even a flinch, an inch discouraging, it’s not from the Consoler, the Encourager, the Counselor. Because God can call us to conversion, but when He does so, He doesn’t defeat our spirit in the process. He’s not about that. He’s about building us up. Even if we need to be broken down before we can be built up again, which oftentimes is the truth, He doesn’t do it in a way that defeats our spirit, and is a source of discouragement.
God, as St. John of the Cross says, always works gently, humbly, with delicacy, with reverence for the person. Hence, Jesus in the washing of the feet…because what is more vulnerable than one’s feet? In regards to our bodies and our physical appearance, a person’s feet are something very private. You don’t want just anybody touching your feet. When Jesus was touching and washing the feet of Peter, he refused at the beginning.
For more reasons than one–not only because it was awkward but especially because in that culture, only a slave would do that task. Yet here was the master, the one with the highest status as a whole new person taking the lowest position. And Peter says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s going on?” He didn’t accept that.
So in prayer, we allow Jesus to wash our feet. We give Him the most vulnerable parts of our lives. He restores everything to let it be loved. That means every experience of our lives that is in need of redemption, and is in need of God bringing light out of some darkness, most especially the most foundational years of your life – your childhood.
The first five years, including the nine months in the womb, is the foundation of how a personality becomes developed. Of our self-identity, and our self-discovery as men and women is all there. The whole package is planted there. It’s developed there. It’s made up there. And so much of what makes us tick as adults, even if you’re already retired as adults, the root oftentimes can be connected to some experience of our development as children.
And our development as children is totally dependent on our relationship with our parents because it has an echo effect on our image of God; we don’t have physical contact with God, but we do have physical contact with our parents who represent God to us as leaders, protectors, providers, nurturers, teachers. Our image of God is completely interconnected with our image of our parents. Wherever there was a deficiency of love, a malnutrition of love, there is a void. There’s an empty space. There’s a chasm, an opening that God wants to fill in order for us to be made whole. (to be continued)
SOURCE: Auburn Retreat, 2016. Transcribed by Sue Ellen Browder
Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD