Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Here we go again

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Sept. 9, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky In case you haven’t noticed, another school year has begun. Or, as we in the service of the Church might call it, another “ministry year.” (It’s amazing how the two measurements of time’s passage influence one another.)

Yes, let us brace ourselves – here we go again! Somehow we never seem fully ready psychologically or emotionally for the transition from the relaxation of the summer months to the hectic and scattered pace of the responsibilities of life. Whether the ordinary cadence of life calls us to the classroom, the kitchen, or the office, its reality confronts us anew – and again – this time of year.

In many ways it’s back to ordinary time. But what’s so bad about that?

In recent weeks it has fascinated me to “walk” with Jesus and his disciples as they make their way to Jerusalem. That is indeed the spiritual journey through which we have been led by means of the Sunday Gospels selected by the Church for the prayer and reflection of the Catholic community throughout the world during these weeks of Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar. Week after week we have had opportunity to learn from the instructions and parables of Jesus the demands of discipleship. We must take up our cross each day and follow him. His followers have nowhere to lay our heads.

There is an urgency to the message we bear in Jesus’ name. Discipleship must be a priority in our lives and there cannot be any excuses for not following the Lord. Multiple are the challenges the disciples receive while on their journey with Him to Jerusalem. Jesus seems to deepen their focus and pushes the business of discipleship to the level of the heart and authentic personal relationships. Not that discipleship is empty of good intentions. We all know where good intentions lead, don’t we? After several passages which note perhaps the central demand of discipleship. Jesus advises his disciples – and each of us, too – of the necessity of praying constantly and not losing heart.

A good lesson to learn anew and we engage in yet another school (or ministry) year. For the busy and preoccupied disciple the central question about prayer can become whether or not God is listening to us or – in our darkest moments of doubt – whether God answers prayer at all. If our heart-to-heart relationship with God is not sufficiently profound and mature, we will tend to treat God as a great vendor of graces and mini-miracles which we demand at the drop of our prayer-coins.

It’s not that the immature disciple is selfish or greedy. For anyone who honestly attempts to learn from Jesus and follow in his way of service, there is certainly more than enough to pray about! Every hour of the day could be filled with prayers for those we have met and their needs. The disciple sees the brokenness of the world perhaps more keenly than others. We not only see it but are rather busy doing our part to correct it. But without heart and vision, we can become overwhelmed and frustrated.

As important as it is, our own efforts at service – even those rooted in discipleship – are not the end-all of our spiritual life. Have we not heard that the result of work without prayer is sweat and a tired body? In our journey with Jesus toward the glory of Jerusalem he seems to stop us in our tracks and remind us so. His disciples need to pray constantly and not lose heart. Jesus obviously is not asking us to pack our day with the constant flow of prayers. Certainly there must be specific times in every day for the disciple to spend in explicit prayer. The excuse that “my work is my prayer” is a cry that gains nothing with the Lord. What concerns Jesus is that his disciples see and experience all things as embraced by the loving and saving presence of God. What we do as disciples must be born of that awareness and, in a sense, return to it.

That is the vision which must burn in our hearts and inspire our busy-ness. God is so much bigger than our needs. Turning our minds and hearts to God in prayer keeps all that we do in perspective, whether it be saving nations at world summits or doing the dishes. Jesus seems to be reminding us that it matters less what we are doing or even what our legitimate needs may be. We will become overwhelmed by both if we do not realize that somehow God’s love carries it all and gives it all meaning. Our humble and constant prayer must be that our comparatively small efforts truly are one with the mind and heart of the One whom we seek to serve.

(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)

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