29th Saturday in Ordinary Time
Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude
The first reading this morning is reminiscent of what we celebrated a few days ago: that through Christ we grow “into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”. How exactly do we grow into a dwelling place of God?
Jesus himself gives us the answer in the very first sentence of today’s Gospel: “Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God”. For the human Jesus, prayer is a means of his own growth, and also a way of teaching by example. His example shows us, as it showed the apostles, that sometimes the best response we can make to God is to spend time with him in prayer.
For Jesus, prayer is not so much a saying of something as a being someone, someone who has God for Father. No speech, no word, no voice is heard during his night on the mountain, and yet Jesus did pray by being himself in the presence of the Father.
If his prayer were to be put into words, it might be something like what St John Cassian wrote about in his tenth Conference on prayer. In commenting on this morning’s text, “Jesus went up to the mountain to pray”, Cassian cites the Gospel of St John and says that Jesus addressed this prayer to his Father for the apostles: “that your love for me may live in them, and that they may live in us”.
Cassian comments that this prayer will be fully realized in all of us when, as he puts it, “the perfect love with which God has first loved us has passed into the very movement of our heart in fulfillment of the prayer of the Lord; and this prayer of the Lord, we believe, will not be in vain”. If we allow divine Love to pass into the very movement of our heart, as Jesus did, then our prayer will be like his, the prayer of someone loved by God, who lives in God.
And yet, the silence of Jesus in this morning’s Gospel says, better than words ever could, that we need to listen when we pray. We are so ready to talk, when often it would be better to allow ourselves to be carried by the Spirit of truth and love. When we do need to ask for something, we should ask as Jesus may have done during that night of prayer, and as he certainly did in the garden.
And if God is silent, that doesn’t mean that he is absent. When Jesus came down from the mountain, St Luke says that “power came out of him that cured them all”, a visible answer to an implicit prayer. Let us follow the example of Jesus, as the apostles did, and just be ourselves in prayer, so that we too may become, like Jesus, “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”.