Staying connected with God

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Everyday I travel 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the afternoon to get to work and to come back home.  Its a long commute.  I see many people with their electronic music players, cellphones, smartphones, tablets, using these handheld devices to pass the time and make the grind of the commute bearable.  It is great to stay connected.  You have the time to stay in touch with friends and family and even read news to stay in touch with the world.  You can read books to grow in knowledge or for entertainment.  And speaking of entertainment, there are a lot of games you can play on these devices.
But as Catholics, have we forgotten that the Church has invented the original handheld device to stay connected?  It has excellent reception anywhere, full bars of signal.  You never have to recharge it, in fact it even recharges you!  It never goes out of style and forces you to upgrade every 6 months.  You never have to sign up for 3-year contracts, although a lifetime commitment is ideal.  Have you caught on to what I am talking about?
This past week I finally received my very first prayer rope.  The prayer rope is similar to a rosary wherein its used to count the number of times a prayer is recited.  On the prayer rope we pray the Jesus Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Its simple, short and meaningful.  Also the objective of repetitive prayer is not merely trying to petition God over and over again.  Being that Eastern Spirituality is more contemplative, the objective of the Jesus Prayer is to transcend from an oral prayer, to a mental prayer, to a prayer of the heart where you live the prayer in your life and you become the prayer.
What does this all mean?  The first level is just what we would do now, say the prayer over and over again.  At this point its a chore, the words are said and it seems its a shallow activity.  But its shallow because our hearts and souls are hardened to let Christ take root in our souls.  So we repeat over and over again, the same way a jackhammer would pound the pavement over and over again to break it open and get beneath the surface.
Level two is prayer of the mind.  When we get to this level we are more conscious of the prayer now.  Even though the words were not something we made, it is made our own.  Have you ever shopped around for greeting cards (or e-cards for you young, hip ones out there)?  There are dozens of greeting cards in the bookstore to choose from, words written by many several authors.  We don't get the first one we come across, we find the one that speak for us.  That is how the Jesus Prayer is at this point.  We relate to the prayer and understand it deeply.  When we speak the words, we understand what every word means.  Oftentimes, every single time we say the prayer, it means something a little different to us.  We beg for mercy for our sins.  We beg for mercy for acknowledging that we are prone to sin.  We can even pin point exact actions in the day as we meditate that would show the times we sinned and how sorry we are for them.  On the surface its repeated, recited prayer.  But now it carries a deeper meaning.
The third level is prayer of the heart.  We now live the prayer.  Our lives are transformed, we don't pray the Jesus Prayer anymore, we are the Jesus Prayer.  Through our every thought and action, we live a life consistent with the meaning of the prayer.
So, with all that time commuting to and from work, we know there's a lot of time to enrich ourselves.  Do we do so with earthly knowledge and entertainment?  Do we do so with brief conversations with friends?  Or do we stay connected with God with the most awesome handheld device given to man?  When in conversation with others, do we not say that commuting is wasting a lot of time?  Why not avoid waste and use that time to connect with God?


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