From Soul of Christ
The second part of the final petition of the Soul of Christ prayer invites us to ponder the reason for our very being: praising God.
That with your saints…
One day when I stayed home from school in bed with a fever, I looked for something to read. I picked up Fifty-Seven Stories of Saints for Boys and Girls, written and published by the Daughters of St. Paul. I didn’t really like short stories, but I couldn’t find anything else to read. I opened the book and started reading.
Later that day – about 500 pages later – I closed the book. (I don’t know how I hid from my mother that I wasn’t sleeping!) My first all-day spiritual speed-read gave me a whole new perspective on the saints. According to this book, the saints were mostly ordinary people who responded in an extraordinary way to the grace of God. It highlighted their accessibility, humanness, and diversity, and made me feel that even I might be called to holiness. After that, I read everything on the saints I could find. I even imagined meeting these fascinating people and talking with them in Heaven.
The saints are living gospels: fallible human beings who “incarnated” the gospel. Their prayer and lifestyles are rooted in their own times, places, and cultures – always admirable, sometimes inimitable. Our path to sanctity includes our particular circumstances, culture, and time – God’s particular will for us. We come to know the saints not to imitate them slavishly in the details of their lives, but to imitate their ardor, faith, and love – especially for seeking and following God’s will.
When I was coauthoring the two-volume Saints Alive! I discovered that every saint has something to teach us, even those with whom we find it hard to identify. But certain saints will touch us deeply and become both friends and models. As we might call on a wise mentor or an older brother or sister, so we can turn to the saints to inspire us and pray for us.
…I may praise you…
Praise is one of the most important aspects of prayer and yet is often greatly neglected. So many times, our first prayer is one of petition or need. If at times we do not feel like praying, our neediness will often drive us to pray.
It is good to express our dependence on God, to turn to God in our need, and to pray for the needs of others. But it is even better to deliberately choose to begin our prayer with praise, because it shifts our attitude toward God.
True love of God seeks God not for what he gives us but for who he is. When we pray solely out of our own need, we are living only one important aspect of our relationship with God. It can grow into so much more. What do we want our relationship with God to be? Who does God want to be for us?
Only God can answer that last question, but the scriptures clearly show that God does not just want to solve our little problems, he wants to fill our lives with overflowing abundance. He wants to be our happiness, our holiness, our salvation, our joy, our healing, our strength, our refuge, our beginning and our end, our daily bread, the great romance of our life, the fire in our souls, the meaning of our existence.
When we begin our prayer with praise, we move the focus off of ourselves and onto God. Praying in a spirit of praise inspires us to glorify God with our whole lives and anticipates the way that we will pray in Heaven. When we lose ourselves in contemplating the goodness of our beloved God, we begin to experience the joys of Heaven.
…forever and ever.
This last phrase highlights our faith in eternal life and our hope that Christ has prepared a place for us. We might hesitate to think much about Heaven – either because it is in the faraway future, or because it is important to focus on building the Kingdom of God here and now.
Yet the thought of Heaven can
- be a model for building the Earthly Kingdom of God;
- strengthen our faith in times of discouragement or doubt;
- inspire us to action;
- comfort us in sorrow and suffering with the thought of eternal joy awaiting us.
Although I’ve believed in Heaven and its eternal joys since childhood, it was sometimes hard for me to imagine the glory of Heaven. But after my father died, my desire for Heaven became more concrete: I can easily imagine the joy of being reunited with my father.
Jesus encourages us to direct our lives to Heaven. In the Gospel of Matthew alone, Jesus uses the word Heaven or Kingdom of Heaven over sixty times. Often, Jesus refers to Heaven when he is describing his father – the Father in Heaven. In John 6, Jesus promises that as the Bread of Life, he will raise us up to share in his risen, eternal life. We are called to live in this joyful Eucharistic hope.
“Amen” is a word borrowed from Hebrew but we Roman Catholics take it for granted, using it as a period to end our prayers. “Amen” has been translated as: verily, truly, so be it, I believe. But these translations don’t seem to capture the fullness of meaning in the Hebrew. According to various scholars, in Hebrew “Amen” means that whatever has just been said is both affirmed and committed to.
There are two times throughout our lives as Roman Catholics that our “Amen” takes on special emphasis. The first is at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer when the priest elevates the host and chalice, and we are invited to offer ourselves with Christ to the Father. The second is our act of faith when we receive Communion. With our “Amen” we carry our prayer and self-offering into our day-to-day life. By saying “Amen” at the end of the Soul of Christ, we affirm and commit to the desire of Jesus to sanctify us, transform us, and bring us to eternal life with him.