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February 8th, 2015 - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 8th, 2015 - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. - Mark 1:35

I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin. One of the first places I encountered God was on the hill behind our barn. It was there, as I surveyed the rolling fields and gazed up at the sky, that the Beauty Ever Ancient and Ever New, caught hold of my heart.

From the top of that hill I've marveled at God's glory, and I've thanked Him for His goodness. I've also begged for His help, and pleaded for His mercy. Many times I've wondered if He was even there at all. Looking back, I know He was.

It's easy to feel like God is far away and not answering our prayers, when in reality we're just approaching prayer in the wrong way. St. Francis de Sales once wrote, "In prayer we must not seek the consolations of God, but the God of consolations." Prayer isn't about convincing God to give us what we want; it's about recognizing who we are in relation to Him Who Is and accepting the good things He wishes to give us, confident that He knows and wants what is truly best for us.

This is easier said than done, but Our Lord provides us with a perfect example to follow. Throughout the Gospels, we find Him seeking the company of His Father in the solitude of deserted places or upon the summit of mountain peaks, much like Old Testament prophets such as Moses and Elijah. Even if Jesus' prayer included petitions, the main goal was always greater communion with the Father and obedience to His will. When Jesus prayed, he went simply to be with his Father.

This is exactly the Father's will; communion. He wants us to share in His love, so that we might enjoy the fullness of life. He longs to give Himself to us, and he does so in a powerful way through the Sacraments, most substantially in the Holy Eucharist. Yet, for His presence to truly take root in our lives, we must foster this relationship by actively receiving His grace. Just as you would water a plant or regularly converse with a friend, so too must you consistently pray in order for your relationship with God to grow.

According to St. Francis de Sales, 'Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy-then we need an hour.' You don't have to say anything poetic. You don't have to say anything at all. You need only remember that you are in the presence of God and spend some time with Him. Simply receive the love He longs to give you.

This is essential, because you cannot give what you do not have. How can you love others if you do not receive God's love first? That is why Mother Teresa had her sisters spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration every morning before going out to serve the poor in the streets of Calcutta. The Lord calls each of us to do the same, in our own way.

So, let us follow Jesus, who made sure to pray before setting off to preach and cast out demons, as we hear in this Sunday's Gospel. Spend some extra time with Him in prayer this week, and then "go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life!"

Heavenly Father, let us remember that we are in your holy presence. Let us never fail to recognize your love. Teach us how to pray, that we may grow ever deeper in union with You. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.