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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Christian Contemplation and God's own Little Ones

Christian contemplative prayer is a prayer that "sees" but what it sees is sometimes painful. Earlier this weekend, Archbishop Gomez reminded us that there are whole families that are afraid of the future of these uncertain times, that there are even children who live in fear. He was referring to specifically to the children of immigrants for whom He shares a particular solidarity and bond. His voice is so important for all of us to listen to on this last day of the Year of Mercy—for today is not the last day that we must be generous with the stranger in our midst. In fact, we will be held accountable before God for precisely how we respond to the plight of those who live among us now. If we really had the courage to think about it, our callousness today is not limited to questions of immigration or the latest election results. Any society in which babies are not safe in a mother's womb is a society in which anyone who is vulnerable is at risk. The stakes are high for us as a people. Just as what happens in the womb determines the course of society, so too how we treat our children (whether born or unborn) determines who we are. If only we could face this, then we would remember how to treat our neighbor, even the undocumented ones. In the meantime, we have passed laws to promote all forms of insobriety and intoxication—a culture of escape from self-torment. Do not be dismayed by callousness or escapism—Christ has come to save us even from this. Against our own self-hatred, our faith in the Just Judge reminds us that we do not have to be the fanatical zealots of the latest political cause. If we turn to the Son of God, we do not have to demean ourselves before the altars of social progress and material wealth. If we embrace the Word of the Father, we do not have to indulge frenzied fits of social nihilism. If we will accept the gift of His Heart given for us, we do not have to give our hearts to heartless programs. Christian contemplation prayer allows us to access the very Heart of God, and in the Heart of the Trinity, we discover a point of entry into the heart of our neighbor. This is because the deeper that one goes into the mystery of prayer, the more familiar with the deep things of God one becomes. What does contemplative prayer "see" in the immensity of God's presence? In the fullness of God there lives an abiding love for humanity, for each person in the unique exigencies of his and her own real life situations. The prayerful heart knows that the Lord's love for each one of us is a particular and unrepeatable love—as manifold in its expressions as the variety of beings that He has summoned into existence. Because the Almighty Father treasures each of his creatures in unrepeatable and unique ways, the soul that prays becomes vulnerable to the overflowing intensity of this same divine tenderness. This is why a heart truly steeped in prayer cannot be indifferent to the fear of little children and of families. It feels moved into action to relieve the burden that God's own little ones suffer. Invisible and more powerful than anything that can be felt, prayer allows Eternal Love to blow forth like a wind or a breath. From the Father and the Son this Holy Wind blows through our cry of faith into the deepest crevices of our personal existence and out to the very ends of the world around us. An elaborate harmony of astonishing mutual recognition and tender empathy, this Hidden Mystery rushes into our own secret sorrows and fears to make His home with us. In ways of which we are hardly aware, but that make all the difference, the Uncreated Gift of the Father and Son bows our very spirit in adoration while lifting it up with a joy that nothing can take from it. Our sorrow and fear become His and His joy and hope become ours. The Trinity leads us out of ourselves, our own self-occupation, and into the love of the Father for His whole work of creation and every person in it. As we see how much He wants to save each of our neighbors, we learn to ache with the same ache that lives in the deep in the Mystery of God. The more we are implicated in this movement of love, the less we are able to be indifferent to the plight of our neighbor. To be silenced by the immensity of God, to be baptized into the three-fold personal presence of the Most High, this is the mystery of contemplative prayer, of a prayer that "sees." Such deep prayer joins us to the suffering of all those with whom God has implicated Himself. This heart to heart can in a single instant completely convince the soul of its true worth, and, in the same moment, bind it to the plight of its neighbor in way that it cannot not act. The realization dawns - the heart knows the secret that God knows—no longer alienated, its own misery has become a rendezvous with the One crucified by Love and with all the little ones that He entrusts to it along the way.

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