Hearts and Hope

Originally published by Ministry & Liturgy Magazine, June 2012
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The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:
God of might, giver of every good gift, put into our hearts the love of your name, so that, by deepening our sense of reverence, you may nurture in us what is good and, by your watchful care, keep safe what you have nurtured. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

I hear from many people who believe they are responsible for fixing the pain that resides in their hearts. I listen to many women in particular who feel it is up to them to heal the pain of past abuse all by themselves. They cannot allow God or anyone else to enter such tender spaces of the heart. I converse with people who blame themselves for being abused in the past that results in blaming themselves for every negative aspect of their lives in the present. Discovering God’s love is far from their awareness or desire. Their instinct is to constantly feel bad about life and all their relationships.

My experience reveals many people do not feel good about themselves nor do they believe that God could love them. My heart aches for people who cling to such pain. Discovering God’s love or even the notion that God could be anything more than condemnation and judgment is very common in people who face issues of poverty and emotional illnesses.

This opening prayer for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time is an invitation to discover a desire for God within us all. This desire is so distant and abstract to so many people because all they know from the Church and from their relationships are put-downs and harshness. This prayer to desire a reverence for God’s name is a place of profound prayer and a place that is very foreign to many people.

This prayer also asks God to nurture what is good within us and to keep safe what is good and holy in our lives. This text deserves prayerful attention by liturgy planners and preachers. A well-planned and honest homily on discovering God’s love and name within our hearts is greatly appreciated even by people who resist this love. This prayer could also become a rich source of catechesis for liturgical prayer as well as private prayer. This collect is not a throwaway text but needs to continue to be translated into real life especially to people who have trouble accepting God’s care for them.

Every worshipping community needs to put flesh on how love is lived in the world. The one aspect of faith that I see missing in so many worshipping communities is the real love of God. Our overly intellectual approach to the Church and to God results in living out rules and obligations but seldom results in healing lives and hearts. No person can give what he or she does not have. So our communities cannot be called into faith, hope and charity without first discovering a deep, passionate love of God for their own lives.

The collect for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time asks God for the courage to live out this love in the real world. Faith, hope and love become the rich and real aspects of discovering a genuine relationship with God. Living out charity as well as justice becomes nothing but ego and self-importance if it does not first have the foundation of God’s fidelity and love. I witness this nearly every day in our hospitality center. Many volunteers want to serve people in poverty in order to feel better about their own lives. So many people want to serve people surviving issues of mental illness and homelessness but want nothing to do with the faith dimensions of the Church. Some people want to serve and ignore prayer while others pray and ignore service. Theses prayers help bridge this gap if they are prayed and discussed with honesty and integrity.

I pray this prayer realizing that we all merit what has been given to us in Christ Jesus. We do not have to serve our way into salvation. God’s love and salvation for us is a true and free gift. We all value that gift in varying ways in our lives even when we cannot fully express our desire for God. The gift of the Paschal Mystery is the source of genuine love for all who think they must earn their salvation and God’s love for them. This love is manifest every time we gather for Eucharist and begin our prayer in faith, hope and love. We are all worthy of this love.

I pray daily for people who still think they must solve their own pain. My heart aches for people who believe that they are unworthy of God’s love. My quiet hours are spent in silent prayer for people who have never discovered God’s love because of the human pain that is held tightly in their hearts. This is the place in which our communities must pray together and speak the truth out loud. I wait for the day in which every heart discovers the love that will set us all free.

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