An epiphany is a sudden realization of great truth. I had one at breakfast on February 15, 2014. I recorded the epiphany in my journal immediately afterwards: “God loves me because this morning I drank a perfect glass of orange juice.”
I am working my way through scripture passages recommended in Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits by Michael Harter, SJ for those participating in the first week of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola.
The Lord Appears to Samuel 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Thinking through the passage
The Lord may be more or less active at any particular time. Allow that God may be on a different schedule than the routine you want.
Samuel wanted to be close to the Lord, so close that he slept in the sanctuary in the presence of a sacred symbol.
Maybe Eli was supposed to be sleeping in the sanctuary. Maybe Eli had grown tired and retired to the comfort of his room, leaving Samuel as his proxy.
The Lord called to Samuel in such words and manner that the boy mistook God for his master Eli.
Samuel did not recognize the Lord at first, but God kept calling to him.
Eli recognized that the Lord was calling Samuel before Samuel did. Sometimes a soul friend can discern our calling before we do. But even Eli required being roused from sleep three times before he understood that the Lord was at work.
Samuel went back to bed after Eli told him to reply to the Lord the next time he called. I wonder if he slept or lay on his pallet in wonder.
The Lord spoke simple words, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel replied in simple words, “Speak; your servant is listening.”
Praying the Lord’s appearance to Samuel
Lord, I still hear the story of Samuel’s call as if I am a boy at the beginning of life, but I know I have things in common with old Eli…
I am sorry for the ways in which I have grown tired and retired to the comfort of my room.
Help me to stay open to whatever you think best. Don’t let me decide I can’t when you know I can.
Lord, please call me plainly, whether I am waiting in your sanctuary, or wandering far from home.
Call me repeatedly, Lord, until I say yes to you.
Call me repeatedly until I recognize your voice or until those around me hear your voice and help me to understand, you are talking to me.
Lord, give me the grace to respond fully to your call.
My prayer life and sense of God’s presence was strong during a silent retreat at the Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta, Georgia from 13 February through 16 February 2014. Then I came home and kept very little of what I gained when I re-entered my daily routine. I kept thinking I just needed a few days to catch up after being gone, but two weeks have passed now. My daily routine crowds time for prayer and serious reflection out. I think daily prayer and reflection is important, so today I made a start of reading and praying Scripture (Luke 11:1-13). My plan is to keep working through passages recommended for the first week of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola in a little prayer book that I bought during my recent retreat – Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, Edited by Michael Harter, SJ. I am not sure how consistently I will publish my written work here, but I am sharing today’s.
Luke 11: 1-13 Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer
I certainly need to pray if Jesus prayed.
His disciples could see when Jesus finished praying. He was probably not praying aloud or his disciples could have learned to pray from hearing what he said, but his posture probably signaled when his prayer ended.
Father: May your holy name be honored – Praise
May your kingdom come – Submit to God’s will
Give us day by day the food we need – Recognize God as source of life
Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who does us wrong – Confess wrong and forgive others
And do not bring us to hard testing – Ask for mercy… Be humble…
Note: Jesus seemed to assume our praying in community… the food WE need, OUR sins, WE forgive, do not bring US to hard testing.
Be persistent in prayer. Don’t ask once and stop. Keep seeking God’s help.
Jesus promises a benevolent response to those who pray because God is a good father who loves his children and cares for their well-being.
Praying Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer
Father, it is so easy for me to be arrogant; to assume that my strength and judgment is sufficient. Easy until I fall and am broken by attempting to do alone what I cannot do without you and without your people.
Thank you for the role model of Jesus as a man of prayer. Teach me to pray every day. Keep me from being satisfied with what I know and what I can do and instead to seek your wisdom, your strength, and your generosity.
Glorious Father, We offer our praise to you.
Teach me to love as you love, so that I may live inside of your will every day.
Thank you for the gift of life and the resources of life. Make me eager to share them with my brothers and sisters.
Show me my sins. Make me conscious of my wrongdoing. And Lord, help me to be conscious of when I am offended and hurt by others. Help me to see my part. Help me to understand the part of others and to forgive without reservation.
Lord, please don’t teach me the limits of my abilities with hard testing.
Lord, help me to pray as persistently as I eat. May I learn to devote as much time to praying as I do to cooking and to find as much joy in praying as I do in eating.
One day when I was 6 or 7 years old, I found my mother taking a painting down from the wall of our house and preparing to wrap it in Christmas paper. We had three paintings in the house and that particular painting was my favorite. When I asked what she was doing, she explained that we needed a gift for our Aunt Myrtle and were going to give her the painting. “NO,” I said. “Don’t give her that one. That one is my favorite. Giver her either of the other paintings, but keep my favorite one!” “No,” my mother said. “That’s not how it works when you give a gift. It is not a gift if you give away things you don’t care about. When you give a gift, you give things that you like.” I thought my mother was crazy and stayed angry about her giving away my favorite painting all the way through the party where Aunt Myrtle opened her gift.
Almost 30 years later, I was helping lead a weekend retreat for a church group. Halfway through the weekend, on Saturday night, one of the participants started to run away. She packed her suitcase and headed for the parking lot where I intercepted her. I got her to stop and talked her into sitting down with me on a bench. She was not wearing a coat and it was cold, so I took off my coat and talked her into putting it on. She did not want to take my coat, but I pointed out that she was doing me a favor by sitting down to talk, so the least I could do was keep her warm in my coat while we sat. The reason I wanted her wearing my coat was that I figured she would not jump in her car and leave if she were wearing my coat; that wearing my coat would keep her seated long enough for me to talk her into staying.
We sat on that bench for more than an hour while she told me her life story. She felt that she was an awful person; that her children would be better off if she disappeared forever; and that she did not belong on the retreat with all the other participants. I stayed with her until she agreed to finish the retreat. When I walked her back to the door of her building, she tried to give me my coat back, but I would not take it. I was afraid she would change her mind when she got back to her room and I thought having my coat might keep her from running again when I was not there to stop her.
Let me tell you about that coat. I loved that coat. I tried it on standing in the middle of the store where I found it and a woman I did not know stopped and said, “You should buy that coat. It looks great on you!” It was bright red and I like bold colors. Honestly, that coat has been my favorite of all the coats I have ever had in my whole life.
Well, my runner friend had a powerful spiritual experience as the retreat continued on Sunday and she found her place in our community. When everyone was packing to leave and go home that afternoon, she came to give me my coat back, and I would not take it. I said, “You may begin to doubt yourself when you get home and you may be tempted to believe that what happened here this weekend was not real or was not important. I want you to have my coat with you when you get home to remind you that what happened here was real and that I believe in you.” So she took my coat home with her.
Two weeks later when we had a follow-up meeting for retreat participants in the city, she brought my coat with her to the meeting on a hanger and tried to give it to me, but I would not take it. I said, “I want you to keep this coat in your closet. Five years from now, I want you to be able to look in your closet and be reminded of how you turned a corner in your life during the retreat and I want you to remember that I believed in you.”
My mother was right. Giving away things you like is deeply satisfying. People can tell you about it and encourage you, but you have to start giving to really understand it. I hope you soon find yourself in a situation like the one I did, where you just take your coat off and give it away.
The Good Samaritan was the hero of a story Jesus told to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan found a man who had been beaten and robbed, lying half-dead beside the road. He provided first aid, transported him to safety, and paid for his care until he could get back on his feet. At the conclusion of the story, Jesus told his listeners to take the Samaritan as their example and to show similar kindness to strangers in need.
Many people are willing to help strangers in need today. My wife and I saw a young man crash his motor scooter on the highway while we were driving through town recently. Helpers surrounded him immediately. They mostly argued about how best to care for him until an ambulance arrived, but they came to his aid without hesitation. Their compassion was real, but rushing to the scene of an accident is not enough. Full-fledged Good Samaritans participate meaningfully in providing and paying for needed care.
Few people can pay for a poor man’s care until he is back on his feet today because the cost of modern medical care is so high. Many people cannot afford to pay for their own or their children’s’ care in the event of a serious accident or illness. The only way to provide the wonders of modern medical care to people who need it is to spread the risk among all of us neighbors. People in London invented insurance in the mid 17th century to cope with threats like the black plague and we still need insurance to care for neighbors in need today.
People who participate in insurance programs that provide them with comprehensive care in the event of accident or illness and who support making such insurance available to others are modern Good Samaritans. They make substantial investments of time and money in caring for people who need help through participation because they are sharing the risk like a good neighbor should.
Leader: As forgiven and reconciled people,
People: let us offer ourselves and our gifts to God.
Led by a deacon at Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia on October 27, 2013.