Friday, March 08, 2019 - Updated: 3:13 pm
The church tells us to pray more during Lent, as part of her general instruction to up our game. In theory that ought to be easy, but in practice some of us struggle. Sometimes we struggle to find the time or to block out all the distractions.
Here’s a relatively easy way to pray more: Go to church when you don’t usually go to church. When you get there, just hang out with Jesus in the tabernacle. The creator and redeemer of the whole universe sits right there just a few feet away. He sees you. He sees you better than you see him.
You’ll want to talk to Jesus, but you don’t have to say much. You can just sit with him in a companionable silence. You spend time in what Pope Benedict XVI called “prolonged silence before the Lord present in his sacrament.” That’s a prayer.
I’m not talking about adoration. That’s the advanced course for a lot of us. I’m talking about the basics, the first step, the intro course. We need to learn to enjoy hanging out with Jesus.
Pope Benedict explained why in one of his homilies for the feast of Corpus Christi. “If I am truly to communicate with another person, I must know him,” he said. To do that, “I must be able to be in silence close to him, to listen to him and look at him lovingly. True love and true friendship are always nourished by the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter may be lived profoundly and personally rather than superficially.”
When you’re sitting with Jesus, you can do other things besides talk to him. Read the Bible or a spiritual book, say your prayers, look at the statues of Mary and Joseph, say the rosary, ponder the crucifix, pray one by one for everyone God has given you as a friend.
What you do doesn’t have to be particularly pious. You don’t need to generate deep religious emotions. You can read a book you enjoy or write letters to friends or make your grocery list. Just doing whatever you’re doing with Jesus close by will make a difference.
Sitting with Jesus blesses us in all sorts of ways. Here’s one that means a lot to me. Many of us need Jesus’ help in seeing the world right. A Facebook friend wrote that he felt angry about politics all the time. The guys on the other side really ticked him off. He sometimes despaired that the world would ever get any better. Another friend suggested he turn off his social media and spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
That was great advice. Sometimes we need to redirect ourselves. We get too caught up in things. The world presents a huge number of reasons to be angry, anxious, contemptuous, despairing and all the other things we shouldn’t be. I know the feeling well.
We need to see more clearly the deeper story, the bigger picture. Seeing that helps us see and feel why we don’t need to feel angry or anxious or despairing. The body of Jesus a few feet from us helps us see it. Not just because he tells the deeper story or shows us the bigger picture. Because he is the deeper story and the bigger picture. Not a symbol of or pointer to it, but the thing itself. As St. Paul told the pagans in Athens, “In him we live and move and have our being.”
It helps me just to sit with Jesus sometimes, not praying or trying to create pious feelings, but just sitting with the Lord. I sit there until I feel better and see the world as it truly is more clearly. It takes a while to feel, to see, that if Jesus is here with us, things will ultimately work out in my life and in the world. He’s there because he loves us, and his love will not fail. Jesus will get what he wants.
Sitting with Jesus can intellectually transform us. The better we know him, the better we know the truth about ourselves and our world. Jesus can change our minds.
Mills is working on a book about Catholic dying and death for Sophia Press.