Quietly with Jesus
Just before Jesus taught us to pray the Our Father, He instructed the apostles about prayer. ..."when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Mat 6:6-8)
In the above passage of Holy Scripture, I've placed portions of the text in Italics, to emphasize what kind of quiet prayer I'd like to talk about in this reflection on the subject of meditation.
In the human psyche, we are constantly struggling with problems of one sort or another. To place these problems on the back-burner for a time, we find nourishment in our quiet life with Jesus. He told us not to worry. "He said to (his) disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:22-32).
This is a beautiful passage of Scripture where Jesus tells us that we do not need to worry. But, human as we are, everyone worries. We worry too much, we worry so much that when we enter into that quiet relationship with Jesus, we cannot concentrate solely in Him. A very beautiful passage in Psalm 121 (2-5) shows the deep faith of David: "My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. God will not allow your foot to slip; your guardian does not sleep. Truly, the guardian of Israel never slumbers nor sleeps. The LORD is your guardian; the LORD is your shade at your right hand."
Jesus is always there for us! He is always eager to help us because His love is deeper than we can ever understand until we are one in Him after this earthly life has passed. We strive to rest in Jesus, already now in our earthly existence by avoiding (read: not) sinning, and so by loving God unconditionally. That's not easy but it can be done. If this weren't the case, heaven would be empty. Catholics know that there are many souls in heaven because these souls have interceded for us in prayer. We know the Blessed Virgin is in heaven. On August 15th, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is in Heaven body and soul because she was born without sin. This is a matter of Catholic dogma. But look at Mary, after the death of her Son, Jesus, she spent the rest of her years in meditation and contemplation. Her life offers us a wonderful example of living quietly in Jesus.
So our soul must be awakened and thus we pray to the Holy Spirit for spiritual enlightenment, so that we may understand these inner prayer relationships. So that God may lift the veil for us and we may see His goodness and Grace with the eyes of the soul. May be this would be a good time to examine the concept of "soul" in the Book of Deuteronomy (6:5): "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." And in Mat 10:28 (and numerous other verses in the Gospels), Jesus said: "...do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." The soul is the inner being of each and every person where a direct relationship may exist between ourselves and God. For those who love God, that relationship exists. For those who do not love God, the relationship from us to God is minimal or none, but God loves us just the same. He does not love the sin in us, but He loves all of us unconditionally. With the aid of the Holy Spirit we can come to understand this relationship easily. And we praise God for His love!
Quietly in Jesus! Set out a time during each day, be it 10 minutes or longer, where we are undisturbed by life around us. Find a quiet place. Often that quiet place is our soul. You know, we can be in a very busy and noisy place and still have this quiet time within us with God, but preferably we should seek a quiet place. Then we place ourselves at God's disposal, ask Him to be with us in the quiet of our soul where we can love Him totally. Tell Him about yourself, as His servant, who is waiting on His Word. You are listening. You are ready to receive Him spiritually, and you totally trust in Him.
Saint Francis of Assisi was good at finding quiet places. One of many conversations with his brothers comes to mind. One day, St. Francis called his companions to him in the cell where he was staying and said, "Listen and give careful attention. I have asked the Lord in his mercy that he deign to make it clear to me when I am his servant and when I'm not, for I want always to be found his servant. It was told to me in the Spirit, 'What will you give me if I make it clear to you what you ask?' And I said, 'Lord, I have given you my body and my soul; after this I have nothing left to offer you.' The Lord said, 'Such being the case, learn and know that you are truly my servant when you think what is good, speak what is good, and do what is good.'" (from We were with St. Francis, a partial English translation of the Legend of the Three Companions).
Saint Francis had given all he had to God. He had given God his material possessions by giving those to the poor. He had given his body to God by renouncing the flesh. There are many people, even today, who give what they have to the poor and live in total obedience, poverty and chastity. Generally, those are people who live in monasteries and convents. That's why the prayer offered by those good people is in such high demand by bishops of the dioceses that have Monastic Orders.
There are also many people living in the world, outside of cloistered walls, who strive to live their lives in obedience to God, to the Church, to their spouses perhaps, and these people live close to and in spiritual harmony with God, shunning material riches and the flesh. That certainly is the example Francis gave us, but often it is only played out in the life of a soul, a soul striving for God. A beautiful example of such a soul is Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Without a strong interior life, it would not have been possible for her to minister to the sick and dying in the way she did. This interior relationship with the Lord is the backbone of anything we set out to do. Without prayer, nothing is possible. Thus when we become involved in holy activities for our brothers and sisters, we feel inclined to pray more, not less. We know that the inner strengths to carry out the new assignment come directly from God and when we pray more, we are more in the Presence of God, and we represent Him in all we do. Where people see this peace in us, that is the best way to evangelize one's Faith.
So "Quietly in Jesus" becomes a motto, a constant search for the inner life that sustains us in whatever we do for Him. We should strive to go to Holy Mass daily, and to receive Jesus in our heart and soul in Holy Communion. This motto of seeking a quiet time with Jesus becomes reality when we open our souls to God as His servant, in humility. This inner life of the soul will begin slowly, there will be periods of suffering. There is suffering for anyone in love because to be in love it is necessary to give up a little of ourselves. Marriage is a lifestyle of compromise... and seeking an inner life is a life of self-giving. St. John of the Cross refers to this period of suffering as "the dark night of the soul." This 'night' can indeed be very dark. It can shake one's spirituality to its roots. It is also a time of instability and temptation, because when one is weak through suffering, the devil gets into action. But once past that point (length of this suffering time can be short or long. For some it takes a lifetime), a blissful time arrives.
In this blissful time we come to exercise our inner life with Jesus in a wonderful way. We can steer meditation through praying about a specific topic, but contemplation is a gift, a Gift of God. When God allows you to have a contemplative relationship with Him, oftentimes we are not aware of this. But we know that we're close friends with Jesus. We live quietly with Jesus, in His shadow.
How I long for this inner life to blossom. Yet it would give me far more joy if I could be instrumental to introduce other people to that inner life with Jesus.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS