|"I Look at Him and He Looks at Me."
The Twenty-Fifth Friday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Haggai 2: 1-9.
• Psalm 43: 1-4.
• Luke 9: 18-22.
The Ember Friday of September.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Osee (Hosea) 14: 2-10.
• Psalm 89: 13, 1.
• Luke 7: 36-50.
The Seventeenth Friday after Pentecost; the Feast of Our Venerable Mother Euphrosyna; and, the Syanxis of the Holy Fathers of the Pecherskaya Lavra.
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Ephesians 6: 18-24.
• Luke 4: 22-30.
9:46 AM 9/25/2015 — Yesterday, we looked at the history behind the Book of the Prophet Haggai, who encouraged the Jews to consider the rebuilding of the Temple, and used our first lesson from that book to reflect on the importance of seeking out time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The last line of our Gospel lesson, from Luke, had Herod expressing a desire to see our Lord (cf. 9: 9), which we can do whenever we seek Him out in the tabernacle.
The intervening verses between yesterday's first lesson and today's give the response of the governor, Zerubbabel, and the high priest, Joshua, to the Prophet's call, pledging to fulfill the will of God and complete the House of the Lord. Today's lesson begins the second chapter of this short, two-chapter book, in which the Prophet takes the people on a trip down memory lane, reminding them of the former glory of the Temple before it was destroyed, and it provides us with an idea of what exactly we should do when we are in the presence of God in the Blessed Eucharist. “Who is left among you”, the Prophet asks, “who saw this house in its former glory? And how do you see it now?” (2: 3 NABRE).
Many of us are old enough to remember a time when the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, respect for the Blessed Sacrament were instinctive to Catholics. If it seems to us sometimes that those are things of the past, why is that? Where is it written—in the decrees of Vatican II, in the preaching of the recent popes, in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church—that these things are no more? No where. If they are part of Catholic life no more, it's because we've failed to cultivate them in our own lives and pass them on to our children.
That being said, if we are to rediscover the practice of seeking out our Lord in the tabernacle, we have to know what to do when we're there. Saint Alphonsus Liguori was once asked what one ought to do when making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and he answered saying,
What shall we do, you ask, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament? … What does a poor man do in the presence of a rich man? A sick man in the presence of a doctor? One who is thirsty at the sight of a crystal-clear fountain? (Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Introduction, III).
Very poetic, but not very practical.
More to the point might be the legend sometimes told from the life of the Curé of Ars, which I told you not too long ago. Every day he noticed a man coming to church to make a visit, but only when he was sure the church was empty. He never had a Rosary with him, or a prayer book, or any other aid to prayer; and, as soon as someone else would come into church to pray, he would get up and leave. The holy priest and future saint one day approached him and asked, “What do you do in the presence of our Blessed Lord?” And the man very simply replied, “I look at Him and He looks at me.”
Today's Gospel lesson begins with the verse: “Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, 'Who do the crowds say that I am?'” (Luke 9: 18 NABRE). Every word in that sentence is important, beginning with the fact that our Lord was “praying in solitude.” Jesus is giving us an example of what to do when at prayer, and the question he asks His disciples tells us the result: when we seek out or Lord in the tabernacle in a spirit of silence, uncluttered by books or beads or multiplication of words, He is able to speak to us rather than us speaking to Him, and He is able to show us who we really are. The spiritual doctors of a previous age used to call this the Prayer of the Presence of God: putting ourselves in God's presence and just being there with Him. Saint Ignatius, in The Spiritual Exercises, begins every exercise by asking us to place ourselves in the presence of God, no matter where we are. Saint Josemaría Escrivá has a prayer he recommends before any act of meditation, which begins: “My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that You are here, that You see me, that You hear me.” And that alone is enough of a prayer all by itself.
There are all kinds of things we can do when we pray to purge our minds of distractions and give us seeds for fruitful meditation, all kinds of books we can use and aids to help us. The Holy Rosary is one of the most important. But there needs to be some time every day when we are truly alone with our Lord so that He can speak to us. All the better if we can do it in His very presence before the tabernacle. Let's resolve to do that as often as we can.
* Cf. the footnote in the post for September 23rd for an explanation of the Ember Days in the extraordinary form.