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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Prayer and Work - Keeping the focus, and the balance!

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Jesus speaks very clearly about the need to abide in Him today (prayer and obedience to His commands), but also about the importance of bearing fruit (good works, including evangelization).  And in fact, the two things must go hand-in-hand for us as Christians.  Truly, you cannot have one without the other.
We human beings tend to fall into the trap of focusing on one thing at the expense of others.  We have limited attention and, at any given time, there is usually one things that grabs that attention.  Hopefully most of the time that attention is focused on God, our family and friends, our vocation, but if we are honest we all could probably admit times when it is not so.  Our focus is elsewhere, stuck in things of earth.
Jesus challenges us to keep two things in our focus at all times: abiding in Him, and bearing fruit.  In other words, we could describe this as prayer and service, as the Benedictine tradition simplifies as “ora et labora” - prayer and work.
We fallen human beings, with our limited attention, tend to lose the balance of these two things, as if what we do in this church or when we our hands are folded in our homes has nothing to do with what we do at work or at play.  This is not true.  Our prayer must be a part of our work, and our work must be fueled by our prayer.  Saint Teresa of Kolkata knew this well: her sisters prayed for about two hours each morning before going out into their service of the poorest of the poor.  So can I pray 20 minutes, or at least ten, each morning?  If not, our faith will burn out and we will not bear any fruit for the kingdom.
In fact, it’s the same reason I will never be able to bench press as much as my dad.  Now this may sound unrelated but I promise it connects.  My dad is back up to benching around 205 lbs, and I promise I’ve never been able to do even 150lbs.  My little brother tommy has done something like 175lbs but scrawny Fr. Terry, no way.  This kinda miffs me but in all honesty it makes perfect sense.  Why?  Because I don’t like lifting and have never practiced it.  I don’t do it, and so those muscles wither away and die just like Jesus says about the branches that don’t remain on Him the vine.  If they don’t bear fruit, they are cut off.
So we Christians, if we want to get results in the things that really matter (I’m sure glad the weight room doesn’t matter that much!), then we need to exercise those things that are required.  We must pray and we must bear fruit in lives of virtue and of service to others.  Let us pray that we can always keep in balance these two lessons from Christ Jesus today: abiding in Him and bearing fruit.  Amen.

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