Well, dear reader, here we are once again. As you no doubt have gathered, I tend to make a blog post in one of three situations:
1- I am on a long train journey and need to fill the time
2 - I have something important to do, but in order to create a sense of pressure and a looming deadline I have opted to procrastinate wonderfully
3 - I'm not sure what else to do with my time.
As it happens, it is the third case that we find ourselves in today. Not that you should feel any less honoured that I have allowed myself to converse with you (naturally not in person, as I neither know who all of you are nor care to leave my [slightly overly] warm flat). So I am between lectures, without essay deadlines or impending exams so here am I.
I guess that's an attitude that I find with prayer. It can tend towards giving God the time that approaching its sell-by date so to speak: the time when I am walking to and fro, the time when I can't sleep, the time that I'm waiting for my laundry to finish. Those are all great times to pray, because Jesus invites us to that personal relationship that permeates every moment of our lives - he was born into the world so that through his obedience to the Father as of creation can be renewed. Yet, we do need perhaps a sense of gift, of sacrifice, to our prayer. As priestly people, our prayer is a sacrificial offering of our very selves in and with the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The Catechism writes wisely, 'we cannot pray "at all times" if we do not pray at specific times' (ccc 2697). That is to avoid the obvious trap to think that since the goal of prayer is to offer each moment, even those most hectic and self-absorbed activities necessitated by our state of life, that we can thereby forego intentional prayer, whether liturgical or personal.
Again we hit the issue of prayer. Ought it be something done out of duty? Certainly, for it is right and just to praise God. But ought it not come out of a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ? Certainly. These are not in conflict, for we know that throughout Salvation History God is pursuing and training his people to be a nation set apart to worship Him and lead the nations to Him; and He continues to call his children today to be saints. We owe God our praise, yet praise is a gift. Praising God is the most natural thing to do since we are creatures of the Almighty. It is the fullness of humanity to enter into this reality. It is a duty, yet in his loving providence the Father has endowed it with the character of gift through a living relationship with the persons of the Trinity. And what are persons, but those to whom one can relate? As humans, our dignity comes from this Trinitarian model of self-giving love - we are loved by the creator of all things as individuals.
Through the Catholic Church, we have access to the Sacraments that bring us to knowledge of God in Holy Baptism, and strengthen us, and heal our weakness. Through the Church, we have such wisdom on living out the great call God has spoken over our lives. Through the Church, we have a cloud of witnesses cheering us to victory, that is to say, towards the victory already won by Christ the King.