Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Prayer versus Activity

In the column on spirituality in the Catholic Times, the writer recalls, while walking to a nearby convent for Mass, reading about a street person who froze to death. The experience caused him to see street people with a different eye. Furthermore, the problems facing the country and the demonstrations in Seoul flashed through his mind:  "What are the thoughts that I consider important?" he mused.

Arriving at the convent, he saw the sisters in the chapel in prayer.  Everything was in place and  very cozy. Wouldn't it be better, he thought, if they went out into the streets and brought some hot water to the street people. In the world today there are many fighting for a fair distribution of goods and for justice--and these nuns are praying. Wouldn't it be better to have them doing something practical?

After Mass and  during meditation after Communion, a different sound resonated in his head: "Don't be deceived by efficiency; once you have the basics all will correctly follow."

Efficiency enters our thinking and affects all our values. The reason is that efficiency can be understood as another word for love in action. Efficiency supersedes prayer and silence. Activity is considered  true prayer and silence and prayer take a whack.  Yes, to go into the world with love and service, working for peace and justice: doing something about the street person who froze to death is a work we have been given, and we can't emphasis it too much.

However, when we do not attend to the basics and just push activity, in time desire weakens and we get tired; the passion for justice erodes, and we go into the human default of laziness. If we take care of the basics this should not happen. Silence and prayer should be our starting point.     

Our Lord, by his life, gave us the example, if one seems necessary.  He would get up early and go to a lonely spot to pray before his activity.  We should not be deceived by the lure of efficiency, an ever present temptation, thinking we do not have time for prayer. We all tend to lose energy and motivation as we go through our daily routines. Recharging ourselves with moments of silence and prayer can work wonders for us in returning us refreshed for the activities of the day.

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