Prayers without Hope are like a chant without music. They make no sense!
Today I was praying for a multitude of intentions – not least of all for myself and my loved ones. Today, the burden of those intentions for the people around me who oftentimes fail to make decisions that are in their own best interests, wore me down. I was very tired. I needed rest.
So, I sat in the church this morning during Mass – a tired and weary soul – who was very sad for the decisions of some of my dearly loved ones. And as I was praying for these people, it occurred to me that I had prayed these same prayers for these same people in relation to these same intentions, countless times during my life.
The prayers are repeated – verbatim – and yet nothing seems to have changed. These people continue to do as they do with never a backward glance.
Nothing is different, nothing is changed, and yet… EVERYTHING is!
In times gone by – before my conversion wrought by some miracle of Grace and no merit of my own, during my time praying for my beautiful baby niece – I prayed hopelessly.
Hope is one of the three cardinal virtues, and along with faith and charity (or love) forms the tripod upon which Christian life should be based.
When we pray without hope, it is a chant. But prayers without hope are like music without tune. They make no sense.
When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the Mexican Juan Diego in 1591 and spoke to him in the native Aztec tongue, Juan Diego first heard music. Heavenly music. Later, the famous miraculous image of the Virgin, which was imposed upon his tilma was found to have inscribed upon it a melody, which Diego likened to the music he heard during her five apparitions.
Our Lady’s fourth apparition to Juan Diego is one that always makes me laugh – because his behaviour humbly reminds me very much of myself. His uncle being ill and Juan Diego being ashamed of not having met with Our Blessed Mother the day before as promised, tried to avoid being waylaid on his journey to get help for his uncle, by taking an alternative route so that Our Lady would not appear to him and waste his precious time.
Just as I so often do, Juan Diego, being busy tired and stressed tried to push God off to one corner so that he could deal with the stress of the task at hand and get back to God when he had more time.
What did Our Lady do?
She met him on the other side of the mountain of course! She came to him – and she brought the music too!
“Am I not here, I who am your mother?” That was her reproach. That was it. I am your mum. Come to me. Trust me. I will help you.
And so today, though I am stressed and busy and tired, something magnificent has happened. I do not wish to push her away. She who is my mother.
She is love, as her Son – God – is love!
Today – despite my fatigue and overwhelming tiredness – these prayers sound sweet and I can hear the melody in them. Because, today as I utter these same tired old prayers, I feel great hope! My hope is not that my prayers will be answered – that is determined by the Will of God. My hope is that my prayers for THEM will grant ME rest.
Christ told us very clearly, “‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Finally, after nearly 40 years of life, I have come to understand what these words actually mean. I am not praying for a solution – God has already worked everything out and He will not sacrifice a fraction of eternity for even the longest time on Earth.
I am praying to be close to God. To take up Christ’s yoke and walk with Him – following Him. Because only in doing that will God give me rest.
In the words of Saint Francis de Sales, “Everyone of us needs half and hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”
It is only then that we will be able to hear the sweet music in our prayers. It is only then that we will have rest.
And who would not want a little bit of that?
For with prayer there is comfort, and everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.