Daily Reflection
January 11th, 2000
John Horn, S.J.
The Institute for Priestly Formation
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
1 Samuel 1:9-20
1 Samuel 2:1, 4-8
Mark 1:21-28

“ . . . my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery . . .”
                                                                                                                    1 Samuel 1: 9-20

So often we cover over our deep sorrows by inwardly running into activities.  This compounds our pain and prevents us from receiving new life in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s presence in fact lives in and around our deepest sorrows.  Whereas sadness is most often rooted in self-concern and self-centeredness (i.e., “I didn’t get my way”), real sorrow is the flip side of love.  It points to what we desire and are missing.  Remember the beatitude, “Blest are the sorrowing; they shall be consoled”?  The Holy Spirit prompts us to pray from within our sorrows through groanings and grievings.  This same Holy Spirit carries us in prayer to receive Abba’s Word of tender consolation, Jesus!

Hannah in today’s Hebrew Scriptures prays beautifully.  She pours out her sorrows related to barrenness, not having been able to conceive a child. 

This same yearning, to be generating human life, is on going and resides deep within us all.  God answers Hannah’s prayers.  She conceives a child.

When my brother celibate priests and I pray with this innate sorrow, which I call “generative sorrow,” we can grieve the children that we will never have and be moved inwardly by the Holy Spirit to receive the jubilant reality of our spiritual fatherhood.  New life can abundantly flow out of a celibate priest’s heart for his parish family.

When two infertile couples, dear friends of mine, prayed from this difficult place of generative sorrow they began to experience new avenues of creative loving for the church and our wider human family and began to accept the mystery of this suffering, knowing that their physical barrenness was not a condemnation.

When married couples choose to relate this on-going generative sorrow in and with the Holy Spirit a remarkable reordering of day to day relationships can begin to occur.  They can begin to want to listen for, hear and reverence their bodies signaling days of fertility and infertility.  Family planning can become natural as children are conceived and spaced responsibly without mechanizing marital intimacy.

Career activity can begin to serve familial relationships rather than the other way around.  And, wives and husbands can begin to enjoy each other and their children in their amazing vocations of being mothers and fathers.

Sorrowful barrenness is replaced by joy-filled fruitful lives.  Indeed something new, someone new is conceived in our hearts.  Amid relating generative sorrow in prayer, the Holy Spirit conceives and breeds in us Jesus’ new life.  This is utterly amazing!

To resist praying with on-going generative sorrow will prove to be deadening.  Instead of receiving Jesus’ new life, we remain alone and sterile, usually running into activities in a futile attempt to fill our emptiness and soothe our aches.

May we pray like Hannah with her deep generative sorrows, prompted by the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, the Lord who is Life!

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