Daily Reflection
June 10th, 2000
Joan Howard
University College
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Readings for Mass
Acts 28:16-20, 30-31
Psalms 11:4-5, 7
John 21:20-25

Readings for Vigil Mass for Pentecost
Genesis 11:1-9, or Exodus 19:3-8, 16-20,
or Ezekiel 37:1-14, or Joel 3:1-5
Psalms 104:1-2, 24, 25, 27-30
Romans 8:22-27
John 7:37-39

The Entrance Antiphon is taken from Acts 1.  It  reads, "The disciples were constantly at prayer together, with Mary the mother of Jesus, the other women, and the brothers of Jesus…"

At first reading, I instantly wrote this off as gross exaggeration.  How could any group of people, even, and maybe especially, the disciples be "constantly at prayer together?"  My image of reverential prayer was just not compatible with the scared, confused, and scattered disciples of the post resurrection period.

What does it mean to be "constantly at prayer?"  As quickly as I discarded the possibility of the disciples being "constantly at prayer;" I stubbed my mind and tripped on the thought of it.  What does it mean to be "constantly at prayer?"

The reading from John takes place after Jesus has appeared to the disciples after a long night of fishing.  Presumably they were tired.  They had caught little and the stranger on the shore sent them back out to sea.  They return with full nets and breakfast together on the shore.  Once again, the disciples do not recognize the Lord until they are in communion with him - sharing in the preparation and eating of the breakfast meal.  When questioned by the Lord, Peter professes his love for Jesus.  Jesus in turn tells Peter to "Tend my sheep" and to "Feed my sheep."  Peter, who without the Lord’s help could not catch enough fish to feed himself, has been directed to feed the flock.  These words of
responsibility and service are immediately followed by "but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."  These are words of dependence and acceptance.   The conversation ends with the words, "Follow me."

The lines of today’s reading merely complicate the scene.  Was Jesus speaking to Peter or to John, or to both when he said, "Follow me?"  Peter becomes concerned with the calling the Lord is giving to John.  Is he, Peter, to die, while John is to live until the Lord returns?  Jesus’ reply is, "What concern is it of yours?"

Where is the good news in all of this???  Upon prayer reflection, it occurs to me that for most of us being "constantly at prayer" may have much more to do with life’s daily struggles than with the holy card image of the kneeling saint at prayer.  The image we get of the disciples is definitely one of real life!  The crucial element is the presence and inclusion of the Lord.  The Lord is present and in the words of the Reponsorial Psalm (Psalm 11), "his searching glance is on mankind."  The Lord, like the stranger on the shore, is trying to attract our attention.   It is in communion with others that we experience the Lord.  It is in our need and in our service that we encounter the Lord.  The Lord is in the midst of our humanness.  We see that Jesus is in the midst of the daily struggles of his disciples.  He is in the midst of their misunderstandings, their jealous thoughts and remarks, their thoughtlessness - in their humanity the Lord is present and central.  This is prayer.  To be aware of the presence of the Lord is prayer.  To turn to the Lord in need, in thanksgiving, in gratitude, in praise - is prayer.  To be aware of our brokenness, our faults, our humanity - and to know that we are loved and cherished by our God - is prayer.  When we live our lives fully human in communion with others - our families, our religious communities, our neighbors, our fellow workers- aware of the presence of the Lord, we are at prayer. 

My heart tells me and my mind agrees -  prayer is a way of life, not a part of life.  To be "at prayer" is to be "at life" with the Lord  - whatever our life’s calling may be.

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