January 29, 2019
by Kyle Lierk
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 318

Hebrews 10:1-10
Pslams 40:2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 10, 11
Mark 3:31-35

Praying Ordinary Time

A Matter of the Heart: Prayer as Relationship

"Maybe you just need to show up...and then shut up." The words I was hearing from my spiritual director as advice on how to pray while I was exploring the newfound gift of Ignatian spirituality as an undergraduate student at Creighton felt both challenging and freeing at the same time. For the majority of my life, teachers had told me something to the effect of, "Make sure you come to class prepared." Not a bad rule for life, but one that can be dangerous for our relationship with God. As a dutiful person, I always felt I needed to have all my homework done (and at "A"-level quality), my school supplies in order, and ready with the proper answers to the questions the teacher asked. We often feel we have to come to God in a similar way. In other words, the thinking goes, "If I am not perfect or have my life fully in order, then I am too ashamed or unworthy to come before God." That is a dangerous mindset that will most likely lead us down an ever-darkening path away from God.

The scriptures today remind us that it is not about how we show up or even necessarily what we do when we show up, but that we just keep showing up! As the community addressed in the Letter to the Hebrews was reminded, their regular sacrifices and offerings they hoped would expiate their sins clearly weren't working because their sin remained. It took the great act of Love, the sacrifice of the life of Jesus, to shed purifying light on the matter. This, then, is our charge: to show up to Jesus, as we are, and to avoid the temptation to present ourselves perfect and pretty and put together.

Jesus picks up on this in today's Gospel when he redirects the attention away from the fact that his family members are asking for him outside the home where he is meeting with an assembled group toward the fact that those inside the home are spending time with him. This, Jesus says, is what defines someone as a mother or brother or sister of Jesus. I hear him extending an affirmation to this audience for their faithful companionship of him. This is God's will (God's desire) for us.

The Psalmist today proclaims, "Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me." (PS 40:7) It's not about having some eloquent prayer or ready-made ritual (though those are important), but extending to God the only sacrifice God is clearly asking for: our time and attention.

And so, as my spiritual director advised, "Show up and shut up." Spend time in God's loving company with ears wide open. And if we're going to say anything at all, let it be, "Here I am Lord; I come to do your will." (PS 40: 8-9)

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