Keeping the Presence of God

Latin Mass: 6th Sunday after Pentecost
‘I have compassion on the crowd, for they have been with me 3 days and have nothing to eat.’
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Beloved in the Lord, The crowds that we read about in the gospel today had been earnestly following Christ for days, and they were hungry. It was here that Our Lord worked the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.
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St. Alphonsus says,[i] the mystical sense of this gospel, is that there is no food which can fill the desire of our souls; in fact, there is no one and no thing that can satiate the soul, only the Divine Person: Jesus Christ.
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In the Holy scriptures it is seen that even after Our Lord had fed the multitudes, they were immediately seeking more, and in this, they are a sign of that longing by man to be fulfilled.
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Hearts today seek fulfillment in so many dead-end streets. For persons of faith who hunger for Christ, it is perhaps not uncommon in moments of weariness to have the thought: ‘if only I had lived during the lifetime of Jesus.’ ‘if I could just see him for a moment, walk alongside and listen to him – or if he would even appear to me. If Christ’s words reformed a hardened sinner like Mary Magdelene we think, then if I could only hear his voice, perhaps I would be changed as well. If I could only feel the Lord’s eyes on me, it would be different. We might think this sometimes, I have.
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In reality however, we have an advantage to be living at this time, and not then. The people of Christ’s time did not have the full picture, Redemption had not yet occurred, and most importantly, they had not been baptized. So we have an advantage. The Epistle today urges us to gratitude for our own baptism. Because of our baptism, the Lord is now living in us. St. Paul tells us, ‘do you not know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit.’ And this is because of our Baptism, we are a temple.
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So it is, God’s presence is within us. The foundation of the spiritual life can be summed up in one goal: Keeping the Presence of God all day. Maintaining an awareness that God is in us, with us, which he is.
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Why are we urged to begin the day with a morning offering, to pray at meals, daily Mass if possible; why are we urged to say the Rosary, the Angelus at noon, spiritual reading, prayers before bedtime – what is the purpose of all this? It is for one purpose: to try to keep the Presence of God all day. This is success in the spiritual life, if we are able to have an awareness of the Lord with us every part of the day. The rest will take care of itself.
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‘If only I had lived during the lifetime of Jesus.’
Father Goodier in an essay, puts us in the scene in the time of Christ: Imagine we are walking along a country lane in Galilee. We come to a small group of people from the farms, and in the middle is a young man, tall and thin in appearance, his clothes are white, he is seated on a stone by the roadside, talking quietly to the simple folk around him. In his eyes there is strange glitter of joy and pain, of laughter and tears, of hope which cannot be described. But perhaps more startling is, that Jesus seems to know each person.
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He knows each person. He knows you and I. ‘Oh, if only I had lived during the lifetime of Jesus.’ Balderdash! as my father used to say! We have an advantage today, we don’t need to be living at the time of Jesus to speak to him, he is here, he is in us – with us. ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,’ says St. Paul.
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When we go into Church, we instinctively lower our voice – God is here, he is present. But leaving the Church, do we leave Jesus behind? not at all. ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him. In our work, our shopping, our play, we cannot get away from the Lord, we are a living Cathedral, as long as we are in the state of grace.
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In his book, ‘How to Pray Always,'[ii] Fr. Plus says: The presence of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity who are in us due to our Baptism, is no less real than the presence of the Lord in the tabernacle, only the mode of presence is different.
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And so it cannot be emphasized enough: this goal of the Christian life of practicing the Presence of God, of cultivating always, a sense that Christ is within, that he is intimately with us.
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The renowned Fr. Pergmayer says, ‘The practice of the presence of God will lead sooner or later to perfection.'[iii]
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Each month we have Eucharistic Adoration for our school children; and in the prayers we say with them, well, they are simple prayers; but simple prayers are excellent for us, to cultivate the Presence of God.
‘Because you are so good, Jesus I love you’
“Because you understand me, Jesus I love you.’
Making aspirations, often. Making all kinds of aspirations during the course of the day, this is how we should speak to our Savior, who is within us.
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‘If only I had lived during the lifetime of Jesus.’
We ARE living during the time of Jesus, he is not walking alongside us, he is within us. St. Josemaria,[iv] says: Oh ‘apostolic soul, that intimacy between Jesus and you …doesn’t it mean anything?…seek God within, and listen to him.
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‘Because you understand me, Jesus I love you.’ Simple aspirations – it really helps us to keep the Presence of God. A disciple of St. Bernard[v] said: ‘Wherever you are, be recollected. There is no need for a special place, you are this special place. Are you in bed? Then your bed is a temple.’
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And really, if we are temples, if God dwells in us, then he is in our neighbor too – and we know the implications of that.
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So practicing this Presence of God all day, of giving glances to the Lord – if we can have at least an implicit sense that Christ is with us in all our activities, we will soon become saints.
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And if Our Lord is with us, so is Mary;
if it is a pious practice to glance at a picture of Mary upon entering our house, then how much better to often speak to this Mother, to make a glance to her, who never leaves us. Mary, pray for us, that our days will be filled with the sweet presence of you, and your Son.

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Entrust to the prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas

 

[i] Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 262.

[ii] How to Pray Always, p. 103

[iii] Cited in ‘How to Pray Always,’ p. 40

[iv] The Way, #319, 321

[v] How to Pray always, p. 104

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