Sowing the seed: an exhortation to prayer
NOTES BY SR.VALERY O.P FROM A COMMUNITY RETREAT given by Fr. Benedict Jonak O.P Friday Feb.26 2018
Prayer, Fr.Benedict began, is essentially something for spiritual beings: angels and ourselves. Creation as a whole praises God by being the beautiful, ordered thing it is. It praises, but it does not pray. Only spiritual beings, gifted with intellects, are able to communicate with their Maker, are invited, through the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, even to be friends of God. Christian prayer is IN JESUS and we offer our prayer with Jesus.
This, I think, was the key motif of the day. We pray “through Him and with Him and in Him” in the Holy Spirit of adoption. It is as ‘sons in the Son’, as adopted in Christ and Baptized in his name, that we can call God ‘Abba, Father’ and know that we will be answered. We must ‘educate our hearts’ to understand and pray prayer ‘in Christ’. We use words to pray, as we must, but in the end words are not what is important; what is important is the orientation of our hearts, our one-ness with Christ in his sacrificial offering; our understanding that in him we pray in the true ‘Temple of the Lord’. We were introduced to an ancient latin hymn which begins: “Cultor Dei memento..”, translated “Servant of God remember..”. Fr. Benedict explained that the exact translation of ‘cultor’ is not ‘servant’, but cultivator, or farmer or gardener. Christ in the garden after the resurrection was taken to be the gardener and it is a very appropriate title; he is indeed the gardener, the cultivator of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ is the Head Gardener, but he has invited and enabled his followers to work with him, to be ‘cultivators’ of the Faith among their fellow human beings. There is something very comforting about this analogy of farming, of cultivating, as Fr Benedict showed when he took up this theme again in his sermon at Mass. The Gospel of the day’s Mass introduced parables that liken the Kingdom of Heaven to ‘seed’ planted in the ground that “once it is sown (it) grows into the biggest shrub of them all”. Seed lies in the ground and germinates and “of its own accord …produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. How (we) do not know”; it happens whether the ‘cultivator’ is awake or asleep. I remember how my father, who was a farmer, would in early spring time, walk out over the fields to see how the crops were coming on; was the new growth ‘coming on’? Though bishops, teachers or preachers sow the Word of Faith and cultivate it, its growth and fruit bearing are outside their control: the Lord is always the Master of the harvest and we, while we are “workers in the vineyard” can rest in the certainty and comfort that He is in charge, not we. So what part does prayer play in this ‘cultivating’? What is prayer for? In the first place, to achieve union with God, the “Lord of the vineyard”. Christ’s mission included our deification. Prayer in Faith, in Hope, in Love, transforms us and by means of this union we share in Christ’s mission as “Cultor”, praying for others, praying for unity “that we may all be one”, Christ’s great desire.