You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever (Psalm 16:11).
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence (Acts 2:28).
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
I will never forsake you or abandon you (Hebrews 13:5).
A famous photograph from 1973 shows a family in California running to meet their father, who had just been released from a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. With arms outstretched, their faces are positively beaming as they run to embrace him. One daughter is actually airborne as she leaps with outstretched arms toward her father.
This picture, which you can see on The Word Among Us web site at www.wau.org, shows just how closely love is connected to joy. It shows how simply being with someone we love can fill us with happiness and joy — especially if we have been separated from them for a while. This is the kind of joy that filled the author of Psalm 16, It’s also the kind of joy that Peter felt on the day of Pentecost when he repeated the words from this Psalm (Acts 2:28).
In the abstract, of course, we know that Jesus is always with us as he promised (Matthew 28:20), even if it sometimes feels as if he is far away. We know that we shouldn’t feel glum just because we don’t sense God’s presence. But this truth doesn’t always translate into reality for us. This is why faith is so important – and why specific acts that express our faith can be helpful. For example, when you pray in the morning, try doing something concrete to remind you of Jesus’ presence. You may want to dim the lights and light a candle. Or maybe you could keep an icon or crucifix nearby. You could try praying out loud, vocally affirming the truths of Jesus’ love and presence. You could even pray before the Blessed Sacrament!
As you go through your day, you could also call on the Lord or say a short prayer of praise every couple of hours to keep Jesus’ presence in the forefront of your mind. That’s what the seventeenth-century Carmelite Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection did, as he took literally the words of St. Paul to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). At every waking moment, Brother Lawrence praised his Father, thanked him, and remained in his presence. As he did this, he found himself continually in God’s presence. And it filled him with joy, even as he worked as a dish washer “among the pots and pans” in the monastery kitchen! Listen to these inspiring words of Brother Lawrence:
The most holy and important practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God – that is, every moment to take great pleasure that God is with you.
If I were a preacher, I would preach nothing else than the practice of the presence of God; and if I were a director of souls, I would recommend to everyone that they continually converse with God, because it is so vital and easy to practice.
During the remaining days of this Easter Season, take Brother Lawrence’s words to heart and develop a plan to help you deepen your sense of Jesus’ presence, and resolve to trust more deeply in his presence in every situation of your life. Then, you’ll be ready on Pentecost to receive his Spirit more deeply in your heart.
“Lord Jesus, I know that you are with me at every moment. I ask for a deeper experience of your presence in my life, so that I can always rejoice in you no matter what the circumstances of my life are.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
[Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
- St. Paul tells us to “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). He wouldn’t have said this if he didn’t think it could be done, with God’s grace. Do you believe it is possible to be faithful to St. Paul’s words, in the midst of the busyness of your day? Why or why not?
- The article suggests some ways to open yourself more to God’s presence when you pray. Which ones are you willing to experiment with in your times of prayer? What is your expectation that they will help you to have a greater sense of the Lord’s presence?
- The article also includes quotes from “The Practice of the Presence of God” – the collection of Brother Lawrence’s letters and conversations in which he reveals how he was able to walk with God at all times. Why do you think he was able to say that the practice of the presence of God was “easy to practice”?
- The article ends with these words: “During the remaining days of this Easter Season, take Brother Lawrence’s words to heart and develop a plan to help you deepen your sense of Jesus’ presence, and resolve to trust more deeply in his presence in every situation of your life. Then, you’ll be ready on Pentecost to receive his Spirit more deeply in your heart.” What steps can you take to deepen your sense of Jesus’ presence as you prepare for the Feast of Pentecost?
- Take some time now to pray that your awareness and experience of God’s presence would deepen. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.