I don’t know if you have ever witnessed miracles, such as the creation from nothing of something that didn’t exist before. I have received the grace to see many, many of which have happened to me. I’m referring to those requests, invitations, necessities that intervene in your life, when just before you checked your agenda and there really wasn’t a hole in it, on the contrary it seemed to you that there was already insufficient time to do everything you had to do; a phone call arrives, an invitation from a person you care about, or a health-related necessity arises and suddenly your agenda on those very days, or at that time seems to bring back a free space, while previous commitments take a back seat. What has happened? The miracle of time multiplication? Or rather the reordering of priorities by the power of love and wisdom? What is most important is put in first place, it is given a seat of honor almost impervious to any form of doubt or second thought.
We Apostles experience this every time we are about to leave on a journey and we have to load the trunk. Each one arrives with her rich portion of the house to move, all things declared essential to physical survival! The yard fills up, the poor cars start looking at us pleading for mercy and it really seems like a mission impossible to fit everything in. A half hour or less goes by, the courtyard empties out and everything, or almost everything, is miraculously inside! The secret? Entrusting the arrangement of the luggage to that sister who has the wonderful gift of knowing what to put in first and what to put out next, so that every single millimeter of the luggage rack is used to the fullest! Also part of this miracle is the docility of those who, precisely at the request of such an authoritative source, agree to leave at home a small, or large piece of the world, from which they previously seemed unable to part.
Knowing what to put before and what to put after, proceeding calmly and in order, so that everything has its place and the most important baggage is not left at home: is this just a gift bestowed on someone, or is it an art that we can all acquire? If the sister did not have all her luggage gathered in the courtyard, she would not know how to choose the order in which to put it in. If the largest and most valuable luggage was only brought in at the end, there would be no more room for it. One would have to empty the car again and start over.
If a new commitment to someone or a precious piece of baggage we see as vital, for us or for someone else, we definitely find the time to devote to it and are ready to give up anything else. This is almost immediate for a health problem, a request for help, an unrepeatable event or a piece of luggage, but it is not always the case for prayer.
Remember that passage in the Gospel in which Jesus says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you in addition” (Matthew 6:33). It strikes me that Jesus speaks these words at the conclusion of his discourse on Providence, in which he asks us to trust, rather than to toil for food and clothing. “Do not therefore toil, saying, What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of them… Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will already have its worries. Each day has its own sorrow” (Matthew 6, 31-32.34).
Seeking first the Kingdom of God, therefore, is what we are called to, not in exceptional events, but in everyday life. It is within each day that Jesus asks us to seek first his Kingdom and his justice. What is meant by justice? Justice is giving to each person what is his. Every day Jesus invites us to give each thing its rightful place, its proper place: the proper time to God, to ourselves, to others. If we are married, He wants us to give proper time each day to, for example, our wife (or husband), our children, to be intentional about nurturing the most important relationships He has entrusted to us. Not when it happens or when we succeed or when we don’t have other more important things to do! And He tells us to give first place to his Kingdom, to our relationship with Him, who is the King of our lives.
It may be that we have not yet experienced as vital the time spent with God, with His Word, with His presence in the Eucharist.
When does something become vital for us? Usually it happens when we begin, for example, to experience something that changes us for the better, that adds meaning and taste to life, that gives us joy, to the point where we can no longer give that thing up. And if we are truly convinced of its importance, we do everything we can to make sure it has its place in the day.
It can also happen that, after a period of constant commitment, fatigue sets in, so much so that gradually that reality takes a back seat. If we have experienced it as vital, however, we remember the taste, the benefit, the change it was bringing, and at least nostalgia takes over to remind us to go back there.
We may find ourselves in the position of someone who has yet to begin, or in that of someone who is already cultivating a relationship with God, or in that of someone who left it a while ago, but who is still nostalgic for it. What should we do then?
Asking the Lord for the gift of prayer seems to me to be the first step to take, so that He can strengthen in us the desire to pray or renew our courage to take the first step. Then, as with all important things, make sure they happen, never leaving them to chance. Just as the trunk of a car doesn’t expand just because we have more luggage, so the day will always have that number of hours. It’s about having a rule of life, something we choose, that takes into account our limitations, resources, availability, and helps us put goals in line so that the First is really the first, and that all other things are put in reference to Him.
A good rule of life must be personal, small but demanding, practical, concrete; it requires fidelity, but it never falls into legalism, into obsessive observance; it is at the service of our freedom, it does not stifle it; it is something we learn, assimilate, continually rediscover, it helps us in moments of fatigue, dryness and disorientation; it requires self-knowledge and a good dose of realism. If I know that after a certain time in the morning, I will let myself get caught up in my commitments, then, in all honesty, I will know that the only way for prayer to be realized will be to do it before that time. If I know that I am going to collapse from fatigue late at night, it is utopian to think that I can postpone meditation or the recitation of the Rosary until then. It’s a battle lost from the start!
How often do we say to someone, “I’ll see you later,” as if to say, “I won’t see you,” so much so that if the other person takes us seriously, we are surprised! If I really want to see that friend, I’ll grab my calendar and schedule a time and if I care, I’ll do anything to keep it. Only what we really want to happen happens, you might say!
As for prayer, we can be sure that God wants it, so , if there is good will on our part, grace is assured on his part! How many times have I had the proof that He cares more about being with me than I care about being with Him. If I have a full day and humanly speaking I find it difficult to “put in” an hour of adoration, I have learned that it is enough to ask Him to help me not only to find that hour, but also to know how to recognize it. Yes, because He wants to give it to me, it is I who at times lack faith and do not pay attention, so much so that I do not realize that that appointment that is cancelled, that time that is left over because I have hurried through a task, are the answer to my request.
I also remember sometimes being tempted to think: “I can’t do it today, so it’s all the same if I pray tomorrow! Here the Lord gave me to understand a very beautiful thing: what I am today I will no longer be tomorrow. The encounter between the Simona of today and the God of today, if it doesn’t happen, will never happen again in the same way! It may seem a bit of an “exaggerated” thought, but in reality it helps me to recognize the preciousness and uniqueness of each day, the uniqueness of that Word that could reach me because today I am that way, tomorrow I don’t know!
The person who is speaking to you is the greatest expert on procrastination, on that continuous postponement until later of those very things that are most important, for which the right amount of time must be dedicated, the time that never arrives! I am the one who makes up for things at the last minute, who pays debts the day after they are due, who sends greetings the week after the date of the celebration… But I am especially grateful to the Lord and to my community for one thing: for having taught me, by example, to put prayer first in my day! First place means not only a place at the beginning of the day, but a place that belongs to Him, that belongs to Him in the concreteness of hours and minutes. However, I recognize my weakness as a creature, and so I insistently ask the Lord for the grace of perseverance, of being faithful to my appointments with Him, of knowing how to start over every time I fall, in the conviction that “without Him I can do nothing” (cf. Jn 15) and that He is with us “every day, until the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).
With the help of the Holy Spirit and perhaps my spiritual guide, I will write a small rule of life to help me be faithful to prayer during this month of June.
This month’s meditation was written by Sr. Simona Ciullo, AVI