WHO SHOULD BE NUMBER ONE IN YOUR LIFE?
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. We pray in the prayer Jesus gave us, “Thy kingdom come.” It is the acceptance of the sovereignty of God in our lives. Establishing His kingdom is why he came to earth.
Unlike the reign of Caesar, the reign of God is established by the free surrender of men to His sovereignty. The kingdom consists in personal union with Jesus through acceptance of His Will. St. Paul identifies the church as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is through the graces that are channeled through the church, the mystical Body of Christ, that men are enabled to accept the sovereignty of Christ in their lives.
“Who should be number one in our lives?” is of paramount importance. It is the same question that Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”
Everyone instinctively knows the answer to that question: God. The next question is “How do I make him number one?” I believe it begins with prayer. In fact, it is the willingness to “pray always” as St. Paul insists. St. Mother Teresa said that life in the kingdom begins with prayer . “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.” The “peace” and “joy” of the kingdom is the fruit of prayer!
Therefore, if we are not praying, we do not mean what we pray in the Our Father, “Thy kingdom come.” They are just words.
The celebration of the Sovereign Kingship of the Lord in our lives this coming Sunday and the beginning of the season of Advent the following Sunday are intrinsically connected.
Is it any wonder that we hear so many times from the pulpit the admonition to prepare for the coming of Christ by praying? It is basic. Yet, we sit back in our pews and think, “It’s the same old, same old!” We don’t want prayer, we want action, which is the most basic mistake made by so many in the pursuit of the kingdom of God. We miss the connection between prayer and action. It is not either/or but both/and. As Mother Teresa says, faith, love, service (action) is the fruit of prayer. If action doesn’t begin with prayer, it will be fruitless. It will be soulless. It will be action for the sake of action and not lead to the establishment of the kingdom in our hearts.
The fact that we have so many excuses why we don’t pray is the symptom of our mistaken belief that we can handle things on our own. So many say, “God helps those who help themselves,” thinking that is somewhere in the Bible. It is not. The opposite is in the Bible, “God helps the helpless.” He helps those who are aware of the weakness of their wills and the darkening of their intellects which are the result of original sin. “Lord, help me; I can not do this alone,” I believe, is God’s favorite prayer.
We know that we have made God number one in our lives when we find ourselves doing as St. Paul writes: “Pray always.” It doesn’t mean saying, “Our Fathers” and “Hail, Marys” 24/7/365. It means seeing all our lives through the eyes of Christ.
St. Therese, the Little Flower, said that “Everything is grace.” That was her way of seeing all things through the eyes of Christ, her way of praying always. No matter what happens to us in life, the good, the bad, the ugly, everything is grace. God is using absolutely everything in our lives, even our sins, to lead us into his kingdom.
Making God number one in our lives is carried out just like parents making their family a priority in their lives. I believe that parents’ care and protection of their children is always on their minds even if it is under the surface. If you get a call saying your son or daughter was in an accident, there is no pause to think whether this is important or not. It is. No matter how serious. You immediately do what needs to be done. They are always on your mind.
God, likewise, should always be on our mind. If underneath all that happens to us each day and all that we do each day, God is number one in our lives, then “praying always” is as “easy as pie”—not making it but eating it. It’s “a piece of cake.” It’s “duck soup.” It’s as “easy as falling off a log.” It comes naturally—or rather supernaturally! It’s something God makes possible. It’s part of you. You automatically see things through the eyes of God. Even when prayer is difficult, you know it is the answer.
Prayer should be the first thing you do when you get up in the morning, the last thing that you do before going to bed, and what makes your day meaningful. It’s what you do when you don’t know what else to do. It’s the first thing you do when something troubles you, something delights you, something challenges you. It is not a substitute for action but a motivator for action. It’s what you do first when someone else needs help. It’s what you do when you are at your wit’s end. It’s what you do when your kids are driving you nuts. It’s what kids should do when their parents are driving them nuts. It’s what you do when you are tempted. It’s what you do before you are tempted, to prevent you from giving in. It’s what you do when someone is pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do or should not do. It’s what you do when you don’t know if something you are doing is right. It’s not the only thing you do, but it is always the perfect thing to do in any situation. Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. “BUSY” – an acronym for Buried Under Satan’s Yoke. I’ll pray when “I catch up.” No one ever catches up. It’s always something!! My work is my prayer. No, it isn’t. It is not a substitute for prayer.
In the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, we are told by Isaiah that “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.” Isaiah invites us: “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” It is not easy to climb mountains. Prayer gives us the stamina to get to the top.
St. Paul tells us “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Prayer lets the light of Christ shatter the darkness of our hopelessness.
In the gospel Matthew shares what he heard from the Lord: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.” The devil is THE thief of our souls. Prayer protects us as the “devil goes about the world like a roaring lion seeking the ruin of souls.”
Praying always, looking at everything through the eyes of Christ, is the way we make God number one in our lives. The more we pray, the more God becomes number one. The less we pray, the more we make ourselves number one. Do I have to tell you: that’s not going to get you to heaven? That’s not God’s plan; that’s your plan. Your compass is all wrong. It is pointing you away from—not towards– heaven.
Those who pray, those who see everything through the eyes of Christ, become the lighthouse that others can use to navigate through the often-treacherous waters of life. We become the light leading others safely into the kingdom of God. This is a season of new beginnings. Do not look back on the past. Begin again to cultivate the most important relationship in your life. Pray as if your life depended upon it. It does.
The Author of this piece is Fr. H. James Hutchins, a retired pastor but active priest from The Archdiocese of Philadelphia who now resides in New Jersey and is chaplain to the Emmaus and Samson men’s retreats as well as to The Kings Men.