This is a reflection based on Friday’s Gospel (Luke: 19:45-48)
At the beginning of this week my own prayer life, my interior “temple”, felt a bit like “a robber’s den”. As I tried to retreat into silence and pray I was surrounded by a jumble of unimportant concerns, a mental bric-à-brac: Astro-turf or decking for the rockery? Baseball or frisbee for Wednesday sports? What do I need to read for the next conference? Don’t forget you need to call Peter. What’s happening next year and how do I feel about it? Who are Newcastle playing at the weekend? And so on…
In fact, rather than a “robber’s den”, it struck me that the best description of these distracted periods was perhaps to name it ‘dishwater prayer’. After all, it was murky and full of bits. It left me confused and malnourished. It left me realising that, like Jesus who today ‘de-clutters’ the Temple, I needed to ‘de-clutter’ my mind and recover this sacred space in order to be nourished in prayer.
How I did it was simple and, again, is signposted in today’s Gospel which tells us how the people ‘hung on his words’. Rather than sitting aimlessly I returned to scripture, to the word of God. I saw the sight return to Bartimaeus, I heard the four-fold pledge of Zacchaeus and I found that this brought me much closer to Christ, my friend. It allowed me to savour his actions and appreciate his personality. Like in any good friendship, we were united by shared experience and my love deepened as I was reminded of the salvation he offered others and continues to offer us all. In turn, this made my conversation with Christ in prayer deeper, enriching and fulfilling rather than the forced, even vacuous, stichomythia that it had slipped into earlier in the week.
In today’s passage it was the way that the people ‘hung on the words’ of Jesus which held-off the threat of intruding concerns, the chief priest, scribes and leading citizens who wanted to do away with Jesus. We too must hang on Jesus’ words. It was hanging on the words of Jesus that allowed people to be taught in the Temple every day and has allowed me this week to experience his Way of mercy and love.
And so I share with you the words of St Jerome: “I beg of you my dear brothers to live among these books, to meditate upon them, to know nothing else. Does not such a life seem to you a foretaste of heaven here on earth”? By allowing our prayer to be powered by scripture, our communities can be unified in oneness of thought, inspired for ongoing renewal and nourished for life.