Advent—which is the beginning of the Church’s year—starts in two weeks, and as we approach the end of the Church’s year, we are reminded of the end of time as well. The readings for the next two weeks are all about the end of time and reminding us that all things the things around us will eventually come to an end.
Every so often we hear people say that the end of time is coming, or that the Lord is about to come again, or that God is about to punish the earth for all the evil that is around. Is this true? We don’t know. But what we do know is what the Lord himself said about this kind of thing. We have it in the Gospel reading today. He said: ‘Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am He’, and, ‘The time is near at hand’. Refuse to join them.’
The Lord simply asks us to persevere; to persevere with the daily struggle of trying to be a Christian, of trying to pray, to go to mass, to get on with whatever the Lord has given us to do, in married life, in single life, wherever we find ourselves.
If you were to ask what is the most important thing for a Christian to do to keep us going from day to day, I would say without a doubt it is prayer. Prayer is simply our relationship with God and like any relationship with another person it takes many different forms. It is as important as eating and sleeping. If you stop eating and sleeping you die physically. If you don’t pray in some form, you die spiritually. It is the exact same thing. When we have some kind of relationship with God it puts things in perspective for us. It helps us to see what is important and what isn’t. It helps us to remember what our life is about and what we are called to do each day. It also helps us not to become overwhelmed by all the gloom and doom around us. If you know what the purpose of your life is, then it is a lot easier to keep going especially when we are hearing so much negativity around us. Sure we are in difficult times, but if God is with us, guiding us, then what have we to be afraid of?
But how, you might ask, are we supposed to pray in this crazy and very busy world? Well it’s like anything else, if we don’t make time for it, it won’t happen. If we just try and fit it in when everything else is done, we won’t pray, don’t be fooled. If we see it as a necessary thing, we will make time for it, just as we make time for eating and sleeping; but if we see it as an optional extra, then you will never pray.
Our prayer is the communication line between us and God. It is simply how we express our relationship with him. The more we are in tune with God through prayer, the more we will begin to think like God, the more we will begin to reflect the image of God that is in each of us, which is a very beautiful thing. People who are close to God are beautiful, because they reflect this light of God which is in each of us.
How do I pray? Think of all the time you spend in your car, or indeed any time you are alone. We don’t always have to be listening to the radio. We can choose to turn it off and simply talk to Jesus and tell him about our fears and hopes. That is prayer. Spend some time each day thanking God for all things, good and bad. Tell God about your joys and ask him for your needs. Spend time in silence before the Blessed Sacrament. Read the Scriptures, the living Word of God. Stay on for a few minutes after mass and thank God for coming to you in Holy Communion. Ask God to bless your families and those people you are worried about. Prayer doesn’t always change the situations that we are praying for, but it does change us. So we grow and mature and we learn the ways of God.
There are almost as many ways to pray as there are people, and we will all live our relationship with God slightly differently, but what is important is that we do have this relationship with God in some form.
Do you find that your faith seems empty and boring? Do you wonder why you even bother with it half the time? Ask yourself, are you praying, are you reading the Word of God? And if not, are you surprised that your faith seems boring?
Jesus says to us, ‘Do not be deceived…’ the way to him is very ordinary and involves the same perseverance that anything else requires as well, just like any relationship with another person. But the Lord also says, ‘Your endurance will win you your lives.’ The path to God isn’t easy, but it is well worth it.