Praying In Jesus' Name
Living alone it can be very easy to become isolated. When I was in the midst of going through separation and eventually divorce from my former spouse, every priest I talked with told me to be sure I developed a network of friends who were of like mind and faith. They knew something I didn't at that time~the importance of praying for and with others. They also knew that as my life seemed to be falling apart, I would need not only my individual faith, but that of others.
I have often heard it said that we are made for community, for relationship. While I may live alone, I certainly am not alone. God, in His grace, has provided me with spiritual friends and family. The regulars at the 7am Mass I attend each day will worry and want to know where I have been if I don't show up for a day or two. The friends I have made through the healing ministry of Rachel's Vineyard have been a life line of friendship and support, and then there are all of you in the Catholic blogging community who edify me and support me in my faith every time I visit one of your blogs, or read your encouraging and kind comments on my own.
The point of all this is not simply to tell you more of my own story, but to illustrate the point of today's Mass readings. We are not to harden our hearts when we hear God call us to love and action (see Psalm 95), but rather He wants us to know that we are responsible not only for our own salvation, but that of others as well. Willing and wanting the salvation of others is part of loving our neighbor, sometimes this is referred to as zeal for souls.
Ezekiel's words in today's first reading are not easy ones to live out, but in many respects, we are our brothers and sisters' keepers. We do need to tell our friends and families when they are not living according to the Gospel; we are to do it lovingly and mercifully. I have had to do this in my own life and have come up against a few hardened hearts. A parent who has told me that I take my faith to seriously, a sibling who becomes defensive and uncomfortable when I speak out against abortion or cohabitation. I speak when I have to, but sometimes I know that words can do more harm than good, so in those times I remember Jesus' words of promise in today's Gospel: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst." When words fail, prayer in Jesus'name never does, and praying with others for a common cause has tremendous power; there truly is strength in numbers.
Individual prayer is good and necessary, but so is praying in community. So let us do as the psalmist says and kneel before the Lord and worship; let us pray not only for and by ourselves, but for and with each other.