When Someone Prays for Me

28 May 2009. Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter
Acts 22, 30 – 23,6-11; Psalm 16; John 17, 20-26

If we reflect on the prayer of Jesus, which is today’s Gospel, it reaches beyond his immediate circle of friends. It includes everyone, all of us, in his oneness with the Father. For John, communion with God means inclusion in a community within God, through which in turn, life in human community is radically changed. Because we experience God palpably in the company of others, we grow with others, and not alone. Our immediate experience of God is with people— with our families and relatives, friends, and people we have encountered.

One of the things I really enjoy about being a priest is finding the notes that people send or leave on my desk. I like them for their unexpectedness, for one thing. I never know who will have called, or who stopped by, or what’s on somebody’s mind. Sometimes a sentence as simple as “have a serene week.” Finding a note like that is like having a blessing drop over my head. Suddenly I remember the world around me, I look up from the little vista of my desk and see a much bigger picture. I am reminded that my life is more than this pile of papers on my desk, and the next task I need to complete.

When I think about it, I realize that God also leaves me these kinds of notes. These little one-liners that say: hey, remember me? Like a stiff breeze on a hot day. The spray from a fountain or a phone call from a friend. The hiss of a bike coasting downhill in a summer rain. The fire tree in bloom outside my office, which reflects a soft reddish light through my window in the morning. A picture of my family and former students on the shelves. Reading a sentence or a paragraph that speaks exactly to my condition. A thunderstorm. A night of clear sky full of stars and meteors. A really great comic strip. But most of all, the text messages I received from a friend. A call from my mother. News from my brother. Today, I received a box of Malaysian cookies from my best friend. And a text from a brother Jesuit telling me he is happy in his new assignment in Cebu.

All these tell me that I’m cared about. And when the letter is written by someone who knows me well, who can refer back to adventures we’ve shared and stories we’ve told each other, I can feel that person beside me just in reading the letter. If I’m lonely, I no longer feel alone. If the author of the letter is someone who knows me very well, someone with whom I have managed to build a relationship of intimacy and trust, I can feel in that letter the sense of being known to my innermost depths. And that way of being known, of having my very heart read, is the kind of intimacy and love that I think nearly all of us long for. The kind of all-encompassing, all-knowing love that the psalmist sings about in the 139th psalm:

You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. You hem me in before and behind, and lay your hand upon me.

That kind of intimacy is what those love letters from God are all about— being searched out and known by God. One of the things I learn from the love letters that God sends is, obviously enough, that God loves me, and that in God’s eyes, I’m worth loving. That’s what a love letter always means—that I’m loved and worth loving. And if Jesus prayed for me, nothing is as meaningful as my God loving me as I am.

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