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Bridge Work

Hearts and hope

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of your name,
so that, by deepening our sense
  of reverence,
you may nurture in us what is good
and, by your watchful care,
keep safe what you have nurtured.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
  in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Almighty ever-living God,
increase our faith, hope and charity,
and make us love what you command,
so that we may merit what you promise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
  in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

I hear from many people who believe they are responsible for fixing the pain that resides in their hearts. I listen to many women in particular who feel it is up to them to heal the pain of past abuse all by themselves. They cannot allow God or anyone else to enter such tender spaces of the heart. I converse with people who blame themselves for being abused in the past, which results in blaming themselves for every negative aspect of their lives in the present. Discovering God's love is far from their awareness or desire. Their instinct is to constantly feel bad about life and all their relationships.

My experience reveals that many people do not feel good about themselves, nor do they believe that God could love them. My heart aches for people who cling to such pain. Discovering God's love or even the notion that God could be anything more than condemnation and judgment is common in people who face issues of poverty and emotional illness.

The opening prayer for the 22nd Sunday is an invitation to discover the desire for God within us all. This desire is distant and abstract to many people because all they know from the church and from their relationships are put-downs and harshness. This prayer to desire reverence for God's name is a place of profound prayer — and a place that is very foreign to many people.

This prayer also asks God to nurture and keep safe what is good and holy in our lives. This text deserves prayerful attention from liturgy planners and preachers. A well-planned, honest homily on discovering God's love and name in our hearts is greatly appreciated even by people who resist this love. This prayer could become a rich source of catechesis for both liturgical and private prayer. This collect is not a throwaway but needs to continue to be translated into real life, especially for people who have trouble accepting God's care for them. u

Every community must put flesh on how love is lived in the world. An aspect of faith missing in so many worshiping communities is real love of God. Our overly intellectual approach to the church and God results in following rules and obligations but seldom results in healing lives and hearts. No one can give what he or she does not have. Communities cannot be called to faith, hope, and charity without first discovering a deep, passionate love of God in their own lives.

The collect for the 30th Sunday asks God for the courage to live out this love in the real world. Faith, hope, and love become rich and real aspects of discovering a genuine relationship with God. Charity is nothing but ego and self-importance if it does not first have the foundation of God's fidelity and love. I witness this nearly every day in our hospitality center. Many volunteers want to serve people in poverty in order to feel better about their own lives. Others want to serve those surviving mental illness and homelessness but want nothing to do with the faith dimensions of the church. Some want to serve and ignore prayer, while others pray and ignore service. These opening prayers help bridge this gap if they are prayed and discussed with honesty and integrity.

I pray the prayers realizing that we all merit what has been given to us in Christ Jesus. We do not have to serve our way into salvation. God's love and salvation are true and free gifts. We value these gifts in varying ways in our lives, even when we cannot fully express our desire for God. The gift of the paschal mystery is the source of genuine love to be remembered by all who think they must earn their salvation. God's love is manifest every time we gather for Eucharist and begin our prayer in faith, hope, and love. We are all worthy of this love.

I pray daily for people who still think they must solve their own pain. My heart aches for people who believe they are unworthy of God's love. My quiet hours are spent in silent prayer for people who have never discovered God's love because of the pain held tightly in their hearts. This is the place in which our communities must pray together and speak the truth out loud. I wait for the day when every heart discovers the love that will set us all free. ML

missing image fileRev. Ronald Patrick Raab, CSC, serves as associate pastor at St. Andre Bessette Church in Old Town, Portland, Ore. He broadcasts On the Margins, a weekly Scripture commentary on radio Learn more at