As I write, it is Monday night, September 8, the feast of the Birth of Mary, a day in which we thank God for her role in the divine plan of salvation.
It is also the day of the meeting of my priests’ prayer group. I have belonged to this group since 1990. We meet 9 or 10 times a year for an afternoon and evening. We begin with an hour or more of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Vespers (the Church’s official evening prayer). We then have a lengthy period in which each of us reflects aloud on the unfolding of our lives and ministries, on the ways God’s grace has been at work among us.
This group has been an amazing blessing for me. Many a time they have provided tremendous strength in difficult times. They have challenged me when I have gotten into “spiritual ruts” (as Jesus in last Sunday’s Gospel challenged us to love one another enough to give the gift of fraternal challenge). Often, my brothers provide new perspectives and insights that help me understand how God has been working in my life. Sometimes their sharing opens new doors for my own reflection. This monthly prayer is sacred time and I am grateful to God for blessing me with this group of brothers in the Spirit.
My prayer group exemplifies an aspect of how God works in our lives. Regularly, God’s grace comes to us through others! We give thanks for the birth of Mary precisely because God’s grace worked in and through her to bless people of all ages. Likewise, God’s grace works in and through us to bless others – as well as in the lives of others to bless us. This divine dynamic is at work in our daily interactions with the people we encounter. After all, we are the “community of disciples” and “the Body of Christ.” As St. Paul taught, as members of Christ we affect each other – both for good (and sadly sometimes for ill).
It is easy to overlook the “embodied graces” through which God is constantly working. Yet they are a great treasure; the more we grow in awareness of this treasure, the more we can shout out with the great Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God!”
May Jesus, through whose Incarnation God dwelled among us, help us appreciate the human ways through which God graces us! May Mary, “full of grace,” help us to recognize the working of God in the midst of daily life!
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