Kevin Bates sm


October 18, 2013


I’m sure we all have the experience from time to time when someone we know and like a lot invites us into the deeper part of their story. It could be their experiences of joy, passion, intimacy. It could just as easily be their encounters with suffering, sickness, betrayal, weakness and the ways in which they have dealt with these universal human dramas. 


It’s as if we are invited in to stand on the sacred ground of the other person, and so we tread with extra care and respect and wait for the signals which will tell us how far to proceed, how long to wait, how to respond. 


These encounters don’t come along every day as a rule, and when they do it’s evident that we need to be alert, responsive and attentive. We are invited into the heart of another’s story in a way that hasn’t happened before.  


At every good funeral we learn so much about a person that we didn’t realise before, even though we may have known the person well and over a long time.  


These encounters are a bit like funeral revelations, except the person is sitting or walking with us in the flesh, and our response can become something very precious to the one who is opening up to us. 


These encounters usually don’t have time to happen with a quick chat on the phone, a text message or email here and there. These encounters are often enough not spontaneous, but rather have been prepared thoughtfully by the person making the revelation of her or his heart to us.  


These encounters are fragile in the beginning and can be disrupted easily if our attention and presence is not in tune with the one opening his or her heart story for us. These encounters when they happen, provide us with an idea of what deeper prayer is meant to be like. In these encounters, the words spoken are simply vehicles and are seldom the main content of the revelation.  


In the same way, the words of all our prayers become what they are meant to become when they fade into silence and become a kind of backdrop for the encounter with God that prayer is designed to create. 


Using the right words, gestures and actions has its place in setting the scene for our encounter with the sacred. They however are but tools in God’s hands and ours as we seek each other out.  


During our Eucharistic celebrations together, we can do well to focus on the words of the prayers and their meanings, and then allow them to quietly fade while we engage with the author of these sacred words, and find our own place with God as we pray with each other.  


Just as the encounter with another that we described above is a precious gift that can’t be orchestrated on our part or can’t be bought, the encounter with God too can only be received as a gift, by means of God’s invitation to us. All our words, actions, gestures are simply meant to get us ready for that moment when God speaks to our heart and invites us into his inner life. 


In the Church this week we celebrated the feast of St Teresa of Avila, a mighty Carmelite nun who spent twenty years longing for this encounter but only found wilderness and suffering. Her persistent waiting faith was eventually rewarded and we still benefit from her story of long-suffering patience today.  


Our invitation might come soon, or long into the future. We wait patiently, preparing our hearts for the encounter that will transform our whole way of being in the world. Sometimes we will need great patience, but while we wait we have lots of good company and the knowledge that one day Love will indeed find us and invite us in.  

Father Kevin