“I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (Matt 11)

Jesus announces the good news that the Creator of the universe is his Father and has done us the honour of making us his children. He then invites you and me to live spiritual lives and join him in proclaiming God’s peace to all nations. We are not to let any uncontrollable forces of Nature or human perversity disturb our trust in God. Jesus has come among us to show the way, to be food for our souls, to refresh our spirits, to give strength. He blesses his Father, the Lord of Heaven and earth, for giving us freedom and responsibility. Created and called by God each person has an inner personal dignity to be respected by all. Now Jesus wants to guide us so that we do not mess things up and so that we influence our neighbours and those in authority to seek the truth and to act honourably. Recently prominent politicians have behaved in a partisan, less than honest way. What do we do when leaders bend the rules to suit themselves and get carried away by the lure of popularity, putting others at risk? Continue to do what is right ourselves but be gentle and humble by shouldering his yoke, knowing that he carries the weight too, supports us, matching every step we take. No matter what the pressure we ask for strength to do the Christlike thing. It might demand that we resist the popular cause but with practice following Christ becomes ‘easy and light’.

There are many people in our world who act as if they don’t need God or the Church at all. What can the Church do for them that other organisations cannot do just as well? They resent interference. So what is the Church’s response? Our first task is to remind them gently that the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, cares for all his children. You may be powerful, comfortable and influential but if you think only of yourselves and your party’s interests you will increase inequality and engrain injustice. Jesus even suggests that you will lose your soul if you always put the pragmatism of politics before the idealism of spirituality.

Jesus advises that you will only be truly human if you try to do the best you can for all your neighbours. He asks everyone to follow him and be inspired by the Spirit of God. If you do put yourself forward to public office then ask Jesus to make you humble and gentle in relationships with others just as he was. Ask his help as you carry your burdens and their burdens too. Ask Jesus to help you not to be narrow-minded or too self-centred. Being ‘yoked together’ with Jesus will actually help you to see and do what is right, and to be blessed by the Father.

Here are a few examples of good choices and bad choices. Pope Francis insists that the primary task of children of God is to be with the humble, those people in poor circumstances who have very little of this world’s resources. What we do in local circumstances can have global consequences.

It is good to explore our world for natural resources. But surely that does not mean poisoning air, land and sea by using up fossil fuels greedily?  It is a duty to put pressure on Governments to be aware of the balance in nature, respect ecosystems, help other peoples to live in peace by planning wisely for the benefit of all.

It is good to be well turned out but it is wrong to be fashionable at the expense of the poor, exploiting child slavery. Avoiding such injustices is a sure way to bring help to the underprivileged, to relieve debt and to give poorer people the power and resources to help themselves especially in war-torn or famine affected areas.

It is right to practise self-restraint so as to safeguard others while always giving real support to those who bear the greatest burdens whenever we can.

It is good to be aware that we are pilgrims in God’s big family that goes back over generations. Jesus his Son wants to accompany each of us into the future that fulfils dreams beyond human imagining.

There are many in our world who read the words of today’s gospel, ‘come to me all you who labour and are overburdened’ and say, ‘That is me Jesus is talking about!  Let us pray together to the Father, Lord of heaven and earth, and promise we will be with Jesus as he gives those overburdened people the rest they long for.

How to begin prayer- by St. Francis de Sales

As our lives return to normal, it’s easy to be drawn into the many tasks and things which so often can bog us down. But we can keep in touch with our Lord and Saviour throughout the day through prayer.

People pray all the time. Studies show that even those who describe themselves as nonbelievers pray. But what is prayer? Saint Thérèse of Lisieux described prayer as, “a surge of the heart, a simple look towards heaven.” I think this is a great description of prayer, as it focusses on heaven, which is ultimately where we have come from and where we are going. Summer is a great time to recharge our batteries and to direct our lives towards the things which really matter. Prayer enables all of us to notice God’s presence in our daily lives, and to appreciate his invitation to live joyful, meaningful, peaceful lives together, nourished and guided by his grace.

The sixteenth century Bishop and Doctor of the Church St. Francis de Sales advised, “Take half an hour a day for prayer, except for when you are busy, then a full our is required.” He particularly advises us to pray in the morning, when our minds are clearest, and I especially advise this as well. He’s also a big supporter of short prayers throughout the day, simply the name of Jesus Our Saviour is a spiritually powerful prayer in itself. In one of his books he gives us specific advice on how to begin prayer, which I’d like to share with you now.

He says, “There are four main ways in which I advise you to start prayer. Make use of one or other of these methods for placing yourself in the Presence of God; do not try to use them all at once, but take one at a time, briefly and simply.

Firstly, a lively earnest realization that His Presence is universal; that is to say, that He is everywhere, and in all, and that there is no place, nothing in the world, devoid of His Presence, so that, just as the wings of birds meet the air continually, we, meet with that Presence always and everywhere. It is a truth which all people are ready to grant, but all are not equally alive to its importance. A blind man when in the presence of his prince will preserve a reverential demeanour if told that the king is there, although unable to see him; but practically, what men do not see they easily forget, and so readily lapse into carelessness and irreverence. In a similar way, we do not see our God, and although faith warms us that He is present, not seeing him with our eyes, we easily forget Him, and act as though he were far away: for, while knowing perfectly that He is everywhere, if we do not think about it, it is as if we didn’t know it. And therefore, before beginning to pray, it is needful always to rouse the soul to a steadfast remembrance and thought of the Presence of God. Therefore, when you make ready to pray, you must say with your whole heart, “God is indeed here.”

The second way of placing yourself in this Sacred Presence is to call to mind that God is not only present in the place where you are, but that he is very specially present in your heart and mind, which He kindles and inspires with His Holy Presence, abiding there as Heart of your heart, Spirit of your spirit. God, while present everywhere, makes His special abode within your spirit. Therefore David calls Him “the Strength of my heart;” and St. Paul said that in Him “we live and move and have our being.” Dwell upon this thought until you have kindled a great reverence within your heart for God.

The third way is to dwell upon the thought of our Lord, Who in His Ascended Humanity looks down upon all men, but especially on all Christians, because they are His children; above all, on those who pray, over whose doings He keeps watch. Nor is this any mere imagination, it is the truth, and although we see Him not, He is looking down upon us.

The fourth way is simply to exercise your ordinary imagination, picturing the Saviour to yourself in His Sacred Humanity, as if he were beside you like a friend, and fancy that we hear them at our side. But when the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is there, then this Presence is no longer imaginary, but most real; and the sacred species are but as a veil from behind which the Present Saviour beholds and considers us, although we cannot see Him as He is.”

Saint Teresa of Avila has a great prayer which is useful for all of us amidst the changes of everyday life. Let’s say it together:

Let nothing disturb you;

Let nothing frighten you.

All things are passing.

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.

God alone suffices.