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PRAYER AND WORKS MUST BE CONNECTED

Every now and then a song pops into your head and stays there for a while.  This past Saturday during our Vigil Mass we sang a song with a simple refrain, “God is love, and all who dwell in love dwell in God.” Those words have been in my head ever since.  Then early this morning, while preparing for Mass and spending some time in prayer, I found that the words of this song and today’s Gospel passage compliment each other.  The passage for today’s Mass is Mark 9:14-29.  It’s the story of Jesus driving a mute spirit out of a young man, only after the disciples had been unable to do so.  There has been some speculation or questioning as to whether the young man may have been afflicted with epilepsy or something similar.  There is also some question regarding the apostles: had they grown a little over confident in their ministry?  Forgotten that it must be Christ who works through them?  Had they, while doing their ministry, put their prayer time on the back burner?  We can focus on the details of the story if we want to, but I suggest that the very last words of the passage, those spoken by Jesus to the apostles, are where we might need to focus.  The closing dialogue goes like this: “When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, ‘Why could we not drive the spirit out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer.’”  The message here, although perhaps hidden at first reading, is simple: prayer and works must be connected.  All of the work that we do must be directed by the wisdom that we gain in prayer.  Whether it’s the work of our job and all of the tasks that might be on our list for the day, or the most important work of all; namely, relationships.  Each day and each encounter with another person need to begin with the question, “what is God asking of me in this moment?”  This is especially true in our relationships with each other.  How do I react to other people, especially in difficult moments?  Do I easily “go off on” them, or do I take the time to take a deep breath and allow God and the fruits of the Spirit to guide me?  This, I think, is why the words of Saturday’s song from Mass have been on my mind.  To “dwell in love and to dwell in God” requires that we dwell in prayer on a regular basis.  All of us, in one way or another, are affected by busyness.  It can partially or completely sever our bond with Christ in prayer.  We hear a lot of talk about being people of peace in a world and a time when there seems to be so much division.  Well, it begins with us, in us.  For peace and wisdom to dwell in us, we must first take time to dwell in God in prayer.  Truly, prayer and works must be connected.