Wednesday Week 19 Year II

I remember being at a morning mass once in a strange church. Everything happened normally until the time for the prayers. The first: ‘for a personal intention … lord hear us’. The second: ‘for a personal intention …’ The third … no prizes for guessing. The ten-person congregation managed at least a dozen ‘personal intentions’. I remember finding it funny, then disturbing, then the perfect opportunity to congratulate myself for being more theologically with-it than my fellow mass-goers.
It came back today with the gospel’s strange combination of sayings: one about interpersonal disagreements and the other about prayer. I guess I’m disturbed at how the gospel treats both as public, communal matters rather than private ones. These days we don’t think lawsuits should be a matter for the local parish to decide. These days we don’t think God is only found in church.
The fact people come on retreat says something about the desire for personal relationship with God—and a retreat focuses there specifically. But even that isn’t done alone. We need company in the work of retreat, we need to be accompanied. God is found in agreement, in conversation, in lives shared.
The liturgy expresses that. Though our journeys are individual we make them together. Though we each know God in a uniquely personal way, the God we know is one … and in the knowing we are united.
Why do we speak our desires and hopes at Mass when we pray? God knows them anyway. Why do we speak to God in prayer at all? God knows us through and through. The trouble is we don’t know our own self until we speak, until we offer ourselves in words to one another. And it’s not just the speaking. Hearing is a sacrament too. Until we hear our brother’s or sister’s offering, until we echo our assent, they cannot come to be. Agreement the gospel is telling us is a holy thing. Not just because we ought to be nice. But because each one of us comes to be who God made us to be only in the web of words we share in community. That’s what community is for—to make us human. Even this small community of prayer has that sacred opportunity.