I attended a men’s retreat a few months ago at the Dominican Retreat Center in Niskayuna, NY. Fr. William Sheehan, OMI, was the retreat leader. During the retreat, he said “all prayer is relationship”.
Since then, those words have reverberated within me. It is a simple concept, which at its core is really why we pray at all. What does it mean to have a relationship with God? –certainly not that we need to find God because God is never absent from us. It is our responsibility through Baptism to discover God.
Prayer is our reaching out to acknowledge God’s presence in our life. Prayer, or communication, is being present to the Lord. Our prayers come in many forms: petitions, expressions of gratitude, contemplation on scripture readings and reflection on events in a particular day. God already knows all about us. It is we who need to get to know God.
As it is with God, communication is essential in getting to know others. As we spend time with family and friends, we experience their wants and needs, their social and political leanings. Families exist not only in the biological sense but also in our social and religious communities.
In the first half of the 20th Century, parish communities developed into families which grew as they shared common interests. The more people interacted, the more they became aware of each other’s needs and wishes and the closer they drew together in relationship the more they committed to meeting the needs of those in their families.
Sharing became the common bond that kept them together. Soon, that relationship building dynamic extended beyond the parish community and out into the larger community. Interactive community creates relationships that transcend communal prayer and grow into a friendly and caring community.
February is the month of the Holy Family. We can take heed to the words “prayer as relationship” by applying them to our parish community, family, friends and the wider community. St Paul tells us that, collectively, we form the Body of Christ. Our relationship with God can grow exponentially as we interact with others in our human family.
A relationship with God is essentially grown by expanding our love to each other and becoming the Christ to each other. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”(1Cor 12:12-13)