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Longing is Always a Prayer

by Jeremy Hiers, OSA

“Longing is always a prayer, even though the tongue is silent. If you are longing without interruption, then you are always praying. When does our prayer sleep? Only when our desire cools.” – Saint Augustine (Sermon 80, 7)

What are you longing for today?

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Luke 2:22-40) is an opportunity for us to pause 40 days after Christmas to reflect on our own encounter with the Lord who has come to dwell with us.

Simeon and Anna had longed their whole lives to encounter the Savior in the Temple, even though they didn’t know when or how it would happen.  Now they are both well in years.  What did they expect to find?  Were they surprised when they found out that the answer to their prayers would be a tiny baby?

So it is for us.

There is always something both expected and unexpected about the Savior’s coming. As people of faith, we lift our needs and desires up to God in prayer, trusting that He will answer our prayers as He promised (Matthew 7:7). However, we are often asked to wait. 

Perhaps some of us have experienced a difficult relationship in life that troubled us for years just to one day discover a path towards healing and reconciliation. Perhaps we have agonized over a difficult project at work just to one day find a solution. Perhaps others were once ready to give up on fighting a long standing temptation and in that moment of acknowledging one’s powerlessness found the grace to continue resisting. Perhaps we have all experienced a time when we became complacent and drifted away from seeking God fully just to find ourselves experience a sense of His presence at Mass, in prayer, or in another person such as a stranger we meet on the street.

Like Anna and Simeon, we long for Jesus to come into the situations that weigh on us. When He does come, He often comes in ways we are not expecting.

Have you had an encounter with the Savior?  If so, how did you respond?

Simeon and Anna have something to teach us about how to respond when we do. Simeon’s response was to lift up His heart in prayer and bless God.  Anna went to speak about Jesus to others.

As we wait for whatever encounter we may be waiting for today, we too are called to bless God for the many ways He has worked in our past and then go and tell others.

The Novena we pray to Saint Rita every Wednesday at the National Shrine of Saint Rita is a way of waiting for God to show up in the midst of the many intentions we bring to it.  We lift our hearts in prayer to acknowledge the power and goodness of God as we make our petitions.  Then we say something that I think is very powerful: we promise to make it known to others when our petitions are answered.

How have we made God’s favor known to others?  

We encounter the Savior in the Eucharist.  Every time we receive the Eucharist we receive a very powerful grace.  Like Simeon, let us bless God for the awesome privilege we have of encountering Him in this way.  Let us pray to be like Anna so we might not only acknowledge the change God will give us today through the Eucharist, but also have the courage and eagerness to go and make it known to others.  Like both Simeon and Anna, let us pray for the grace to never give up hope and prayer for that which we long for.

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