Your prayer, says Saint Augustine, is like a conversation with God. When you read, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to him. God speaks to us in many ways when we read the Gospel: He offers us the example of his life so that we can imitate him in ours; He shows us how to behave towards our brothers and sisters; He reminds us that we are children of God and that nothing ought to take our peace away; He invites us to forgive the little offences we suffer; He gets us to prepare well for frequent Confession, where our Heavenly Father awaits to give us an embrace; He asks us to be merciful today with our neighbour’s defects, just as He himself was to a supreme degree; He leads us to sanctify our work, doing it perfectly, because it is what He himself spent so many years doing in Nazareth. Each day we can get some idea, some thought or resolution, to remember while we work. And so it is a very good idea to do those few minutes’ reading early in the day so as to put into practice the little resolutions which can help us so much to improve. Some people actually read the Gospel standing up, as a reminder of the early Christian custom, which has been preserved in the Mass, whereby we stand for the Gospel in an attitude of prayerful vigilance.
It does our soul a lot of good to use the Gospel frequently as the source of topics for our prayer. On occasions, perhaps, we can try to enter the scene as someone joining a little group gathered around Jesus, or stopping at a doorway to hear the Master teaching, or standing at the shore of the lake. Perhaps we manage to hear only a part of the parable, or a few snatches of conversation, but it is enough for something to start stirring in the depths of our soul. On other occasions maybe we will be bold enough to say something to him, just like those others who said or shouted to him in their great need: Domine, ut videam!, Lord, let me see, give light to my soul, set me on fire; or, echoing the words of the publican who didn’t consider himself worthy to stand before his God: God, be merciful to me a sinner; or perhaps those words of Peter, Domine, tu omnia nosti ... Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you, will take on a new meaning for us, and we will confide to Jesus the sentiments of love and purification that fill our heart. Often, perhaps, we will contemplate his Holy Humanity, and on seeing him perfect Man we will be moved to love him more, to want to be more faithful to him. We will contemplate him at work in Nazareth, helping Saint Joseph, and later on looking after his Mother, or tired out, maybe, from many hours of preaching or from the strain of a long journey.
Every day, as we read the Gospel, Jesus passes beside us. Let us never fail to see and hear him, like those disciples who met him on the road to Emmaus. ’Stay with us, it is towards evening ...’ The prayer of Cleophas and his companion was effective.
How sad it would be if you and I were not able to ‘detain’ Jesus who is passing by. What a shame not to ask him to stay!