26th Week in Ordinary Time
Nehemiah 8:1-12;Psalm 19:8-11; Luke 10:1-12
Ezra read out of the book from daybreak till midday … and all the people listened attentively. (Nehemiah 8:3)
What an amazing scene! Having returned from Babylon, the Jewish exiles managed to rebuild, first, their Temple, and then a wall around Jerusalem. Then they wanted to know how they should live in their homeland as God’s faithful people. So “the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand” gathered in the public square and stood for hours and hours listening carefully as Ezra, a scribe, read them the Law.
How long has it been since you prayed and listened to God’s word from daybreak to midday without a break? We modern Catholics can get restless when we are asked to stand during a long Gospel reading. And if a homily approaches twenty minutes, we begin looking at our watches!
It’s a good idea occasionally to set aside extended time to pray. This could be at a parish evening of reflection, on a weekend retreat, or as we keep silence for an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. It may mean simply setting aside a longer personal prayer time so that we can read a whole book of the Bible or work through a particularly challenging text.
At the same time, we may also find it helpful to shorten our prayer time every once in a while. If your mind tends to wander during your usual time with the Lord, try cutting the time in half—but make every minute count. Invite the Holy Spirit to be with you before you begin. Change your posture by kneeling or standing. Pray, or read Scripture aloud. Or try writing out your prayer time. Try something different for this short time, an approach that will help you be more attentive to the Spirit.
Of course, these are only techniques. Whether you spend more or less time in prayer, what really matters is opening your heart to the Lord. If the people standing before Ezra had been listening just with their minds and not their hearts, very little would have changed. But because so many were attentive and open to the word of God, Israel experienced a new beginning. The same can happen for you!
“Thank you, Father, for inviting me to spend time talking with you as a friend. Open my heart to listen attentively to what you are saying today.”