Whenever there is a discussion about prayer, the question that most often arises is about distractions. We have every good intention to keep ourselves focused on God, but our mind tends to have a mind of its own! Our thoughts wander. We begin to think about what we forgot to buy at the grocery but need to make dinner, why the youngsters aren’t home yet, the harsh words we exchanged with someone, how exhausted we are, why we can’t figure out the new cell phone.
 
Our behaviors and choices can wander, too. We are serious about following Jesus’ commandment of love, but find ourselves slipping when we choose to fritter away time on too much TV watching rather than spending it with someone who is lonely, or when we stretch a fifteen-minute break at work into a half hour, or when we needlessly tear into another over some small annoyance. It is so difficult for us to be consistently single-minded about prayer and Gospel living. In fact, it is pretty difficult for us to be single-minded about anything!
 
In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus is calling his apostles (and us) to single-mindedness.
Jesus clearly states that he is to be above everyone and everything in our lives—even family. This is a pretty radical singlemindedness! But this does not mean that we ignore others. Jesus also says that whoever receives his followers receives him. Jesus is reminding us that our relationship to him is expressed in our relationship with each other. In giving and receiving we make evident that Jesus is the center and focus of our lives. In giving and receiving we lose our lives for the sake of others. In giving and receiving we find fullness of Life—Jesus himself.
 
We can’t receive unless someone gives. When we think about it, so much of our lives depends upon the generosity of others. And all life and everything we do depends upon the utter generosity of God. God gives everything. God created this world, God saves us from our wandering, God graces us with divine Presence and love.
 
Jesus reminds us that we cannot always be takers. To “take up his cross” and lose our life for Jesus’ sake means that we must be givers as well as receivers. In giving to each other we learn to receive from God. In giving to each other we learn that we are Jesus’ Presence to others, even when we wander.
 
We have his assurance that in giving we find life, in giving we find the reward of the righteous, in giving we find him. Every act of self-giving is really an act of receiving! The “reward” we receive is strengthened relationships, being drawn to Jesus so we wander less, the satisfaction of knowing we have lightened another’s burden, the abiding Presence of Jesus himself and the fullness of Life he offers to those who are faithful.
 
 

 

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