Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative Prayer - Pope Francis     

Pope Francis         03.02.15   Holy Mass  Santa Marta           Hebrews 12 :1-4,          Mark 5: 21-43


Hebrews 12:1-4; the author of the Letter to the Hebrews refers to the memory of the first days after conversion, after the encounter with Jesus, and also refers to the memory of our fathers: “how
much they suffered when they were on the journey”. The author, looking to these fathers says: we too ‘are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’. Thus, it is the testimony of our ancestors that he recalls. And he also recalls our experience, when we were so happy in the first encounter with Jesus. This is the memory, which we spoke about as a point of reference for Christian life.

But today, the author of the letter speaks about another point of reference, namely,
hope. And he tells us that we must have the courage to go forward: let us persevere in running the race that lies before us. Then he says what is the very core of hope: ‘keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus’”. This is the point: if we don’t keep our eyes fixed on Jesus it is difficult for us to have hope. We can perhaps be optimistic, be positive, but hope?

After all, hope is learned only by looking to Jesus, contemplating Jesus; we learn through
contemplative prayer. I can ask you: how do you pray?. Someone, he said, might respond: “Father, I say the prayers I learned as a child”. Okay, this is good. Someone else might add: “I pray the rosary too, every day!” It’s good to pray the rosary every day. And finally, one might say: “I also talk with the Lord, when I have a problem, or with Our Lady or with the saints...”. And “this is good” too.

Do you pray in contemplation? The question might throw us a curve, and someone might ask: “What is this, Father? What is this prayer? Where can we buy it? How do we do it?”. It can be done only with the Gospel in hand. Basically, you pick up the Gospel, select a passage, read it once, read it twice; imagine, as if you see what is happening, and contemplate Jesus.

Mark 5:21-43 teaches us many beautiful things. How do I contemplate with today’s Gospel? I see that Jesus was in the midst of the crowd, there was a great crowd around Him. The word ‘crowd’ is used five times this passage. But doesn’t Jesus rest? I can imagine: always with the crowd! Most of Jesus’ life is spent on the street, with the crowd. Doesn’t He rest? Yes, once: the Gospel says that He slept on the boat, but the storm came and the disciples woke Him. Jesus was constantly among the people.

For this reason, we look to Jesus this way, I contemplate Jesus this way, I imagine Jesus this way. And I say to Jesus whatever comes to my mind to say to Him.

Then, in the midst of the crowd, there was that sick woman, and Jesus was aware. But how did Jesus, in the middle of so many people, realize that a woman had touched Him? And, indeed, He asked directly: “Who touched me?”. The disciples, in return, pointed out to Jesus: “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’”. The question, is that Jesus not only understands the crowd, feels the crowd, but He hears the beating of each one of our hearts, of each one of us: He cares for all and for each one, always!

The same situation happens again when the ruler of the Synagogue approaches Jesus to tell Him about his gravely ill little daughter. And He leaves everything to tend to this one: Jesus in the great and in the small, always! Then, we can go on and see that He arrives at the house, He sees that tumult, those women who were called to mourn over the dead body, wailing, weeping. But Jesus says: “Don’t worry: she’s sleeping!”. And in response to these words, some even begin to scoff at Him. However, He stays quiet and with his patience he manages to bear this situation, to avoid responding to those who mock Him.

The Gospel account culminates with the little girl’s resurrection. And Jesus, rather than saying: ‘Praised be God!’, says to them: ‘Please, give her something to eat’. For Jesus always has the fine details in front of Him.

What I did with this Gospel is contemplative prayer: to pick up the Gospel, read and imagine myself in the scene, to imagine what’s happening and speak with Jesus about what comes from my heart. And with this, we allow hope to grow, because we have our eyes fixed on Jesus. pray in contemplation. And even if we have many commitments, we can always find the time, even 15 minutes at home:
Pick up the Gospel, a short passage, imagine what is happening and talk to Jesus about it. This way your eyes will be fixed on Jesus, and not so much on soap operas, for example: your ears will be fixed on the words of Jesus and not so much on the neighbours’ gossip.

Contemplative prayer helps us to hope and teaches us to live from the substance of the Gospel. And this is why we must always pray: say prayers, pray the rosary, speak with the Lord, but also carry out this contemplative prayer in order to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. From here comes hope. And also this way, our Christian life moves within that framework, between memory and hope: the memory of the entire past journey, the memory of so many graces received from the Lord; and hope, looking to the Lord, who is the only One who can give me hope. And to look to the Lord, to know the Lord, we pick up the Gospel and we pray in contemplation.

Today for example find 10 minutes, 15 minutes and no more: read the Gospel, imagine and speak with Jesus. And nothing more. And in this way, your knowledge of Jesus will be greater and your hope will grow. Don’t forget, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus. This is why we call it “contemplative prayer”.





Pope Francis     05.05.21  General Audience, Library of the Apostolic Palace     Catechesis on prayer: 32. Contemplative Prayer            Psalm 8: 2,4-6,10

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Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue the catechesis on prayer and in this catechesis, I would like to reflect on contemplative prayer.

The contemplative dimension of the human being – which is not yet contemplative prayer – is a bit like the “salt” of life: it gives flavour, it seasons our day. We can contemplate by gazing at the sun that rises in the morning, or at the trees that deck themselves out in spring green; we can contemplate by listening to music or to the sounds of the birds, reading a book, gazing at a work of art or at that masterpiece that is the human face… Carlo Maria Martini, when he was sent to be the Bishop of Milan, entitled his first Pastoral Letter The contemplative dimension of life: the truth is that those who live in a large city, where everything – we can say – is artificial and where everything is functional, risk losing the capacity to contemplate. To contemplate is not primarily a way of doing, but a way of being. To be contemplative.

And being contemplatives does not depend on the eyes, but on the heart. And here prayer enters into play as an act of faith and love, as the “breath” of our relationship with God. Prayer purifies the heart and, with it, also sharpens our gaze, allowing it to grasp reality from another point of view. The Catechism describes this transformation of the heart that prayer effects, citing a famous testimony of the Holy Curé of Ars who said this: “Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. ‘I look at him and he looks at me’: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to the holy curé while praying before the tabernacle. […] The light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715). Everything comes from this: from a heart that feels that it is looked on with love. Then reality is contemplated with different eyes.

“I look at Him and He looks at me!” It is like this: loving contemplation, typical of the most intimate prayer, does not need many words. A gaze is enough. It is enough to be convinced that our life is surrounded by an immense and faithful love that nothing can ever separate us from.

Jesus was a master of this gaze. His life never lacked the time, space, silence, the loving communion that allows one’s existence not to be devastated by the inevitable trials, but to maintain beauty intact. His secret is his relationship with his heavenly Father.

Let’s think, for example, about the Transfiguration. The Gospels place this episode at the critical point of Jesus’s mission when opposition and rejection were mounting all around Him. Even among his disciples, many did not understand him and left him; one of the Twelve harboured traitorous thoughts. Jesus began to speak openly of his suffering and death that awaited him in Jerusalem. It is in this context that Jesus climbs up a high mountain with Peter, James and John. The Gospel of Mark says: “He was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (9:2-3). Right at the moment in which Jesus is not understood – they were going away him, they were leaving him alone because they did not understand – in this moment that he is misunderstood, just when everything seems to become blurred in a whirlwind of misunderstanding, that is where a divine light shines. It is the light of the Father’s love that fills the Son’s heart and transfigures his entire Person.

Some spiritual masters of the past understood contemplation as opposed to action, and exalted those vocations that flee from the world and its problems to dedicate oneself entirely to prayer. In reality, Jesus Christ, in his person and the Gospel, there is no opposition between contemplation and action. No. In the Gospel and in Jesus there is no contradiction. This may have come from the influence of some Neoplatonic philosophy that creates this opposition, but it surely contains a dualism that is not part of the Christian message.

There is only one great call, one great call in the Gospel, and it is that of following Jesus on the way of love. This is the summit and it is the centre of everything. In this sense, charity and contemplation are synonymous, they say the same thing. Saint John of the Cross believed that a small act of pure love is more useful to the Church than all the other works combined. What is born of prayer and not from the presumption of our ego, what is purified by humility, even if it is a hidden and silent act of love, is the greatest miracle that a Christian can perform. And this is the path of contemplative prayer: I look at Him and He looks at me. It is that act of love in silent dialogue with Jesus that does so much good for the Church. Thank you.