Praying Love Alive
Thoughts on the Second Readings
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Joe Frankenfield
James 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

Every successful person prays. The husband of a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary once told me that he always valued his father’s advice to remember why he had married his wife and what he loved about her. “Sometimes I just quietly look at her when she’s unaware of me; sometimes I bring her flowers for a trait I love about her or I just give her a kiss for the same reason.” That’s one of the best descriptions of prayer I’ve ever heard.

Staying aware of life’s goodness and one’s deep longing for it in the face of everything that distracts us from it is prayer. Some prayer is explicitly God-centered. Much more is life-centered: directed to the works of God rather that the Creator behind the work.

We’ve all experienced losing heart. It’s devastating. Our reason for going on dims and the élan that accompanies the drive for life shrivels. We suffer a sense of being overwhelmed by life and, at the same time, betraying ourselves. It leaves us wounded. It’s also an occupational hazard of taking the Christian way seriously.

Only a person breathtakingly oblivious to life’s reality can overlook the frustration and pain of living the way of Jesus. Our world promotes loving those who advance our interests. It views doing good for those who hinder or are distant from us as naive: sweetly admirable but non-essential and, ultimately, foolish.

If we want to hold on to our dream of a world that’s truly peaceful, where every man and woman can look each other in the eye and say, “We’re all in this together,” where we can say to those who struggle to live in dignity, “We’re standing with you,” we have to pray. We can’t face that tremendous goal day in and day out without constantly refocusing our hearts on the beauty of the dream.

The gaze, the flower, the kiss is a prayer for ourselves as much as it is for the love of our lives.