What is meditation, really? Can we meditate in a way that is faithful to our Catholic tradition? The answer is “yes.” To meditate is to think over, to reflect, to consider what God has taught us in the Scripture. The Scriptures themselves call us to meditate regularly. Read Psalm 63: “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness … when I remember you on my bed … I meditate on you in the night watches.” (5-6) See Psalms 77:12, 119:15, 143:5.
When we meditate on the Lord’s words to us, we grow in faith, hope and love. We gain wisdom of heart, and we find peace and trust in times of trial. But our daily experience is so often the exact opposite. Regularly, in our fast-paced society, a thought lodges in our head or a question buzzes around in our mind, but there never seems to be “enough time” to personally reflect, make an important resolution to move in a different direction, or take a certain action in a relationship. As a result, things fester or dreams are not pursued; time gets away from us and we feel regret. And we can find ourselves more alone – with fear, frustration, unhappiness or anger plaguing us.
From a more spiritual angle, we can desire to grow in holiness – to be closer to God – but we don’t take the steps to make this a reality either. Have you experienced either of these patterns in your life?
I want to make a recommendation about daily prayer that is essential, whether or not you deal with the above questions or concerns.
Every day God wants to speak to us through his word:
- by clearing rocks and weeds that are stuck in our minds and spirits;
- by tilling the soil of our hearts; and
- by planting good seed that can bear fruit thirty, sixty and a hundredfold.
His word has the power to do this if we are willing to make a daily commitment.
Give God 15 minutes; be faithful to it. How do we begin?
Tips for daily meditation
- Read a section of the Bible every day. Sometimes it is best to read through the Mass readings – Old and New Testament readings and a psalm is available every day online or at a Catholic bookstore. After each reading, ask yourself: What is God teaching or revealing to me? What’s the lesson I can take from Jesus’ teaching, the disciples’ questions, or the psalmists’ cries for help or their gratitude for God’s goodness? Is his teaching something I should put into practice beginning today, or do I need to make more time to reflect on how the reading applies to my daily life and what I should do about it?
- Specific actions. Is God asking me to face a specific thought pattern or activity in my life that I can see from the readings is probably sinful? Do I need to make a decision to go to confession? Do I need some help to understand why it is a sin? Who can I talk to?
- Ask God how you can “walk through daily life” closer to him. You may read a passage that helps you see that God loves you deeply – that he is seeking to draw you closer to himself. Don’t be content with thanking him. Read slowly through, for example, the whole Gospel of Matthew and then the Gospel of John ( a chapter a day or even a chapter a week). See how Jesus brought his disciples into closer and closer relationship with him. Look what he taught them and apply it to yourself, because God is always looking for those who will be his disciples, in every age – even today.
- Make simple little decisions to change – step by step, week by week – until your life actually begins to look like you are a son or daughter of God. As you gradually conform your personal life to God’s word, you will begin to know a deep and abiding peace.
- Persevere until you achieve one new way of thinking/praying/doing in your life before you tackle another. Make your practical decision at the end of your prayer time before you do anything else. The next day when you come to read the Scriptures, you will most likely need to repeat the same decision until it becomes a habit. Then, and only then, make another resolution to deepen your relationship with Jesus.
As you become more faithful to daily meditation on the Word, God himself will draw you, by his Spirit, into the reality of Christ’s presence with you – right where you live. This will allow your decision-making on important matters – family/work relationships, friends, goals in life – to gain a broader scope and maturity, and the fruit of this exercise will last forever.
Will you have to change? Perhaps. Maybe you will have to get up earlier! It will require some daily self-discipline until the habit is formed in you. But the reward is ever deepening union with God, not only in time but for eternity.
The New American Bible is the translation used for Mass Readings. Sister Ann’s personal preference is the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, available from Ignatius Press (www.ignatiuspress.com).