At the Crossroads

"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:2).

Learning to pray as Jesus did is the heart of Christian formation. When we pray as he did, we articulate our baptismal unity with him, and the Christ within us, our true self before God, emerges within our unfolding human maturity to reveal our divine destiny.

How did Jesus pray? Like every Jew, he said the Sh'ma each day, the most important text and mantra from the Torah: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one, there is no other. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Note that this prayer is not asking God something, but God commanding us to listen, to obey the very ground of our existence. Our bodies reveal this when we stand vertically within the creative will of God, totally dependent and totally responsive to the One who has loved us into being, heart, mind, soul and strength, enabling us to stretch our selves horizontally to our neighbors to share the same love we have received.  

These two directions, vertical and horizontal, make our bodies a crossroads between our divine source and our human responsibility.  To stand in God's love and to stretch our arms to  one another is the perfect expression of the Christian life, the imitation of the crucified and risen Jesus, who completed our human and divine identity, restoring us to the full  image and likeness of God. 

When his disciples observed Jesus at prayer, standing with his arms extended, they asked him to teach them how to pray.  He taught them the "Our Father," his personal communication with his Abba. He gave them more than words. He invited them into his own intimate relationship with God. "Come, stand with me before our God. Feel the flow of love going back and forth. You, too, are God's beloved, and because of this you exist to love. 

The Our Father simply repeats the Sh'ma. The first part  is about God, supreme Source, divine name and will, heaven to earth. By aligning yourself to God, everything you need to love your neighbor as yourself -- bread and mercy and freedom from evil -- will be provided.

Before Jesus arrived at Golgotha to mount the cross of his death, he was already the crossroads between death and life, the portal between time and eternity, transforming sin and death to grace and resurrection. This is the pattern of our baptism: If we die with Christ, we will rise with him. This is what Christian formation does, and it happens because we pray as Jesus prayed.