Last Word

Instructing the ignorant

An unexpected opportunity for a one-liner

Ann Lankford
Director of the Office for Catechesis and Evangelization

Recently, I returned to my hometown for a class reunion. It was most enjoyable to catch up with people who had settled all over the U.S., but who returned to be part of this gathering.

A month before the weekend celebration, a classmate asked if I would lead a Sunday morning prayer service held in the local park. This had always been a part of the class reunion and many people would attend. It had never worked out for me in the past because the time conflicted with the Mass schedule. My classmate mentioned that it was no problem for me to arrive late as they could play Gospel music from speakers on the back of a truck. It would be a nice filler until I arrived. Knowing that they were fine with me coming late, I agreed to do it.

I decided to lead the group through a time-tested, yet simple way of praying with a Scripture passage in which the Holy Spirit makes a connection between the passage and your own life. This was a natural choice, as it has proved to be personally helpful to me, as well as countless others, in deepening my relationship with Jesus. One of my favorite passages is when the apostles are in a boat and Jesus comes walking on the water toward them. The men begin to panic, but Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I, have no fear.” Peter says, “Lord, if it is You, bid me come to You on the water.” Peter gets out of the boat and begins walking toward Christ. When he takes his eyes off the Lord, Peter begins to sink until Jesus reaches out His hand and catches him. (Mt 14:22-33). I sensed that sharing this way of praying, even using this particular Scripture passage, would work well for all of us who would attend.

On the Sunday morning of the reunion weekend, I drove to the park after Mass. As I walked down to the shelter with my Bible in hand, 20 minutes after the start time, I knew that I needed to begin immediately. After the woman in charge greeted me, she encouraged me to start right away. There was a man sitting on that end of the shelter by himself whom I had gone to Catholic school with for eight years. As I laid my Bible on the table, the man leaned over and said, “Ann, why did you go to St. Brendan’s this morning if you were coming to this church service?” Spontaneously, I replied, “I wanted to receive Jesus in holy Communion.” He did not respond verbally, but his facial expression revealed that this answer must have struck a meaningful and positive chord in his heart, while I was quite amazed at the words that came out of my mouth.

What I learned from this brief encounter and my unplanned response is based upon these words from the Bible: “…Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mk 13:11) If we are faithful to our daily commitment of personal conversation with the Lord in prayer, we can trust that we will be given the words to speak in any given circumstance that another person might need to hear. This experience in the park is proof-positive for me of the words given by the Holy Spirit that is promised in this Scripture passage.

If you would like more information on this way of “Praying with Scripture” (Lectio Divina) in a very simple format, please go to the Diocese of La Crosse Evangelization webpage: diolc.org/evangelization/encountering-jesus-in-prayer/

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