As a mother of six sons it often seemed like there was never a day when a flurry of little feet and hands weren’t running to me all day long, even to the bathroom, bringing me the skinned knee, the crayon scribbled work of art, the yellow dandelions, the impromptu hug, the gold star on a homework paper, or an invitation to hear "Chop Sticks" played for the first time on the piano.
Those are the times when our child calls out our name - Mom, I'm hurt! Dad, can you fix this? Grandma, Look what I made! Poppy, this is for you! Mom, I love you!
Those times are expressions of love and trust on the part of the child and moments of joy for us.
Jesus spoke often in Scriptures of our need to be like little children, but how often do we, like our child, call out the name of the one we love and trust? How often do we run to our God, not only when we are hurt or afraid, but with our creative endeavors, no matter how scribbled they are, to say unashamedly, "This is for you!"
So many times, when I have given a workshop or retreat day, participants will share with me their insecurity about praying. They feel they don’t know how.
I assure them that God does not wait impatiently for us to come to him, expecting us to use only "this" phrase or "these" words. Rather, he waits for us expectantly, desiring to see us running to him with trust and delight, calling out the most beautiful prayer ever created – his name.
God desires an intimate relationship with us, not a routine one.
I have always loved the story of an old Irish woman living alone in a cottage tucked away in the mountainous crags along the coast of Ireland. One day, a visitor made his way to the cottage and, upon entering, announced to the old woman he had come to see her because she was alone and in need of company.
"Alone, is it?!" she laughed with delight, "With Himself and his Blessed Mother keeping me company?" She waved a gnarled hand at the pictures that hung over the hearth – the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Later, that same visitor would return to the cottage and find one of the beloved pictures missing from its place of honor. The old woman furrowed her brow, saying, "We're having a tiff, he and I!"
Then she pointed to the drawer where she had stashed her dearest friend, face down no less.
But tiffs come to an end, and this wise, delightful woman, who loved and trusted God with the heart of a child, could most often be heard praying, in joy and in anger and in grief, "Sweet Jesus!"
Pope Francis once posed a question to be considered by every Christian: “Do you think of God as someone who loves you?”
Our perception of God, he explained, has a great deal to do with our prayer life.
“A heart inhabited by the love of God makes prayer become even a thought without words, or an invocation in front of a sacred image, or a kiss sent towards the church,” he said.
If we reflect on the Pope’s question, and remember to pause in wonder at God’s unconditional, passionate love for us, we will be able to keep the name of Jesus in our hearts and always be at prayer.