God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of your name,
so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,
you may nurture in us what is good
and, by your watchful care,
keep safe what you have nurtured.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
(from the Collect for the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time)
The collect of the Mass for the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time is quite striking (and to broaden that statement a bit – especially with the new translation – the collects of the Mass are always beautiful! Listen up, right before the 1st Reading, to hear the collect prayer. Just lovely!).
In this particular collect, firstly we acknowledge that God is mighty, and that He is the giver of every good gift. Then we ask Him to PUT into our hearts a love for His name. With this love, our sense of reverence is DEEPENED.
And what is reverence? – Well, good ole Webster defines it like this: honor or respect felt or shown : deference; especially: profound adoring awed respect. Um, yes please!!! In order that this ‘profound adoring’ take root, we ask the Father to NURTURE what is good in us. Have you even thought of the Father as nurturer? Turning to good ole Webster again, we learn that nurture is defined as follows: to care for and encourage the growth or development of. Oh yes, our Father nurtures as no other – with such creative vital love! Finally, we ask Him, with watchful care, to KEEP SAFE what He has nurtured.
So often we put such rigid demands on our spiritual life that prayer becomes like a place where we have to put on a some sort of grand performance (when in reality it is meant to be a place of surrender, communion, love, encounter, healing, peace, and rest).
Do me a favor: just read that prayer (which I have at the top of this post) once more. Notice anything? There’s no action verbs directed at me and you (so much for our grand performance!). It is a plea to God, that He take action in our heart…the action of love, of grace. It is a humble and confident asking…a petition…for our deepest need: Him. Jesus exhorts us in the Gospel: “Ask and you will receive.” And that is just what we do in this prayer.
We ask for reverence for His name. We acknowledge that He is the giver of every good gift. And as such, we reverence Him by asking for gifts, asking that these gifts be nurtured and kept safe (which is another way of showing reverence…we reverence the good gift -the good within us- because of where that gift came from…the Heart of our Father!).
Who dares (with a mysterious combo of confidence and boldness) to ask for gifts – lots of gifts, big gifts, expensive gifts, silly gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts? Well, in fact, children do (I’m thinking of my nieces scouring toy catalogs with alarming intensity as make their Christmas lists). And, the charming thing is that little children ask without any sense of shame, but rather with a bubbling and expectant giddiness!
To simply be a child in prayer – sounds so appealing and freeing, doesn’t it? To allow Him to act within us, to give good gifts, to nurture those gifts and then to keep them safe (because, we can say the deep gratitude of a trusting child, “without Him, we can do nothing”).
God of might, truly You are the Giver of every good gift.