Knowing how to find God’s voice inside of us is not easy, Pope Francis acknowledged at the Wednesday general audience of September 28, but familiarity with God is the key to becoming more receptive.
Discerning what is happening within us is not easy, for appearances are deceptive, but familiarity with God can melt doubts and fears in a gentle way, making our lives increasingly receptive to His “gentle light,” according to the beautiful expression of Saint John Henry Newman.
The Pope compared this familiarity with Jesus gleaned from time spent together to the experience of an old married couple:
“It is said that two spouses who have lived together for so long, loving each other, end up resembling each other. Something similar can be said about affective prayer,” he said. Gradually but effectively, we are more and more similar to God, able to judge as he does, and discern his will.
To be in prayer does not mean saying words, words, no: Being in prayer means opening my heart to Jesus, drawing close to Jesus, allowing Jesus to enter into my heart and making us feel His presence. And there we can discern when it is Jesus and when it is us with our thoughts, that so many times are far from what Jesus wants.
Let us ask for this grace: to live a relationship of friendship with the Lord, as a friend speaks to a friend (cf. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 53).
How to get there
To illustrate how to arrive to this familiarity and friendship with Jesus, the Pope shared the story of an old acquaintance:
I knew an old religious brother who was the doorman of a boarding school, and every time he could he would approach the chapel, look at the altar, and say, “Hello,” because he was close to Jesus. He didn’t need to say blah blah blah, no: “Hello, I am close to you and you are close to me.”
This is the relationship we must have in prayer: closeness, affective closeness, as brothers and sisters, closeness with Jesus. A smile, a simple gesture, and not reciting words that do not reach the heart. As I said, talk to Jesus as a friend talks to another friend. It is a grace we must ask for one another: to see Jesus as our friend, as our greatest friend, our faithful friend, who does not blackmail, above all who never abandons us, even when we turn away from Him. … Let us go forward with this prayer, we could say the prayer of “Ciao,” the prayer of greeting the Lord with our heart, the prayer of affection, the prayer of closeness, with few words but with acts and good works.