Fr. Ron Millican
MENDING RELATIONSHIPS, 1
For the next couple of weeks I invite you to join with me in reflecting on prayer and the mending of broken relationships.
I hope to cover the following:
- Jesus’ most personal prayer.
- The importance of praying for those close to us.
- Praying for others without feeling the need to control the outcome.
- How to pray for relationships that are broken.
The other night I watched a movie titled “The Second Best Marigold Hotel.” When I started watching the movie two things came to mind: (1) it would be a dumb comedy, and (2) it would be what is often called by men a “chick flick.” By the end of the movie I discovered that while it had moments of comedy, it was more than that, in fact it was a bittersweet movie. And that it was not a mere “chick flick” as it was a people film, because it expressed beautifully what deeply concerns all of us—young and old alike—relationships.
We want to be close to others, but that is a difficult thing to achieve. Relationships, we soon discover, are fragile things; they tear apart with the slightest tug—and sometimes they tear in such a way that we cannot imagine ever putting them back together again.
And when relationships are torn, so are our hearts. The joy we experience in whole relationships is matched by the pain we feel when they are broken. It is no wonder that relationships—not only our own relationships, but other people’s relationships with one another—occupy so much of our minds and hearts. As such, it is an appropriate topic for prayer.
Jesus spends three intense years developing relationships with 12 men. (He had other relationships as well). He was training these men to follow in his footsteps, which why we call these men “disciples.” He was teaching to go out and carry out his mission and ministry, which is why they are also called “apostles.” But besides these purposes, Jesus gathered them so that they might become his friends.
It is interesting to note the moment when Jesus first gathered these 12 men. In the Gospel of Mark we read, “He appointed 12, whom he also named apostles, to be with him…” (3:14). Mark adds a number of jobs Jesus intended the 12 to fulfill, but he lists being with Jesus and one another first. He knew that this, as much as he taught, is what would shape them.
This reminds of Helen Keller. On the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, the parents of Helen Keller sent for a teacher for their 6-year-old daughter, who was blind, deaf and mute. After an initial period of frustration, 19-year-old Anne Sullivan managed to teach Helen a manual alphabet, and then eventually Braille. Eventually, Helen was accepted at Radcliffe College, where Anne spelled out the lectures on Helen’s hand. Anne was Helen’s constant companion when Helen wrote or traveled the world making speeches.
Nearly 50 years of companionship ended when Anne died in 1936. Helen wrote: “My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her. I feel that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her—there is not a talent or an inspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch.”
Such is the power of significant relationships, even between teacher and pupil. This helps us appreciate something Jesus did at the end of his life. When he kneels to pray his final prayer (recorded in John 17) the night before he is to die, his main concern is those 12 friends.
Next week: A Last Prayer for His Friends.