Last month, my boyfriend’s grandfather died. The beauty of our Catholic faith never felt more exposed to me than with the passing of another believing soul from earth into eternity. I could not turn a corner in the grandfather’s house without seeing a crucifix. The family physically came together in fellowship- to eat meals, participate in the sacraments together, laugh, mourn and celebrate the now-deceased and beloved man’s full life.
I felt blessed to be there, blessed to know him, and hope at his passing. When people say he is in a better place now, my boyfriend observed, how can they know? We cannot, and do not, though suspicions abound. It is in God’s mercy that we trust; it is in faith that we pray for his soul to find its eventual and eternal rest in Heaven.
At the funeral home, before the Mass, I sat next to my boyfriend’s mother. I asked her if she would like me to sit with their family or with my own. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me, and with her kind smile she said, “Oh, you should sit with us. [He] needs you. He needs you next to him. Isn’t it nice to be needed?”
Padre Pio said, “Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray. Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers.”
I always wondered at that line: God needs our prayers? God needs us?
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all you heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29: 11-13).
Prayer is our communication with God. It is not a customer service desk. It is not a request hotline. It is how we build a relationship with God, how we build our community of believers and how we are in communion. Prayer is also how we express our love for God, even when frustrations build and doubt surfaces.
We do not go to Mass to participate in empty ritual- we go there to empty ourselves before the Lord: our worries, our cares, and our requests. We go to Mass to show our love of God and he, in return, shows his love for us in the liturgy. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.”
Mass is God’s gathering of us, the weak and wounded. Perfectly unperfectable, we go to Mass to pray, to worship, and to know that we are not alone. God knew us before we were physically born, and he loves us transcendentally. God’s love is not so linear as our own is; his love knows no bounds, his love encapsulates this world and the next, uniting Heaven and Earth.
Approach prayer, then, as an act of love, so God knows we need him too.