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Meditation is more than a self-help trend, explains Pope

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 04/28/21

Meditating is good, but we Christians go farther. For us Christians, meditating is a way of coming into contact with Jesus ... and from Jesus, discovering ourselves.

Pope Francis took up the theme of meditation in his ongoing teaching on prayer on April 28, saying that the current popularity of meditation is a good thing, but that for Christians, meditation is something more.

The Holy Father noted how “the practice of meditation exists in almost all the world’s religions” and even among those who are not religious.

We all need to meditate, to reflect, to discover ourselves, it is a human dynamic. Especially in the voracious Western world, people seek meditation because it represents a high barrier against the daily stress and emptiness that is everywhere.

Here, then, is the image of young people and adults sitting in meditation, in silence, with eyes half-closed … It is a phenomenon to be looked on favourably: in fact, we are not made to run all the time, we have an inner life that cannot always be neglected.

Meditating is therefore a need for everyone. Meditating, so to say, is like stopping and taking a breath in life. To stop and be still.

However, the pope continued, this word meditation, in a Christian context, is something unique. We Christians go further than this stopping for a breath, he explained.

For the Christian, meditation enters through the door of Jesus Christ. The practice of meditation also follows this path. And the Christian, when he or she prays, does not aspire to full self-transparency, does not seek the deepest centre of the ego. This is legitimate, but the Christian seeks something else.

The prayer of the Christian is first of all an encounter with the Other, with a capital “O”: the transcendent encounter with God. […] That is, meditating means going – guided by a phrase from the Scripture, from a word – to the encounter with Jesus within us.

Various styles

The pope explained that even within Christianity, there are various methods of meditation, some more simple, others more complex; some focused more on an intellectual dimension, others on emotions.

The methods of meditation are paths to travel to arrive at the encounter with Jesus, but if you stop on the road, and just look at the path, you will never find Jesus. You will make a “god” out of the path. The “god” is not waiting for you there, it is Jesus who awaits you.

Holy Spirit’s help

The fundamental aspect, then, is the encounter with Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is not far away, but is always in a relationship with us. […] And thanks to the Holy Spirit, we too are present at the river Jordan when Jesus immerses himself to receive baptism. We too are guests at the wedding at Cana, when Jesus gives the best wine for the happiness of the couple.

That is, it is the Holy Spirit who connects us with these mysteries of the life of Christ because in contemplation of Jesus we experience prayer, to join us more closely to him. We too are astonished onlookers at the thousands of healings performed by the Master.

We take the Gospel, and meditate on those mysteries in the Gospel, and the Spirit guides us to being present there. And in prayer – when we pray – we are all like the cleansed leper, the blind Bartimaeus who regains his sight, Lazarus who comes out of the tomb… We too are healed by prayer just as the blind Bartimaeus, the other one, the leper… We too rise again, as Lazarus rose again, because prayer of meditation guided by the Holy Spirit leads us to relive these mysteries of the life of Christ and to encounter Christ, and to say, with the blind man, “Lord, have pity on me! Have pity on me!” – “And what do you want?” – “To see, to enter into that dialogue.”

And Christian meditation, led by the Spirit, leads us to this dialogue with Jesus. There is no page of the Gospel in which there is no place for us. For us Christians, meditating is a way of coming into contact with Jesus.

And in this way, only in this way, we discover ourselves. And this is not a withdrawal into ourselves, no, no: it means going to Jesus, and from Jesus, discovering ourselves, healed, risen, strong by the grace of Jesus. And encountering Jesus, the Saviour of all, myself included. And this, thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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