In my last post, I wrote about starting this season of the year dedicating part of our daily prayer to praying for wisdom. Sunday’s Old Testament & psalms readings made my ears perk and my heart quicken, encouraging me to take Sunday’s readings and carry them with me in the week ahead.
Sunday’s first reading was from the book of Wisdom (9:13-18b):
Who can know God’s counsel,
or who can conceive what the LORD intends?
For the deliberations of mortals are timid,
and unsure are our plans.
For the corruptible body burdens the soul
and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.
And scarce do we guess the things on earth,
and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;
but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?
Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.
The psalm response was from Psalm 90. For the last year, since my youngest went off to school, I have been praying psalm 90 verse 12: “O Lord, teach me to number my days aright that I may gain wisdom of heart.” Naturally, it caught my attention.
Look again at last two verses from Wisdom and the psalm: “…who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.” and “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart.”
Our paths are made straight by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We gain that wisdom by numbering our days aright, that is, knowing and doing God’s will. Grace gives us the ability to know and do His will. Prayer and the sacraments are the source of that grace. So, I think there are very practical ways we can learn to number our days aright to gain the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in our daily life.
1. Start your day with prayer: I can’t remember how long ago it was, but a priest at a parish mission challenged me to get up just a bit earlier for the season of Lent and pray the rosary before my day began. “Give 20 minutes, set it aside for God,” he challenged. By the time Lent had finished, I had developed a habit, and I continue to get up early to pray the rosary – coffee in hand and often distracted, but praying it nonetheless. Whatever prayer works best for you do it, just commit to it each day. The morning is the best time, because at the beginning, when we take the time to seek God’s will for us, we are better able to follow it.
2. Celebrate and receive the Eucharist: If at all possible, go to Mass. I know this isn’t possible for everyone. I live in a place where I have the option to go to about 6 different masses on any given day. Last summer, I came to the realization that there was really no reason why I couldn’t drag my sorry self out of bed and go to Mass in the morning. So I started going almost daily. I miss it when I don’t go. I know where my strength lies, and I know that every grace is from the source and summit of our faith – the Eucharist. Not everyone is as fortunate as I. You might be far away from a church. You may have a work schedule that makes it impossible to go. You may have a houseful of children who sabotage your every attempt. I always say, “Do what you can, not what you can’t.” But…look truthfully at your circumstances and decide what you can do, & if you can, go to mass.
3. Go to confession: Admitting our sins to another person takes humility. Humility reminds us that we’re not God. I had been away for confession for quite some time in my earlier years and one day I came to the conclusion that I’d much rather be humbled here than before St. Peter at the pearly gates. Because, really, God already knows. Our first step towards correcting our sin is admitting it. When we do that in confession we receive the grace to make straight our paths.
4. Be faithful to the Commandments: This seems like a “No-duh” kind of thing, but there are always ways we can improve in being faithful to the Commandments. Doing a nightly examination of conscience can help. I’m really bad at this. A friend of mine is very consistent. I want to be consistent. So I’m working on developing the habit of reviewing the day when I go to bed at night, walking through the day and first asking myself, “How did I love?” and secondly, “How did I follow the commandments?” I think it’s really important to look back on the day to see what we did right in addition to where we fell short. I used to look only at where I fell short, and then I always felt like a loser. Look at both and do more of the good stuff and less of the other. If you have a particular area where you fall down, make correcting that part of your daily prayer. God will give us anything we ask that will help us in our spiritual growth.
5. Mark time during the day for prayer – the Angelus at noon, the Chaplet of Mercy at 3PM, grace before each meal, evening prayer and night prayer, whatever time works in the context of your daily duty, carve out time to mark time. After all, the incarnation sanctified time. Time is holy because Jesus came in time and changed time forever.
6. Pause during the day to talk to God: at the kitchen sink, changing a diaper, making a bed, driving the car, sitting at your desk, washing your hands – pause and talk to God. Say what’s on your mind. Being mindful of him in the ordinary ins and out of our day help us to be faithful and reset our focus on Him.
So today, let us pray together, “O Lord, teach us to number our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart.”
Come, Holy Spirit! Anne
For your further readings: Four different examinations of conscience (towards the bottom of the page). Take a look at each one and see which strikes you, then use it as part of your daily exam.