The Pursuing God
By Brother Carl Malacalza
In 2019, I had the privilege of living with the Brothers at Bethlehem University. I was especially thankful for the opportunity to meet members of the Bethlehem University family, as well as, to enjoy the hospitality of our Brothers serving schools in Palestine.
When I arrived, the University was closed, providing time to settle into the routine of community life. Without all the normal distractions, it was easier to enjoy our life together, as well as, to “waste time” with God, resting in His loving presence. A high point of my stay was joining the Brothers in Jerusalem during Holy Week. Our descent with hundreds of Christians chanting and waving Palms from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem brought the Gospel events to life.
Prayer Service for Palm Sunday
Let Us Remember that we are in the Holy Presence of God and Each Other
Ant: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new right spirit within me.
Have Mercy on Me, O God, according to your merciful love;
According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight,
So that you are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment
Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you desire truth in the inward being; therefore, teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness; let the bones which you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguilt, O God, O God of my salvation
And my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
(Prayer from St. Anselm)
Leader: O Lord my God, teach my heart this day
All: Where and how to see you
Where and how to find you.
Leader: You have made me and re-make me,
All: And you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
And still I do not know you.
I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Leader: Teach me to seek you,
All: For I cannot seek you unless you teach me.
I cannot find you unless you show yourself to me.
Leader: Let Us Pray
All: Let me seek you in my desire.
Let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you.
Let me love you when I find you. Amen
Reading Mark 11:1-10
When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone should say to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ reply, ‘The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.’” So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of the father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”
Palm Sunday reminds us of what happens when people pursue God only on their terms. Jesus’ followers welcome him into Jerusalem as their King and Messiah, but only on their terms. Later when that image is shattered, they call for His death.
Joshua Butler in “The Pursuing God” expresses that Jesus is not the only way we find God, but Jesus is the way God comes to us. For many, if not most of my life, I’ve tried to pursue God on my terms, instead of opening my heart to His loving presence. It is so hard to “waste time” with God and yet that is what I’m asked to do in my life, especially in prayer.
Am I willing to make God the center of my life, to expose the places in my heart that suffer and separate Him from me and others? Am I willing to allowing His presence to change me in places that make me a less loving person? Of course, I want to say yes, but I’m not sure it truly reflects the way I live my life.
(Prayer by Frank Topping – adapted)
Leader: Lord, forgive me for living my life as if you were not present,
All: For trusting in my own strength and not yours.
Leader: Teach me to trust you
All: Especially when the journey seems difficult and hard.
Leader: Give me peace
All: That cannot be disturbed by the fiercest storm.
Give me the knowledge that no matter how many problems
I may face,
You have the power to still the storm,
bringing strength and stillness into my life.
Moment of Quiet Reflection Music
Your Raise Me Up (Aled Jones)
Ant: “Do not have any anxiety about the future. Leave everything in God’s hands for he will take care of you.” (St. John Baptist de La Salle)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil, my up overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Response: Help me Father open my heart to your love, a love that cannot be forced on me, but anxiously awaits my yes.
Concluding Prayer: (Attributed to Sir Francis Drake – adapted)
Leader: Disturb us, Lord
All: When We are too well pleased with ourselves
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed to close to the shore
Leader: Disturb us, Lord
All: When with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life; Having fallen in love with life,
Leader: Disturb us, Lord
All: When we have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
Leader: Disturb us, Lord,
All: To dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas
Where stars will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land, we shall find you in the stars.
Leader: We ask You,
All: To widen the horizons of our hopes;
And help us to move forward in strength, courage, hope, and love
Dear Father, strengthened us with the Spirit “to be strong in our inner selves, so that through faith, Jesus Christ will dwell in our hearts. May we come to know the love of Jesus and be filled with the perfect fullness of God.” Amen (Ephesians 3:16-19 adapted)
Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for Us!
Live Jesus in our Hearts! – Forever
My experience at Bethlehem University increased my awareness of the daily struggles experienced by our Palestinian brothers and sisters with the Israeli occupation. Their struggle reflects what the Jewish people experienced during the time of Jesus.
I’ve enjoyed the portrayal of this Jewish struggle in the series “The Chosen” which can be accessed on You Tube. The series weaves stories of people Jesus encounters in the Gospels. For me, it faithfully reflects the spirit of Jesus and his times. Consider taking a look, just be patient with the slow start of the first episode for year 1.
Thank you. The phrase “waste time” in prayer with God brought to mind the phrase John Lewis used about righting wrongs by getting in “good trouble.”
Thank you, Brother, for sharing your journey. May we all learn to say “yes” to Jesus on His terms, not ours, so that someday we may see His Adorable Face.
I watched season one of The Chosen in one weekend. It’s a beautiful, lovely telling of our story. And spiritually uplifting. Thanks, Br. Carl.