May 2024

The following is a possible framework for the Witnessing of the Word.   It can be personalised or altered;  its purpose is to serve as an example of how this Saying might be used primarily in the context of a Prayer Group, but it may be used by individuals too.   It is not intended to be definitive.  In the context of a group: the periods of silence should be appropriate for your group – probably not less than 5 minutes, or more than 15 minutes.

Saying for the month: ‘Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’ Matthew 28.20 (JB).  You may like to shorten this to ‘I am with you always’.

To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still;  you may want to relax your way through your muscles, or you may find it helpful to become aware of the sounds around you and then put them aside as you offer this time of prayer to God.

Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:  ‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11.28).

Introduction to the first silence – a preparation for listening with the mind:

‘Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’.

In our Gospel passage, after His Resurrection the disciples had obeyed Jesus’ command to go to Galilee.  Let us read together the verses from Matthew: “Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.  When they saw Him they fell down before Him, though some hesitated.  Jesus came up and spoke to them.  He said, ‘All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”’.  Isn’t it interesting to note that even within the group of eleven disciples at this stage after the Resurrection of our Lord, Matthew tells us that some hesitated?  In his Gospel no other post-Resurrection stories of encounters between Jesus and His disciples are recorded.  In St. John’s Gospel, also post-Resurrection, we read of His doubting disciple Thomas, whom Jesus asked to touch His hand and side, and of Thomas’ subsequent response, ‘My Lord and my God’.   Isn’t it very comforting for us that even amongst Jesus’ closest friends, doubts and struggles of faith arose?

While the events of that first Holy Week moved at a frightening pace, it is good for us to remember these words of Jesus, as we try to walk with Him: ‘Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’.  Our Bible tells of the cheering crowds of Palm Sunday, the plot to arrest and kill Jesus, the sharing of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ agonising prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His Betrayal and Denial by some of His disciples, and His subsequent Crucifixion.  It can be difficult for us to believe that Jesus would want to remain with us always, given those events.  But thank God, He doesn’t balance our human values against His complete giving of Himself for us.

Perhaps the Celtic Christian Monastic site at beautiful Glendalough in Ireland may help us here.  One of its many Churches is called Reefert Church, which has intact walls and a chancel, but no roof.  Celtic headstones surround the Church.  It is an amazing feeling to trace with one’s finger, the decoration on one of these granite headstones. Two interconnected links are carved into the stone, which remind us of our on-going connectedness to God, to the great ‘I am’.  This interlocking symbol assures us that our Lord and Saviour is not letting go of us in that promise: ‘I will be with you always’.

But now, let us leave our doubts and struggles at the feet of the One who says ‘Come to Me, and rest.  We take this Saying into our minds, allowing the Saying to speak to us:  ‘Know that I am with you always;  yes, to the end of time’.

A time is now kept for silence of the mind – perhaps between 5 and 15 minutes.   The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or feel free to repeat the Saying.

The first Silence ends with the words: ‘Father, we thank You for the gift of Your Word’.

Introduction to the second Silence – a preparation for listening with the heart:

Know that I am with you always;  yes, to the end of time’.

At one of our Fellowship of Contemplative Prayer Meetings in Dublin, we loved our Witness’s recommendation not to overly analyse our Saying, the Word of God, during our Contemplation, but to relax and allow it to penetrate deeply into our being, into our hearts.  We don’t have to DO anything, God is doing the ‘doing’ in us. 

It must have been so comforting for the disciples to have Jesus appear to them in Galilee, after His Resurrection, on a mountain as St. Matthew tells us.  They must have been so frightened beforehand, feeling lost and rudderless, so to speak.  When we lose a close family loved one, the future can seem so bleak and perhaps without purpose.  Yet when we journey through that darkness, we discover that our loved one never really leaves us.  They remain in our hearts forever and ever, perhaps closer to us than ever before.  In a similar, yet different and more profound way, isn’t that what Jesus is saying to us through this great promise: ‘Know that I am with you always’?

In earlier verses from our Chapter of Matthew, we read that at dawn Mary Magdalene and another Mary go to the Tomb where Jesus was buried.  They are astonished to find an angel there, sitting on the stone which he has just rolled back, who tells them ‘He is not here, He has risen, just as He said’.  He asks them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus is going ahead of them into Galilee.

As they hurry away, we read of one of the most beautiful encounters in the Gospel stories.  Suddenly Jesus meets them, saying this staggeringly simple word: ‘Greetings’.  Can we imagine, for even one fleeting second, what that welcoming greeting and the warmth of Jesus’ voice might have sounded like to those women’s ears and hearts?  And to ours?

Now let us take this Word into our hearts, as we allow Jesus’ words to speak in us.  Let it touch us and let it work more deeply upon our lives.

A time is now kept for the silence of the heart – perhaps between 5 and 15 minutes.

The second silence ends with the words: ‘Father, we thank You that Your Word is alive and within us’.

Introduction to the time of Intercession – taking God’s Word outwards into the world.

Know that I am with you always;  yes, to the end of time’.

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the Saying.   For example:

Alison and your family ... Jesus says “know that I am with you always;  yes, to the end of time”’.

As we allow the Word to speak through us, we might direct Jesus’ Word towards those people and situations where there is suffering, hurt and an absence of joy, and where abiding in Christ would bring comfort.

Conclude this time of intercession with words of thanksgiving: ‘Father, we thank You that Your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray’.

The Conclusion

Feel free to use the Fellowship Prayer (below) or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer:

Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches, which pour forth from You as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected.  And now we offer to You, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with Your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies;  all that we are, all that we have and all that we do.  Amen.

You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.