Recently I was sharing about Pope John Paul II’s morning prayer. It’s a great prayer that he was taught by his father and said all his life. The last part of the prayer is “ Holy Spirit, help me to begin, continue, and finish my work well, Amen.”
Let’s ponder that for a moment. We really do need the Holy Spirit to help us with our work. There is a process to getting it done….”beginning, continuing, finishing”…. Each part is important. Getting the work started can be difficult…gathering enough momentum to get it off the ground. I’ve been fascinated with how planes are launched off an aircraft carrier …. they need a certain minimum speed in order for them not to fall into the water…. With the brakes on, the engines are raced and then the plane is catapulted off by steam pistons. These catapults alone move the plane from zero to 160 mph in two seconds. Even with all that and some other tricks, you’ll notice that the plane struggles to climb into the sky.
So a good beginning is crucial to any new work, from launching a plane off a carrier, to starting a new diet, a new job, or even beginning a new prayer time. We need momentum to get the project off the ground. I usually clean up my area before I begin a new project…wipe off my desk, get rid of miscellaneous papers, get some new note pads, pour myself a nice cup of hot coffee, maybe comb my hair…. now I’m ready to begin.
Even with a good beginning, the next part is difficult….continuing. Once the initial momentum is spent, the first enthusiasms have disappeared, you realize that you still have a long way to go. When I used to jog/run, I was always surprised at how little ground I had coverd when I began to get tired…. rats, I’m pooped and I’ve only gone 50 feet…woooo. I recall when Judy was in labor with one of our first children and really struggling, she would ask, “am I in transition…am I dilatated 10 yet…..ahh not quite, the nurse said you’re dilated 2.” Well, sometimes we need to keep pushing until we get the proverbial “second wind”…. that point here we can see some serious progress and begin to see the end in view. When we drive from NJ to Michigan, we get a second wind when we get out of Pennsylvania and into Ohio…. the “beginning of the end” is almost in view. Grinding it out is key to continuing … putting one foot in front of the other.
Completing our work is also essential and we need the Holy Spirit’s help. It’s easy to let our guard down when we can see the end around the next bend…”I’m done, let’s relax…”. But, as Yogi used to say, “it ain’t over, till it’s over”. It’s not completed until the “t’s are crossed”… and often it requires more work than we thought.
So, there are certainly good “techniques and approaches ” that can help us complete our work well, but the key is to ask the Holy Spirit to help us…to guide us, encourage us, lead us.
Part of work includes spiritual warfare…fighting against the temptations of the devil…temptations to discouragement and weariness to tiredness and laziness or simply trying to do too much…trying “to squeeze the proverbial 50 pounds into a 25 pound bag.” Holy Spirit help us… help us to “begin, continue, and complete our work well ”.Amen. And Saint John Paul II, please pray for us.