Most of us flushed whatever physics we learned in high school from our memory on graduation day, however the same Sir Isaac Newton who once grieved us can actually help us answer the following question: What is the efficacy of our prayer?
Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive.” Yet how are we supposed to process that? Do my prayers save souls? Do my sacrifices “win grace” for others?
Grace, by definition, is always sheer gift. So do prayers actually “work”? To put the question bluntly, is there anything in “fighting for righteousness” for me or for anyone else?
Such doubts surely can allow our spiritual lives to remain stagnant.
Consider Newt. “Gravitation,” he’d tell us, “is an omnipresent force by which every physical body, no matter how small or distant, tugs on every other body. Drop a pebble, and the moon shakes.”
Sir Isaac may have been a whiz, but the greatest pedagogue is God himself. For he created an intricately ordered universe and, for our spiritual benefit, inscribed laws in it that reflect the ones that govern invisible realms.
Let’s not limit gravity to the solar system. Love “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).
Just as the whole material world is knit together by an invisible attraction, so are spirits bound together by a mysterious force. Love is spiritual gravity.
If we’re all united, “one body in Christ, and individually part of one another” (Romans 12:5), then nothing we do is indifferent. Personal acts are never wholly private acts. Every thought, word and deed sends its ripple effect throughout humanity.
Gravity can work for good or ill, just as in the stretches of outer space. Some stars spread light by consuming themselves in a gesture of self-gift, and their “love” brings order to those in orbit around them. Other stars, in their self-absorbed “pride,” have imploded. These black holes swallow up even the neighboring light.
Pope Pius XII focused on the positive side of spiritual gravity by explaining to what extent our prayers and sacrifices matter:
“Dying on the Cross [Christ] left to His Church the immense treasury of the Redemption, towards which she contributed nothing. But when those graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it be due to her action. This is a deep mystery, and an inexhaustible subject of meditation, that the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention” (Mystici Corporis 44).
“No prayer, even the most private, is lacking in dignity or power, and all prayer is of the greatest help to the Mystical Body in which, through the Communion of Saints, no good can be done, no virtue practiced by the individual members, which does not redound also to the salvation of all” (Mystici Corporis 89).
Gravitate toward prayer: it makes a difference. Believing in its power is the antidote to a languid prayer life. Our supplication has pull, God’s Word says, in proportion to the weight of our virtue, our spiritual gravity: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16).
Newton … sir … I take back anything I ever said about you.