Archive for category Prayer

Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 ALMSGIVING, PRAYER AND FASTING

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the great season of Lent, when we are invited to “return sincerely to the Lord our God with fasting prayer and mourning” (Jl  2:12) and to offer to God a sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.  It is the time of the year when we are reminded again that we are dust, and to dust we will return. On a more positive note, we are reminded “to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” 

Today is universal day of fasting and abstinence. Catholics all over the world are encouraged to pray, to fast and abstain, and to share to the poor and the needy. Simply put, to do penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18), which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others (CCC 1434).  

What is penance? What does it mean to do penance? “Penance is concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace to lose his/her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; it is a continual effort to rise from the thing of here below to things above, where Christ is. Penance is ,therefore, a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds to the Christian whole life” (JP, PR) 

Penance such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving prepare us for the liturgical feast; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart (Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO. Can. 882) 

How do we make our penance fruitful and meaningful? 

  • Let us do our penance out of personal conviction and in freedom. Let us guard ourselves of legal formalism and superficiality which the prophets had already denounced, pride and ostentations if one fasts “in order to be seen by men. It must be done in secret, with sincerity and voluntarily.  
  • Let us fast, pray and share to the needy as our penance out of our love for God and neighbor. This is the greatest commandment. This is the summary of the all the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.  
  • “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread to the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own” (Is 58:6-8).  
  • Penance finds its fulfillment, meaning and relevance only in the context of “Jesus call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes”, fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance (Cf. 2:12-13; Is. 1:16-17; Mt. 6;1-6; 16-18).

Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4). 

Fasting, prayers and almsgiving are interconnected and complimentary. Fasting is the soul of prayer. Mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So when you pray, fast; when you fast, show mercy. 

Starting this Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of lent, strive to be humble and “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts not your garments, and return to the Lord  your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13). 

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Luke 18:1-8 Parable of the Persistent Widow

 

Charles L. Allen once said, “When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”  I do not exactly the context when and why he  said it but considering the message in itself in the light of the gospel we can somehow conclude that he was indeed correct when he said it.  Why? Because there is no such thing as hopeless situation only people who have grown hopeless about their situation. And more importantly, with God nothing is hopeless. No one is hopeless. To the one who believes nothing is impossible. To the one who persistently prays nothing is impossible.

 

The gospel  parable that we just heard is commonly known as the “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” As the title suggests, the main theme of the Gospel is PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER.

 

There are people who have stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer stand the delay. The way this group of peoply pray is this: “Lord, I pray for this. And I want it here and now.” Fundamental question about prayer such as “Until when should I pray?” always pops up like adwares, starwares and trojan viruses in the internet even among the devout believers? Today we are happy to know that the theme of today’s gospel parable gives us an explicit and direct answer to the question.

 

Considering the gospel as a whole it gives us several points:

 

First, the duty to pray, to pray constantly, to pray with confidence and persistence. As Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts (see CCC 2613). 

Second, the answer to the prayer, persisted in, is certain. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22).  This is best articulated to us by Bruce R. McConkie when he wrote: 

“If an unjust earthly judge will finally dispense justice because of the repeated importunities of the widow, how much more shall the God of all the earth, who is the embodiment of perfect justice and impartiality, grant the just petitions of his faithful saints.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 542.)

 

Third, God is always on the side of the poor, needy, exploited, and oppressed. When we are suffereing and when we are in need, exploited, and oppressed the more reasons for us to pray with confidence and persistence because the Lord is always our side. If the evil judge grants justice to the widow, however reluctantly, how much more will a loving God vindicate God’s people in times of need and crisis.

 

Fourth, prayer is rooted and flows from faith. When we are no longer praying constantly, confidently and persistenly it’s a sign, an indication that our faith is already wavering. This is the reason why Lord warns for the failure of faith when he comes again as judge both of the living and the dead. See to it, therefore, that you still believe and pray with persistence even in a seemingly hopeless situation, even in times of desperation, even in moments when God seems to be sleeping, far and busy with other concerns.

 

If you belong to those group of people who stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer wait   pause and think about this:

 

God always says yes to our prayers. The yes of God however is not the yes we want it to be. If he does not give us our request, it is because he gives something better.

 

Yes God always reply to all our prayers. His reply may be as follows:

 

1. Yes

2. Wait

3. I have something better for you.

 

When you pray always consider and be consoled with these:

 

1. The love of God that wants the best for us.

2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.

3. The power of God that can accomplish it.

 

Allow me to end my homily with an exhortation taken from the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians:

 

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus, “ (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

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Lk 18:1-8 The Parable of the Persistent Widow

Charles L. Allen once said, “When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”  I do not exactly the context when and why he  said it but considering the message in itself in the light of the gospel we can somehow conclude that he was indeed correct when he said it.  Why? Because there is no such thing as hopeless situation only people who have grown hopeless about their situation. And more importantly, with God nothing is hopeless. No one is hopeless. To the one who believes nothing is impossible. To the one who persistently prays nothing is impossible.

The gospel  parable that we just heard is commonly known as the “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” As the title suggests, the main theme of the Gospel is PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER.

There are people who have stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer stand the delay. The way this group of peoply pray is this: “Lord, I pray for this. And I want it here and now.” Fundamental question about prayer such as “Until when should I pray?” always pops up like adwares, starwares and trojan viruses in the internet even among the devout believers? Today we are happy to know that the theme of today’s gospel parable gives us an explicit and direct answer to the question.

Considering the gospel as a whole it gives us several points:

First, the duty to pray, to pray constantly, to pray with confidence and persistence. As Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts (see CCC 2613).

Second, the answer to the prayer, persisted in, is certain. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22).  This is best articulated to us by Bruce R. McConkie when he wrote:

“If an unjust earthly judge will finally dispense justice because of the repeated importunities of the widow, how much more shall the God of all the earth, who is the embodiment of perfect justice and impartiality, grant the just petitions of his faithful saints.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 542.)

Third, God is always on the side of the poor, needy, exploited, and oppressed. When we are suffering and when we are in need, exploited, and oppressed the more reasons for us to pray with confidence and persistence because the Lord is always our side. If the evil judge grants justice to the widow, however reluctantly, how much more will a loving and just God vindicate God’s people in times of need and crisis.

Fourth, prayer is rooted and flows from faith. When we are no longer praying constantly, confidently and persistenly it’s a sign, an indication that our faith is already wavering. This is the reason why Lord warns for the failure of faith when he comes again as judge both of the living and the dead. See to it, therefore, that you still believe and pray with persistence even in a seemingly hopeless situation, even in times of desperation, even in moments when God seems to be sleeping, far and busy with other concerns.

If you belong to those group of people who stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer wait   pause and think about this:

God always says yes to our prayers. The yes of God however is not the yes we want it to be. If he does not give us our request, it is because he gives something better.

Yes God always reply to all our prayers. His reply may be as follows:

1. Yes

2. Wait

3. I have something better for you.

When you pray always consider and be consoled with these:

1. The love of God that wants the best for us.

2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.

3. The power of God that can accomplish it.

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Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the great season of Lent, when we are invited to “return sincerely to the Lord our God with fasting prayer and mourning” (Jl  2:12) and to offer to God a sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.  It is the time of the year when we are reminded again that we are dust, and to dust we will return. On a more positive note, we are reminded “to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Today is universal day of fasting and abstinence. Catholics all over the world are encouraged to pray, to fast and abstain, and to share to the poor and the needy. Simply put, to do penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18), which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others (CCC 1434). 

What is penance? What does it mean to do penance? “Penance is concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace to lose his/her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; it is a continual effort to rise from the thing of here below to things above, where Christ is. Penance is ,therefore, a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds to the Christian whole life” (JP, PR)

Penance such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving prepare us for the liturgical feast; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart (Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO. Can. 882) 

How do we make our penance fruitful and meaningful?

  • Let us do our penance out of personal      conviction and in freedom. Let us guard ourselves of legal formalism and      superficiality which the prophets had already denounced, pride and      ostentations if one fasts “in order to be seen by men. It must be done in      secret, with sincerity and voluntarily.
  • Let us fast, pray and share to the needy as      our penance out of our love for God and neighbor. This is the greatest      commandment. This is the summary of the all the laws of Moses and the teachings      of the prophets. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.
  • “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing      those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the      oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread to the hungry,      sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not      turning your back on your own” (Is 58:6-8).
  • Penance finds its fulfillment, meaning and      relevance only in the context of “Jesus call to conversion and penance,      like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works,      “sackcloth and ashes”, fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of      the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile      and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs,      gestures and works of penance (Cf. 2:12-13; Is. 1:16-17; Mt. 6;1-6;      16-18).

Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4).

Fasting, prayers and almsgiving are interconnected and complimentary. Fasting is the soul of prayer. Mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So when you pray, fast; when you fast, show mercy.

Starting this Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of lent, strive to be humble and “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts not your garments, and return to the Lord  your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13).

 

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Mark 2:1-12 The Healing of a Paralytic

“When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.” (Mk 2:11).

 “Jesus is now back in Capernaum after a long Galilean tour of teaching and healing. The flames of his fame—fanned by his words, fed by the flow of miracles—are blazing forth in every part of Palestine. Never was a man’s name on as many Palestinian tongues as is this Man’s. His doctrine, his deeds, his doings—all that he says and every good thing that he does—are discussed in every home, at every festive meal, in every synagogue. The believing among the sick and the penitent among the afflicted seek him with a hope of being healed; those who hunger and thirst after righteousness hang on his every word and find peace to their souls as they live in harmony with his teachings; the rulers and the rebellious rate him as an evil troublemaker and seek ways to entrap and defame and even to slay him.” (Bruce R. McConkie. The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 2: 47.)

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven (Mk 2:1-5),”  “rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this (Mk 2:11-12).”

This miraculous healing is remarkable on many levels. If faith precedes the miracle, then friendly foursome had faith even as great as a grain of mustard seed. So many of us would have seen the crowd huddled around the door and given up exclaiming, “I hate crowds.” Others might have edged as close as possible, hoping to hear a word or catch a glimpse. Still others when hindered by the press might begin to press others out of their way.

But faith is the power to see things which are unseen. This includes the power to see possibilities that others do not or will not. Such is the faith of the four men. Their faith was the kind of faith that thinks of a way to accomplish the impossible. Theirs was the faith that breaks down barriers, tears up roofs, and uses ropes or whatever is needed to accomplish the task. His ingenuity and persistence are an example to all of us on the path of discipleship. If we are hindered by ‘the press,’ or turn back because we can’t seem to get close enough to the Lord, it is only because we lack the faith and persistence to receive both forgiveness and a physical blessing at his hand. Indeed, only persistence amidst the press brings us to the presence of the Master.

The story is one of the many “faith-making miracle stories” that can be found throughout the gospel,  Unlike most “faith-making miracle stories” in the gospel, here Jesus did not heal the paralyzed man because of his faith. Jesus did not heal him because he asked for it, he prayed for it. Rather, Jesus healed him because of the faith and prayer of the four men who brought the paralyzed man to him for healing, deliverance and reconciliation. The words of the gospel said it best:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven (Mk 2:1-5),”  “rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this (Mk 2:11-12).”

The central message of the gospel story is this: the prayer of intercession works. The story proves to us the validity and the power of intercessory prayer. Intercession belongs to the prayer of petition.  We are indulging in intercessory prayer when we are asking others to pray for us or praying in behalf of others.

What does the prayer of intercession consist? Intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It conforms us and unites us to the prayer of Jesus who intercedes with the Father for all, especially sinners. Intercession must extend even to one’s enemies. Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2634) says: “Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners (Rom 8:34). He is ‘able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them,’ (Heb 7:25). The Holy Spirit, ‘Himself intercedes for us…and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.’” (Rom 8:26-27)

When you know someone who has a problem, who is in crisis, in great trouble and danger, or afflicted with various diseases and disabilities, like what the four men did in the gospel story, let us also bring him to Jesus for healing, deliverance and reconciliation. Let us never ever hesitate to approach Jesus who will always be there to help and save us, who will always be there to listen and grant what we ask for our families, relatives, friends and even our enemies.

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Mark 1:29-39 The Cure of Simon’s Mother-in-Law

In today’s gospel story we heard that Jesus heals Peter mother-in-law who was threatened by a convulsion caused by a high fever which was considered a deadly disease in the ancient times.

The healing of Jesus was considered a miracle for three reasons:

  • Instantaneous
  • Complete
  • Caused by the personal intervention of Jesus

Because of this healing miracle of Jesus, news spread near and far, that Jesus has the power over sickness and death. As a result, “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him” (Mk 1:32-34).

What is something unique in the story is this. In spite of being busy doing the “work of God” Jesus never fails to forget the “God of work.”  As the gospel writer relates, Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35).

What usually is our justification for failing to pray, for failing to go to Mass? Usually it may be one of the three or combination of them all.

  • I’m busy.
  • I’m self-sufficient so what’s the use of praying.
  • My work, apostolate, service is my prayer.

If there is any person who has the credibility or right to say them all is no other than Jesus. But Jesus never fails to find time and place to be alone with God the Father in prayer, intimacy and friendship.

Ezra Taft Benzon says it best when he wrote:

“[Jesus] communed constantly with his Father through prayer. This he did not only to learn the will of his Father but also to obtain the strength to do his Father’s will. He fasted and prayed forty days and forty nights at the beginning of his ministry. (Mt. 4:2; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:2) He prayed all night just before choosing his twelve apostles. (Lk 6:12-13.) He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mt 26:39) It would seem that during his earthly ministry he never made a major decision or met a crisis without praying.” (Come unto Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 44.)

When you have problems,  when you are in trouble, in crisis, and difficulties, when you are confronted with major decisions and tasks in life  never fail to find time and place to be one with God in prayer, communion and friendship. With God everything is possible. With God we bear abundant fruits. With God, like Jesus, we can also overcome the world.

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Mt 6:7-17 The Lord’s Prayer

Just two weeks ago, I received an inspirational text message from a friend. It says, “God always says YES to all our prayers. The YES of God does not always the YES that we want it to be. But it will always be the YES God knows to be the BEST for us!”

Why is it that some of our prayers are left unanswered by God? Rephrasing it differently to be more precise, why is it that some prayers are answered by God but not in the way and time we want them to be?

There are some possible reasons for these. Some do not truly pray at all. Some do not know whom they pray to. Some do not know what to pray. Some do not know how to pray. And some do not do their part in prayer.

It has been said that the secret of the many failures in life is the failure in prayer. Either people do not know to pray or they do not truly pray at all.  Today’s Gospel reminds us of the necessity of prayer and the permanent validity of the teaching of Jesus on prayer:

Going back to the Gospel reading, Jesus ‘was praying at a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’ (Lk 11:1). In response to this request the Lord entrusts to his disciples and to his Church the fundamental Christian prayer originally called the Lord’s prayer and commonly called the “Our Father. There are two versions of the Lord’s prayer in the Gospel. St. Luke presents a brief text of five petitions (Cf. Lk 11:2-4) while St. Matthew gives a more developed version of seven petitions (Cf. Mt 6:9-13). Which of the two the Church has been using in her liturgy and worship? The liturgical tradition of the Church has retained St. Matthew/s text (see CCC 2759).

“In the Our Father, the object of the first three petitions is the glory of the Father: the sanctification of his name, the coming of the kingdom and the fulfillment of his will. The four others present our wants to him: they ask that our lives be nourished, healed of sin and made victorious in the struggle of good over evil” (CCC 2857)

What are the common features and significance between the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer?

First, it teaches us everything that we need to know about prayer. It teaches us the need to pray,  whom to pray, what to pray, how to pray, what to do as our part in prayer.

Second, the Lord’s prayer is the  truly unique: it is “of the Lord”. It is taught and given to us by the Lord Jesus himself who is the master and model of our prayer (see CCC 2765 and 2775).

Thirds, the Lord’s prayer or popularly known as the Our Father “is truly the summary of the  whole Gospel” (Tertullian, De orat. 1: PL 1, 1155).

Fourth, it is “the most perfect prayers…In it we ask, not only for the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them”  (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh. II-II, 83, 9).

If you want to pray well and live well accordingly, read, study and pray the Lord’s prayer. Pray with Jesus as your model Pray-er, pray with the Lord’s prayer as your model prayer.

Let us, therefore, pray with confidence to our Father the prayer taught to us by Christ himself. “Praying to our Father should develop in us the will to become like Him, and foster in us a humble and trusting heart” (CCC 2800). Pray to our Father to unite our will to that of his Son, so as to fulfill his plan of salvation in the life of the world.

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