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Prayer by Fr. Reid

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2012/11/23 at 8:00 AM

• Last week our readings taught us the importance of persevering in our prayer, trusting that our good Lord will answer them according to His will.

• This week we learn that it is not enough to simply persevere in our prayers, but that we must also have the proper disposition when we pray if we wish to be heard.

• The first reading from Sirach tells us that “the one who serves God willingly is heard,” and that “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.”

• And in the Gospel we have the parable of Pharisee and the tax collector. The irony of this story is that Pharisees were supposed to be holy and righteous people, while tax collectors were thought to be the most morally bankrupt in ancient Hebrew society.

• Yet it is the humble tax collector whom our Lord holds out to us as a model in the parable. Unlike the Pharisee, who is convinced of his own righteousness, the tax collector fully recognizes his sinfulness in the face of the Almighty.

• His only prayer is “’O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” And as each of us comes to pray to our Lord, these are words that we would do well to remember and to repeat often.

• Indeed, while Sirach makes the point that the Lord knows no favorites, today’s readings teach us that our humility disposes God to hear our prayers more readily.

• In this regard, we must always recognize and remember our proper place in our relationship with God when we pray. While it is good to be on affectionately familiar terms with our Lord, we must also remember Who He Is.

• He is our creator! It is He who sustains us in being. Moreover, it is He, who in His great mercy, forgives us and saves us from our sins. So we owe Him everything, for every good thing that we have is from Him. Our prayer should reflect this knowledge.

• As I mentioned last week, prayer is the mechanism by which God’s will is brought about on earth. Our Lord has a divine plan, a divine will for each of us and for all of creation, and our prayer is the spiritual force that helps to bring about His will.

• Our prayers do not change God, for God is unchanging, but our prayers do act as a spiritual lever to bring about His will.

• For Catholics prayer is not simply the recitation of prescribed words. It is an action by which we lift our minds and hearts to the Lord, entering into a loving dialogue with Him, uniting ourselves to Him.

• While our Catholic faith includes a treasury of prescribed prayers, such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and many others that we can use, Catholics are also encouraged to use their own words when praying to the Lord.

• What is important in praying is not so much the words we use, but the disposition and intentions of our hearts as we pray.

• While our Catholic faith also makes use of many different types of devotions and pious practices to help us pray, the greatest prayer of all is the Mass.

• It is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we experience anew the saving events of Calvary in an unbloody fashion. It is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we witness the miracle of transubstantiation, which makes our Lord truly present in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine.

• And it is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we most closely unite ourselves to our Lord through the reception of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in that same Holy Communion.

• Moreover, the Mass gives us a structure for our other prayers. The Mass teaches us how to pray. And the Mass shows us the disposition we are to have in prayer.

• When we come to Mass the very first thing we do is call to mind our sins and ask for mercy in the Penitential Rite. We then glorify our Lord and praise Him with the Gloria.

• Next we listen to our Lord speak to us in the readings and homily, and we profess our belief in Him, in His Church, and in our Catholic Faith with the Creed.

• Then for the most important part of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer, we go down on our knees in humble adoration of the God who mysteriously appears before us in the Eucharist, praying humbly for the gift of salvation – for ourselves and for all mankind.

• And finally, the great prayer of the Mass reaches its culmination as we unite ourselves to our Lord in Holy Communion. We joyfully take Him into ourselves, just as a bride receives her bridegroom in a loving and fruitful embrace.

• Thus, the Mass teaches us that when we go to pray, we must be conscious of our sins and beg pardon for them, as did the humble tax collector.

• The Mass teaches us that prayer is not simply a matter of asking things of God but requires that we praise and adore Him, and that we listen to Him and give Him thanks.

• The Mass teaches us that we should approach our Lord with humble hearts, and that the true goal of every prayer is union with our Lord.

• Ultimately, my dear brothers and sisters, praying is not about asking God for what we want or need. Prayer is about uniting ourselves to the Lord and accepting what He gives us by His divine will.

• That’s why humility must be our disposition in prayer. Without humility we cannot ever hope to unite ourselves to God, nor will we ever be able to accept His will with love and gratitude.

• In fact, praying should be an act of humility. It should presuppose our dependence on God. It should be a manifestation of our desire to give ourselves to Him fully, joyfully accepting  whatever God wills with the trust that His will is the best thing that could ever happen to us.

• As we gather together today in this most important prayer of the Mass, let us all earnestly pray for the gift of humble and contrite hearts that will not only make us pleasing to the Lord, but that will dispose us to desire His will and nothing more.

Copyright 2010 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC

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