Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Lord’s Prayer

 

“Teach us how to pray,” the disciples asked Jesus. (Luke 11, 1) His answer was the prayer we call the Our Father or The Lord’s Prayer.

Because Jesus taught it, the Lord’s Prayer is the most important of our prayers. We learn it by heart; it appears everywhere in our Christian life, in public and private prayer, in worship and sacraments. It ‘s a treasured  prayer.

Though we memorize it as a set formula, the Lord’s Prayer shouldn’t become words we say mechanically without thought. It’s meant to lead us into the presence of God, who is the Father of Jesus and our Father too.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.

When Moses approached God on Mount Sinai, a voice said, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” An infinite chasm separates us from the transcendent God.

In the Lord’s Prayer, however, Jesus tells us to come close to God who is beyond human understanding, who dwells in mystery, who is all holy. Go to God as your loving father.

To call God “Father” does not mean that God is masculine. No description of God is ever adequate, because God is beyond human categories like gender. We call him our “heavenly Father” because he is beyond male or female.

Calling God “Father” more rightly describes our own relationship to God rather than who God is. Jesus says we are God’s children; we have a filial relationship to God, who sees us as his daughters and sons. We should approach God like children going to a loving parent. Jesus himself, God’s only Son, invites us to a relate to God like this.

Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus often said that God’s power would appear and renew all creation. Using human terms again, he spoke of God as a mighty king who rules over the world according to a plan that unfolds from the world’s beginning. When God’s kingdom comes, good will triumph and evil will be defeated. God’s kingdom will bring peace and justice, it will end sorrow and suffering. No eye can see it now or imagine what it will be like, but it will be a glorious kingdom. Jesus taught it’s not far off, but is already present and growing in our midst and soon to be revealed.

In the Lord’s prayer we pray that God’s kingdom come, that God’s will, which is for our good, be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

As God’s children, what’s more childlike than to ask for daily bread, a term that means more than physical food?  When we ask for our daily bread we ask for everything we need. With the confidence of children, Jesus taught,  say: “Give us today what we need.”

Forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a demanding one. Not only do we ask God’s forgiveness for our daily offenses, but we link God’s forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. That’s not easy to do. We need God’s help to do it, but we must do it to receive God’s mercy for ourselves, and so we say it everyday.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Life’s not easy, it can be a daily battle. Trials like sickness, old age, failure, or disappointment can crush our spirits. False values and promises can fool and entice us. The times in which we live can seem hopeless. And so we ask God to help us not to fail these tests, but to lead us on the right path and deliver us from evil,  to help us go on as his children.

The Lord’s Prayer sums up the teaching of Jesus. It was his prayer before it was ours. He approached God his Father with childlike confidence, he looked for God’s guidance and relied on him to face whatever life held, even death. “Your will be done,” he said as he faced his own death. He forgave his enemies.

The Lord’s Prayer is the norm for every other prayer we say, whether we use words of our own or forms we find that lift up our hearts to God. An early saint once said: “God wants us to pray in our own voice.”  Like children in a family, we each have our own voice, yet a mother or father recognizes the voice of each one.  In one sense, The Lord’s Prayer is a common language we speak. Whatever prayers we say will be heard if they share its language.

The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer of Jesus and our prayer. It leads us to our Father in heaven; it also leads us become like his only Son, who taught us this prayer while on earth.

 

 

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Why Look Down on Yourself?

Today’s the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, a bishop of Ravenna in Italy, who died around 450 AD. The prayer for his feast describes him as “an outstanding preacher of your Incarnate Word.”  You can see why in this excerpt from one of his sermons:

“Why do you look down on yourself who are so precious to God? Why think so little of yourself when you are so honored by him? Why do you ask how you were created, and don’t want to know why you were made?

“This entire visible universe is yours to dwell in.  It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for you the night was regulated and the day was measured: for you the heavens were brightened with the brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, trees and fruit; lovely living things were created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest you lose the joy of God’s creation in sad loneliness.

“And the Creator is still devising things that can add to your glory. He has made you in his image that you might make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative.

“Then in his mercy God assumed what he made in you; he wanted now to be truly manifest in men and women, to be revealed in them as in an image. Now he would be in reality what he was in symbol.”

 

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The Gift of Prayer

 

Do you pray? Often or just occasionally? Is prayer important to you?

These are essential questions for our life of faith. Like breath in the human body, prayer makes our spirits live. Without it, they die. Prayer helps us live and grow spiritually.

Why pray?

     Prayer is God’s Gift

Prayer is a gift of God. “Gift” is a good word to describe prayer, because praying is not something we can do ourselves. ” We do not know how to pray as we ought,” scripture says. (Romans 8,26) God gives this gift to us.

Why? Because God loves us and wants to draw near to us as a friend. How strange that sounds! God all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-knowing, wants to draw close to be our friend. God calls us his friends and looks for our company and hears our prayer. What seems unbelievable is true.

At the same time, prayer fulfills a desire we have as human beings to know God. We’re made in God’s image, and something in our being thirsts for the One who made us. It’s a thirst described in the psalms:

“O God, you are my God, for you I long. For you my soul is thirsting. Like a dry weary land without water… so my soul longs for you, my God.”

We can’t be satisfied unless we are draw near to God. “Our hearts are restless,” St. Augustine says, “until they rest in you.” When we pray, we rest in God.

God gives that gift generously, without considering our worthiness or unworthiness. Sinners as well as saints can pray. People of every religious tradition, or no religious tradition at all, receive the gift. It’s given to every human being. We’re all called to pray.

(cf. The Catholic Catechism: The Universal Call to Prayer. 2566-2567)

All are called to pray

“All” are called to pray. Surprisingly, some who think they are unworthy or ungifted may pray best and be graciously heard. That’s what Jesus taught in his parable about the Pharisee and the Publican who together went up to the temple to pray. The Publican, an outsider who thought himself unworthy of approaching God in prayer, was found more pleasing by God than the Pharisee, a professionally religious person, who seemed to pray so effortlessly. (Luke 18,9-14)

Prayer is God’s gift to the strong and the weak, to the smallest child and frailest of the old. It’s given to those who say, ” I’m not really religious; prayer is beyond me.” It’s given to you, no matter who you are.

That’s not to say we can’t refuse to pray or neglect it. Like any gift, prayer has to be received and, as we know, we can throw gifts away. “If you knew the gift of God,” Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well. A Gift was there before her eyes. At first she was blind to it, then she enthusiastically received it.

Don’t go through life leaving the gift of prayer unused. Thankfully, it’s always there to be taken up!

In the prayers of the church, you often find an acknowledgment that prayer is God’s gift and a request that God give and strengthen that gift in us. At the beginning of her daily prayers, the liturgy of the hours, the church prays two verses of the psalms.

O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.

Simple, truthful words. I cannot open my lips in prayer unless God give me the gift. O God, come and assist me; help me approach you.

God graciously gives us this beautiful gift, hastening to help us open our lips and our hearts. Delighting to give us the gift of prayer, God welcomes us into his presence to share his life with ours, his love with our love.

Prayer’s God’s precious gift; cherish it always.

 

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The Sign of the Cross

The parable of the mustard seed tells us to watch for small things. Small gestures, small acts of kindness, small prayers. Life comes from small things.

I was thinking of the Sign of the Cross, a small prayer.

We pray as Jesus did. How did he pray? He prayed from the heart, yet Jesus used words and signs– sometimes even cries– to pray. Like him, we also use words and signs in prayer.

One prayer we pray frequently is the Sign of the Cross.

The Sign of the Cross goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. It’s made on us at baptism, when we become members of the church and it’s the last sign made over us as we pass to our future life. The Sign of the Cross is used in liturgical prayer and celebrating the sacraments. We begin and end our prayers with it.

When we “bless ourselves” we trace with our hand the figure of the cross on our forehead, our heart, our shoulders, and say:

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
Amen.

The Sign of the Cross is a prayer of blessing because it symbolizes God embracing us and blessing us. For the Jews God is always One who blesses.  God blessed Noah and saved the world from the flood. God blessed Abraham and Sara with blessings more than the stars in the sky. God blessed the Jewish people, redeeming them from the slavery of Egypt. Life itself and all creation are blessings from God. And God’s blessings, beyond measure, continue, always and everywhere.

Since God blesses us continuously, we bless God in return. “I will bless the Lord at all times,” the psalmist says.

As Christians we bless God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As Father, God offers us the blessings of creation and also gives us his Son. “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing.” ( Ephesians1,3 )  Jesus Christ is our God, our Friend, our Brother, our Savior. With the Father he sends the Holy Spirit  “to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace.”

When we bless ourselves, we remember God “from whom all blessings flow,” Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Blessed by the Cross

As Christians we believe the Cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest blessing given to us. Why is it our greatest blessing? Because God expresses his love for us above all in Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us and rose again.  The Sign of the Cross is a reminder that Jesus’ love never ends. His blessings are ours forever.

We express our daily relationship to God in this simple prayer. We have God’s blessings each day, in good times and bad, in danger and sorrow.  God’s blessings and love are always there. Before we take one step, we receive blessings from his hands.

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Treasure (17th Sunday A)

You can find an audio of the homily here:

There are treasures in life, but you don’t get ahold of them easily. You need to discover them and then give all you have to get  them. That’s what Jesus teaches in the parables we’re reading today.

The treasures are hidden in the ground and in the deep waters of the sea, so you can’t expect to see them right away. You have to dig for them and cast your net out for them.

The times you live in may not make finding treasure easy either. The times in which Jesus lived were hardly ideal, as we see in Chapters 10 and 11 from the Gospel of Matthew, which immediately precede the parables. 

 Yet, instead of closing your eyes and ears and hanging on tight, Jesus tells his disciples to open their eyes and their ears, because treasures are there. “Blessed are your eyes, because they see and your ears because they hear. Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it and hear what you hear and did not hear it.”  (Matthew 13,16-17)

Bad times can be the best times to find treasure. Some of the best things we discover in life, some of the best things we have, some of our most creative moments come in bad times.

God doesn’t stop sowing seed in bad times. Even then, treasures, pearls of great price are there to be discovered. That’s the message found in the parables.. It’s the message found in the mystery of his Cross..

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A Mother’s Plans

Journey to Jerusalem

 

Today is the feast of St James and the gospel for the Mass comes from a later part of St. Matthew. It’s the account of the mother of James and John asking Jesus for consideration for her sons, two of his most important disciples, and also his relatives. She’s doing what mothers of extended families always did– taking care of and promoting their own. Mother and fathers, families of all kind still do that today.

She sees an opportunity for her sons as they accompany Jesus to Jerusalem.  “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.

Jesus reminds her that his followers are to serve and not be served. It’s a service that will cost them, even their lives. It’s not just what’s good of their family either. Like the Son of Man they have to give their lives “for many.”

We’re called by God to reach out, and reaching out can be hard, sometimes painful. It means going beyond those we call our own, our families and friends. It means reaching out to those we don’t know, maybe even to those we don’t like. It means going beyond what we’re used to.

Our church is a missionary church. It reaches out to the whole world. That’s what   Jesus last words in Matthew’s gospel tells us to do:  “Go out to the whole world, baptizing and teaching.”

Going out to the whole world is especially hard today when the world is changing and the future so uncertain. It would be impossible if we didn’t hear the words of Jesus. “I am with you all days.”

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The Martyrs of Daimiel

Civil wars seem to bring on great human cruelty and violence.  The Spanish Civil War in the 20th century is an example. Great numbers of innocent people, for no reason, were put to death.

Today we remember the Martyrs of Daimiel.

Between July 22nd and October 24th, 1936, twenty-six religious from the Passionist house of studies, Christ of the Light, outside the city of Daimiel, about eighty miles south of Madrid, died at the hands of anti-religious militiamen at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War

They were: Niceforo Diez Tejerina, 43, provincial superior, who previously served as a missionary in Mexico and Cuba after being ordained in Chicago, Illinois.; Ildefonso García Nozal, 38; Pedro Largo Redondo, 29; Justiniano Cuestra Redondo, 26; Eufrasio de Celis Santos, 21; Maurilio Macho Rodríguez, 21; Jose EstalayoGarcia, 21; Julio Mediavilla Concejero, 21; Fulgencio Calv Sánchez, 19; Honorino Carraced Ramos, 19; Laurino Proáno Cuestra, 20; Epifanio Sierra Conde, 20; Abilio Ramos Ramos, 19; Anacario Benito Nozal, 30; Felipe Ruiz Fraile, 21; Jose Osés Sainz, 21; Felix Ugalde Irurzun, 21; Jose Maria Ruiz Martinez, 20; Zacarias Fernández Crespo, 19; Pablo Maria Lopez Portillo, 54; Benito Solano Ruiz, 38; Tomas Cuartero Gascón, 21; Jose Maria Cuartero Gascón, 18; German Perez Jiménez, 38; Juan Pedro Bengoa Aranguren, 46; Felipe Valcobado Granado, 62.

Most of those killed were young religious studying for ordination and destined for missionary work in Mexico and Cuba. Others were priests who taught them and brothers who served in the community. Father Niceforo, the provincial, was visiting the community at the time.

Militiamen entered the Passionist house on the night of July 21st and ordered the thirty-one religious to leave in one hour. Father Niceforo gathered them in the chapel, gave them absolution, opened the tabernacle and said:

“We face our Gethsemane. . . all of us are weak and frightened, , ,but Jesus is with us; he is the strength of the weak. In Gethsemane an angel comforted Jesus; now he himself comforts and strengthens us. . .Very soon we will be with him. . .To die for him is really to live. . . Have courage and help me by your example.”

He then distributed the sacramental hosts to them.

The militiamen ordered the group to the cemetery and told them to flee. At the same time, they alerted companions in the surrounding areas to shoot the religious on sight.

The Passionists split into five groups. The first group of nine was captured and shot outside the train station of Carabanchel in Madrid on July 22, 1936 at 11pm.

The second group of twelve, Father Niceforo among them, was taken at the station at Manzanares and shot by a firing squad. Father Niceforo and four others died immediately. Seven were taken to a hospital where one later died. Six of them recovered, only to be shot to death later on October 23, 1936

Three other religious, traveling together, were executed at the train station of Urda (Toledo) on July 25th. Two gave their lives at Carrion de Calatrave on September 25th. Only five of the thirty-one religious were spared.

Numerous eye-witnesses testified afterwards to the brave faith and courage shown by the Daimiel Community in their final moments, especially the signs of forgiveness they gave their executioners.

They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 1989, who said of them: “None of the religious of the community of Daimiel was involved in political matters. Nonetheless, within the climate of the historical period in which they lived, they were arrested because of the tempest of religious persecution, generously shedding their blood, faithful to their religious way of life, and emulating, in the twentieth century, the heroism of the Church’s first martyrs.” (Homily: October 1, 1989)

Today their bodies are interred in the Passionist house at Daimiel.

Their feastday is July  24th.

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