Tag Archives: Our Father

Morning Thoughts: The Prayer of Milk and Honey


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Then the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders, and brought us to this place, and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

—Deuteronomy 26:8-9


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Last fall we went apple picking. We were a small party, composed of immediate family. It was a beautiful crisp day, just the kind you would order for such an excursion.

On our rounds we passed an old wood wagon, behind it and off a bit in the distance lay the remains of an abandoned stone farmhouse—roofless, hollowed out, its fireplaces and chimneys still the main draw. But is was a tiny hand-painted sign on the wagon right before me that most caught my attention:

“Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water.”

I don’t know if it’s true or not, and I’m not going to spend much time investigating. I like the thought. That’s what matters. So I’m going to keep it, well not keep it, but steward it. Yes, ‘steward’ is a much better word:

Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

(1 Corinthians 4:1)

So often an internet search can do quite the opposite. It can make us into investigators, examiners, maybe even mean-spirited inquisitors. It can turn us into lots of things, other than stewards.

Such an investigative approach also often opens the door to outright skepticism. It may even lead us into intellectual scrupulosity. And all scrupulosity, no matter its form or make up, steals joy. And that we just cannot allow.

On the other hand, we also have to be responsible. We can’t just “believe everything we hear and read”, right?

So what is one to do with such a pickle?

Well, a good steward should look to his master for advice, after all it’s his property we are called to steward on his behalf:

Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

(1 Corinthians 4:2)

So there we have it. We must be stewards of God’s mysteries, and as stewards we must be found trustworthy.

Sounds straight forward enough. Tough to do though.

Perhaps this can help.

Let’s go step by step, at our Savior’s command:

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First, let us become more aware of the very mystery that is put into our care:

Our Father, who art in heaven…

Let us next adore what we do not understand:

hallowed be thy name;

Let us then accept the great gift of responsibility, handed over to each one of us daily:

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

What happens next seems logical enough, we have to ask for help:

Give us this day our daily bread,

And with that, we address the inevitable—for even if we possess only a morsel of humility—we all know that disobedience on our part is bound to occur:

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

Now, having about all we need to proceed, it’s a very good idea to remind ourselves of an eternal reality: That the master is ultimately in control and oversees us closely—rooting us on to accomplish what he wills for us to achieve, all in his very name:

and lead us not into temptation,

But just in case we fail to avoid the snares and traps hidden in plain and disordered sight—especially from falling into the false belief that the “possessions” placed into our care are actually our own—we plead with great desperation, like Saint Peter and all true disciples who think they’ve become lost, that we don’t completely sink into the waters of darkness when our faith begins to falter:

but deliver us from evil.

And together we say:

Yes. I accept. I believe. I agree.

So be it.

(or in other words:)

AMEN.

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Now, if I can only find some raw milk for breakfast…


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Look down, then, from heaven, your holy abode, and bless your people Israel and the fields you have given us, as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.

—Deuteronomy 26:15


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—Howard Hain

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Sunday at the Mission

At our mission tonight at St. Theresa in Woodside, New York, I’ll continue reflecting on the gift of prayer.

We all have the gift of prayer. We can pray. God gives that gift to saints and sinners alike, though we may tend to think only saints and “good” people can pray. But that gift is given to all, because God is Father of saints and sinner alike. Prayer is a gift of God’s mercy.

Prayer is a gift given to all; it’s meant to be used continually. Like the gift of faith growing  like a mustard seed, the gift of prayer is meant to grow.

We’re reading all this year at Mass from Luke’s Gospel, which is called a gospel of prayer. It’s called that because the evangelist offers many examples and teachings of Jesus on prayer. Now, at this point in the  liturgical year especially, our readings at Mass seem to be devoted to prayer.

Last week, for example, we heard the desperate prayer of the ten lepers: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Today we heard the parable about the widow and the unjust judge. Next week, we’ll hear the humble, almost hesitant prayer of the publican: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Later on in Luke’s gospel, when Jesus dies and enters his glory, we’ll hear the cry of the thief: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” All these readings tell us God gives the gift of prayer to everyone, the sinner, the desperate, everyone.

Yet, prayer tries our patience. Like the poor widow facing the powerful unjust judge, whom we read about this Sunday, we may not see our prayers answered quickly. We can then grow weary praying. In his parable Jesus says our prayers are answered “speedily,” yet we have trouble understanding that word “speedily.” It doesn’t match our timetable or our expectations. We don’t like waiting.

We also can make prayer too small and limit it to things entirely personal. Today, some would reduce prayer and meditation to ways to gain inner balance or to bring your blood pressure down. Prayer is bigger than that. It’s asking for “God’s kingdom to come, God’s will be done.” Prayer is meant to  open us to new horizons, new undertakings, to see the world with the eyes of Christ.

Far from leading us away from the world, we are led in prayer to face a world crippled by violence and strife. Only God can help us. Please Lord, come and assist us.

I’m going to pose some questions to those here at the mission:

What prayers are you attracted to?

Are there any places that lead you to prayer?

Any trying times in your life that you found yourself praying?

Then I’m going to reflect on some of our common prayers, like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father. After that, we will have Benediction.

 

17th Sunday C: Are Prayers Answered?

Audio version of homily here:

Two wonderful readings in today’s Mass for the 17th Sunday of the Year. (Genesis 18,20-32,Luke 11, 1–13)

The Genesis story says that God came down to stand with Abraham before two notorious cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, that stood near the Dead Sea. Should these places be destroyed? God comes down and looks at these evil cities with Abraham at his side.

Not a pretty picture, the two cities where corruption and evil of every kind have taken hold. We might imagine seeing the same picture in some places we know today.

But Abraham speaks up for them, and how familiarly he speaks to God! “Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”

How simply they talk together. “How about 45 people? How about 30, 20, 10,” Abraham asks? “I would save the city for 10,” God says at the end.

We’re told something about God here. God certainly doesn’t want the world destroyed, even if evil seems so bold and prevalent. God who made heaven and earth stands with us as we look regularly at our world, seeing what we see and even more. God wants to save what God has made.

We’re also told something about how we as human beings should face evil in our society as we listen to Abraham, our father in faith. He stays hopeful about the world he lived in, even at its worse. He wants to save it too. Shouldn’t we follow him?

Notice Luke’s version of the Our Father in the gospel for today. Unlike Matthew, Luke omits the phrase “who art in heaven.” Does the evangelist want us to know that God is not a distant God, far away and unavailable–in heaven? God is the Father standing at our side, looking on the same reality we do. A Father who gives us daily bread and nourishment, who opens the door we think is closed. A constant watchful parent, ever present, never far away.

These readings invite us to pray to God in a familiar way when we face evil in our world. That advice might not be a popular today. Recent surveys of religious belief say that many Americans believe in God, but does that mean they believe in a familiar God, like the God revealed in our two readings today? Or is God simply unknowable, maybe possible, uncertain, or someone for an emergency? Is God someone we can talk to as we face hard days, and does God answer our prayers?

In facing the violence and hard times of today, we often hear calls for prayer, but today you also hear some say: “Forget about prayer, let’s do something about it.”

If we hear our first reading for today, Abraham’s prayer was doing something about it. His prayer came from his concern and love for people and cities dsperately in need. And God was not unconcerned either, if we understand our reading right. God hears.

Prayer is not something we should forget about. It’s the most important step to take when we need to be delivered from evil.

Hail Mary

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We say “our” Father in the Lord’s Prayer because prayer is not something we do alone. We pray to God with Jesus Christ and others. In prayer, we go together to God as children of God.

We pray with Mary, the mother of Jesus and all the saints, because we’re united to them  in Jesus Christ.

In the Hail Mary, Mary the Mother of Jesus leads us to God.  The prayer’s earliest form  developed  in the middle ages with the simple greeting of the angel Gabriel at Nazareth, from St. Luke’s gospel:
Hail Mary,
full of grace,
the Lord is with you.

You are favored by God, the angel announces to her. She would bring Jesus Christ into the world. That message continues through the ages and is meant also for us.  Like her, we are favored by God and bring his Son into the world.  God’s promise of grace to Mary echoes in God’s promise to us. As it was promised  to Mary, God will be with us.

Over time her cousin Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, also recorded in St. Luke, was added to the prayer:
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Finally by the 15th century, the remainder of the prayer appeared:
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.

The prayer asks Mary, full of the grace of her Son, to intercede for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. She is a model for believers and knows what it means to believe. She who knew her Son so well, can teach us  the way to him.

On Calvary Jesus entrusted her to us as a mother when he said to his disciple “Behold your mother.” Ever since, she brings Christ into this world. She knew Jesus from the beginning and witnessed his life, death and resurrection. She helps us to know him. She also knows our needs. Aware of  the needs of the newly married couple at Cana in Galilee, she approached Jesus, her Son. She is aware of our needs too.

By the end of the 16th century the practice of saying 150 Hail Marys in series or decades of 10 became popular among many ordinary Christians. With her help they remembered  the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That practice of prayer is known now as the Rosary.

Mary is a model of faith and a companion of Christian believers. When the angel Gabriel came to her, she believed the words he spoke even to the dark test of Calvary. She helps the family of believers on the journey of faith.

The Hail Mary and the Rosary are blessed prayers,  simple and profound. They’re not beyond anyone’s reach; their repetition brings peace to the soul. They draw us into  the joys, sorrows and glory of Jesus, the world Mary knows so well.  We hope to “imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen”

We will be celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary at the end of this week.

The Loving Father

Jn 4:43-54

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee,
where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.

Monday, 4th week in lent

From earliest times, the church has chosen the Gospel of John to tell the story of the passion and death of Jesus on Good Friday. It also reads from this gospel on the days leading up to this great mystery, beginning Monday of the 4th week of lent and continuing till Holy Week.

John’s stories, and the people and places they recall,  cast a subtle light on his final story that reveals the Word made flesh. His account of the government official, a loving father who begs Jesus to come and heal his son, is not an isolated miracle unconnected to anything else. It’s a sign, the gospel says. Here in Cana in Galilee, water was changed into wine. The loving father seeking his son’s life is a sign of the Father whose love will change his Son’s death into life.

Jesus proclaims his relationship to his Father in lively encounters with his enemies throughout John’s gospel, but we will hear him express it often in the readings for these final days of lent.  They are  inseparable: “The Father and I are one.”  “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”

The father at Cana in Galilee is an image the Father of Jesus. He is no heartless father, nor is the Father of Jesus, whose love for his Son never wavers, but brings him to life.

Ask And You Will Receive

Does God answer prayers? A question asked often down through the centuries. For some, God–if there is one–doesn’t pay attention to us at all. We’re on our own. No one’s listening and no one cares.

Certainly, Jesus believed in asking for things in prayer from a Father who cared, and he taught his disciples to pray as he did. For example, he asked over and over in the Garden of Gethsemani that his life be spared, “Father, let this cup pass from me.” He trusted a Father who loved him more than any human father could. No distant, uninvolved God for him.

As he knocked the door opened, the answer came, yet not as he willed, but as God willed. And to accept that answer “an angel came to strengthen him.” So also with us: we may not get what we ask for, but a strengthening grace is always given, and the promise of life always remains. God has something better in mind.

As the gospels make clear, Jesus prayed constantly during this life; he taught his disciples words of prayer and finally, in his darkest hours he gave them an example of prayers they would never forget. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” ; “I thirst”; “My God, my God why have you forsaken me!” Heartfelt, trusting, real prayers.

We pray with our own voice when we pray; that’s true. But we pray best by following the way of praying that Jesus gave us. “Let us pray as God our Master taught us, asking the Father in the words the Son has given us, letting him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in his ears…Let the Father recognize the words of his Son; let the Son who lives in our hearts be also on our lips…” (St. Cyprian, On the Lord’s Prayer)

For more on the prayer of Jesus, http://www.cptryon.org/prayer/jesupray.html

It’s Raining Today

It’s raining today in Union City. Just the day for reading Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD:

Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

But isn’t it true, we don’t always like rain? Here it snarls traffic,  stops you from going places maybe. Like the woman above, you may not have a car and you get soaked waiting for a bus. It gets in the way of your plans.

We think of God’s grace as pleasant and good, but we’re not always “Singin’ in the Rain”. Like the rain nourishing seed in the ground or  filling reservoirs from thousands of distant streams, God’s grace isn’t quickly apparent. More often it’s slow and sequential. Without it, though, would we have water to drink and bread to eat?

So we say in the Our Father, “your will be done,” because God’s word goes forth. “It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” But his will isn’t immediately seen.