Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lord Teach us how to pray…

    Last week in the gospel we heard the famous story of Martha and Mary. "Martha, Martha you are anxious and worried about many things, only one thing is needed." Jesus then pointed to Mary, who was seated at his feet. Only one thing is needed to overcome anxieties and worries: a relationship with Jesus, a life of prayer.

This week our Lord continues the instruction. We need a life of prayer, so Jesus teaches us about prayer. It all begins with the beautiful little prayer of one of the disciples: Lord teach us how to pray. This prayer should be on all of our lips. Lord teach us how to pray. We all need to work on our prayer, no one would say "my prayer life is actually too good…"

Today's readings outline 4 key principles of prayer: Trinitarian, Consistent, Personal, Intercessional.

First, prayer should be Trinitarian. Jesus tells us to pray to the Father and if we do the result will be the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the son of God, is our model, our teacher in the ways of prayer. He prays to the Father, and teaches us to pray to the Father. We would not be able to pray to the Father without Jesus showing us the way. The Spirit is given to those who pray. So our whole life of prayer should be molded by the Son, directed to the Father and infused with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Next we hear the story of the man who comes late at night seeking some bread. Jesus gives us this as an example of prayer. At first it seems like Jesus is telling us to badger God until he gives us what we need. But, I would rather like to think of this parable as Jesus telling us that our prayer must be consistent. In other words, we don't just pray one day and say that we have prayed and that should be the end of it. Rather, prayer is a daily occurrence, our prayer must be consistent.

Third, our prayer should be personal. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. The things you ask for will be different from the things I need. You will seek different things. Prayer should be personal. Don't be afraid to pour out your heart to God. This is the stuff of prayers, what makes it up: the essence of our lives shared with God.

Finally, we should see ourselves as intercessors: praying on behalf of others. Just as did Abraham, we should seek the good of others in our conversations with God. How many people do you know that need prayers? Are there sick people in your family, are there those struggling financially, are there those who are far from Jesus? These people need our prayers.

If you notice these four aspects of prayer are all found in the Mass. That is one reason that the Mass is the perfect prayer. It is Trinitarian: we offer the Son to the Father in the power of the spirit. Consistent: we pray every week, and every day! The mass is being offered at every hour around the world. Personal: we receive the Lord into our very hearts, souls, and bodies, how more personal can it get? Intercession: we offer our prayers for the Church, the world and those who are in need. The Mass is the great school of prayer. As we celebrate this Mass let us turn to the Lord as that disciple did so many years ago and say: Lord teach us how to pray.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You are Anxious and Worried about Many Things:

The story of Martha and Mary has been interpreted for hundreds of years as the difference between the active lifestyle and the contemplative lifestyle. Mary has chosen the better part means that the life of contemplation is superior to the active life. I think that many of us who live the active life might agree. Have you ever wished you could dash off and join a monastery? A life of prayer, solitude, and silence sounds pretty good sometimes. But, there is more going on in this passage. I think this passage can also teach all of us about the life of prayer.

The story really gets interesting after Martha complains about having too much work to do. We almost expect Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help Martha, don't we? Yet, Jesus tells Martha that she is anxious and upset about many things. Only one thing is needed. This is not the first time that Jesus talks about anxiety. There are actually 4 more places in Luke's gospel where he talks about anxieties and worries:

Luke 12:11-12 When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. 12 For the holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.

Luke 12:22-23 He said to (his) disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.

Luke 8:14 As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit.

Luke 21:34-35 Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.

So, the story of Martha and Mary seems like another story where Jesus is teaching us about the dangers of being anxious and upset. How many times have we been anxious and upset? Daily? So many of us feel like we have the candle burning at both ends. You run from baseball practice, to volleyball camp, to recitals, just to make it home in time for supper and bed. Many of us experience life as a whirlwind, where we look like the Tasmanian devil flying through life with reckless abandon. When we do this, we often become like Martha: anxious and worried about many things.

Today Jesus reminds us: there is only one thing that is needed. In the midst of the craziness of our life, when it seems like we need to work, we need to take care of the kids, we need to take care of the house, we have to remember that at the end of the day, only one thing is really essential: our relationship with Jesus. All too often, when we get caught up by the craziness of our daily lives, we can lose sight of our relationship with Christ, and when we do that the path toward anxiety and worry is very short. How do we keep up our relationship with Christ? Mary has chosen the better part.

There is no better image for prayer than that of Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus. To have a relationship with Christ, we must pray. In order to pray we must spend time with Christ. We sit quietly and listen to him, speak with him. We will never have a relationship with Christ without prayer, without sitting at his feet listening to him, speaking with him. When your life feels like Martha, you probably haven't been spending any time like Mary.

We all need time of prayer every day. Fulton Sheen used to say that everyone in the world needs a half hour of prayer… Unless you are busy, then you need an hour of prayer. And it is true, the busier we are, the more we need to reinforce our relationship with Christ. Think of it as a tithe of your time. You will only gain control of your life if you sacrifice some of your time to Christ. You will only be free of worries and anxieties by relying on the help of Christ. This doesn't mean that your life will become simple overnight, it just means that no matter what you are dealing with in your life, you will only be able to deal with it properly if you have a firm foundation of prayer.

Abraham, Martha, and Mary all welcomed the Lord, and it was a great blessing for them. We need to be sure that we welcome the Lord on a daily basis. Every morning start the day with prayer. Every night end the day with prayer. During the day, be like Abraham: sitting at the door of his tent, on the lookout for the Lord. This is what it means to have a prayer life. We are on the watch for the Lord ready to welcome him, whether he comes in the form of angels, if he would visit our home like Martha and Mary, but most especially we welcome the Lord when he comes to us in this Holy Eucharist.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tour de Lac

Today I begin my biking tour of Lake Michigan.  I am really looking forward to this trip.  See you when I get back.
God bless,
Fr Jake

Missionaries for Jesus 14th Sunday OT Year C

14th Sunday OT Year C

Today's gospel picks up where we left off last week. Last week Jesus said to his disciples: follow me. This invitation from Jesus becomes the very source of our identity. We are followers of Jesus. This is what it means to be Christian. We follow Jesus, we spend time with him, we draw close to him. Today in the gospel Jesus gives us a mission.

Do you remember the story of Moses? After he received the law he became the leader of the people. They used to come to him night and day asking him to settle disagreements and to give them advice in their lives. However, it became too much for him. So, he selected 70 elders upon whom God sent the spirit of prophecy so that the mission of Moses might be carried out on a wider scale. Today Jesus does the same thing. He bestows upon the 70 disciples his own mission, he makes them his co-workers. We have all been asked to spread the gospel.

In other words, every member of the Church is a missionary. Do we see ourselves as missionaries? Do we see the mission of the church as our mission? We should. We should see the mission of the kingdom as our own mission. We find our satisfaction in life when the Church flourishes, when the gospel is spread. We are followers of Jesus, which means that we find our fulfillment in life by first experiencing the peace of the kingdom and then sharing that peace with others.

The harvest is plenty and the laborers few. How true this is! We usually use this passage in terms of vocations to the priesthood or religious life. And it is true! We should pray to God that he send us more priests, more brothers, more sisters. We need them. But that is not all the passage means. It means that all of us need to take responsibility for the spread of the gospel. All of us, by our very baptism, our relationship with Jesus, are missionaries. Every day you should ask yourself: what have I done to spread the gospel today? Spreading the gospel is not simply a job for the priests. Vatican II taught us that the mission of the laity is to bring the gospel to the corners of the world. There are places I can never reach: I cannot preach in your factories, banks, schools, or homes. You can! You will find joy if you do.

How to become a missionary? First you must become enraptured by the gospel. At World Youth Day in Denver 1993 John Paul II told the youth of the world that they should never be ashamed of the gospel. However, at the end of the Mass, he changed his remarks. He said (paraphrased), during my homily I misspoke. I told you not to be ashamed of the gospel. I should have told you to be proud of the gospel. This is how we become missionaries of Christ, we must become proud of the gospel, like St. Paul we boast of the cross of Jesus Christ, we experience the joy of the gospel. A famous adage goes that one cannot give what one does not have. If you have not been possessed by the gospel you will never be able to share it with others.

It says in the gospel that Jesus sent these disciples to the places where he wished to go. It is Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who carries out the work of evangelization. Jesus is the one who does the work of conversion. Our job, as ambassadors of Christ, is to prepare the way.

Jesus first calls us to follow him, then he handed on his mission us. Each one of us, then, are missionaries for Christ. We will only be good missionaries if we are possessed by the gospel, for we will know Jesus and will desire to share this good news with the world. Are you ready to be a missionary for the gospel?