Mar. 31, 2017

TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, C.

WE MUST PERSIST IN PRAYER 

Last Sunday we reflected on the four letters ACTS, and our attention was on the letter T which stands for Thanksgiving. In today's readings, the emphasis is on the letter S- which stands for Supplication. So what has Moses' raising his hands to do with the victory of Israel over Amalek? Is Moses a magician or sorcerer? The answer is no. The language used in Exodus to describe the action of Moses is concrete and graphic. Put the entire picture in perspective here as Moses said to Joshua, "I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand". That means that the victory was attributed to God's intervention not Moses' powers. This is the same staff with which Moses struck the Red Sea (cf. Ex. 14:21). In the battle against the Amalekites, there is a confluence of physical efforts with spiritual commitment. The Israelites led by Joshua are doing all they can to defeat the Amalekites while Moses sustains them spiritually. As his hands grew tired, Aaron and Hur put a rock for him to sit upon, they supported his arms and made sure he remained firm. Aaron and Joshua represent the community that we belong to. They represent the Christian friendships we share especially when we are overwhelmed. Moses' hands represent gestures of prayer, the invocation of divine might. 

The last statement in the parable of today's gospel says, "But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk.18:8). Faith is an essential element in prayer. We need faith to pray, to believe that God hears us. The Israelites would have lost the battle to Amalek if Moses gave up by the time he grew weary. James says, "Prayer must be made with faith, and no trace of doubt" (Jas.1:6). 

The widow of today's gospel explored her faith until she got what she wanted. She bothered the stubborn judge who neither feared God nor man. The widow demonstrated her faith. In using the imagery of the unscrupulous judge, Christ meant to point out that if this judge could respond to the request from the widow because of persistence, God our merciful Father will respond quicker when we ask. But do we have faith enough to ask? 

Prayer is the strongest form of communication with God. It is the bedrock of our relationship with God. It is through prayer that we concretely feel God in our lives. If we do not pray, we run dry, we shrink spiritually. Think about your friendship in human parlance. One way to sustain your friendship is through communication. In your communication with your friend, you call each other from time to time, get out together, create memorable moments. You converse and talk, make jokes and share ideas. You communicate with the one you love. Each time communication is neglected, there is strange feeling. The same thing happens in prayer. Just as we feel our friendship in real life, so we should feel our friendship with God. He is our greatest friend. Hence Christ invites us thus, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you" (Lk.11:9-10, Matt.7:7). He sets before us in today's gospel the necessity to pray always and never lose heart. 

The church teaches that there are different types or expressions of prayer namely:

Vocal Prayer

Meditation or Mental Prayer

Contemplative Prayer 

Vocal prayer is prayer expressed in spoken words. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication" (CCC 2702). Vocal prayer is the prayer most accessible to groups, it could be by way of music, intercession, or spontaneous voicing of our petition to God. Vocal prayer can also be private where the individual talks to God from her heart. Sometimes I speak to God in my room as if he is with me physically. 

Meditation is a form of prayer where the mind seeks to understand the will of God. It "engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire" (CCC 2708). In mediation, we lift our minds to the mystery of our salvation. We may be guided by the power of the scriptures, spiritual books, sacred icons such as holy pictures and images of the saints in our meditation. 

Contemplative prayer is a form of intense time with God. "Contemplation is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus" (CCC 2715). According to Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, "Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us". The emphasis in prayer is love- feel God's love, talk to him. 

Here in the parish, we've been promoting the practice and importance of prayer. Each of us has to recognize the personal need for prayer, else it won't make much meaning even when we gather to pray as a community. The Total Discipleship has introduced different means of making prayer part of our daily lives in the parish. Now we have the tele-prayer where we can pause from the daily routine of our busy schedule to call in for prayer. That means that even while we work, we can also spare one minute to call the prayer hotline, and put our intention forward through the tele-prayer method. 

Also the Family Apostolate takes prayers beyond the church to reach us in our homes. Because God lives with us in our homes, prayers have to be part of us where we live. So when the Family Apostolate embarks on Home Blessings, it is encouraging parishioners, Catholics and believers to recognize that their homes are special dwelling places for God. We have to live out our faith in prayer. Prayer can both be a communal and individual activity.

In communal or group prayer, we gather together just as we are doing at this mass. We also have the Wednesday Holy Hour and First Friday adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In prayer we bring our petitions to God. We have prayer of intercession, prayer of thanksgiving and prayer of praise. 

Individuals pray on their own too. Individuals can pray in the church, in the  homes, at work, on the road. Students pray in school. We pray everywhere, and we believe that God hears our prayer. 

Therefore, today, we are reminded to take prayers seriously. Let's pray for ourselves, for our families and friends. Let us pray for our country especially in this time of election. Let us pray for the church and those who preach the gospel. Let us pray for those who are suffering. There are indeed many reasons to pray, and I tell you if you don't remember any thing to pray for anytime,  you know what, pray for Father Vin, I need all the prayers I can get. Develop your own format of talking to God. Sit or kneel down by your bedside. Sit quietly in your garden. Stay silent in your pool. Place holy pictures in your kitchen, living room. Make out special time at work, take quiet walk. Play scriptural tapes in your car. Call your family together to pray from time to time. Visit the Blessed Sacrament once every week. Just recognize the need to talk to God and to let him be part of your daily life. You cannot have a better friend than Jesus. Be persistent.