Fr. O’Malley stood at the church door greeting the parishioners one morning after Mass and saw a couple that he married shortly after he was ordained to the priesthood. "Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. O'Riley. I married you ten years ago but still you have no children? "Indeed you did, father. We haven’t been blessed. My husband and I have tried but we've not been successful", said Mrs. O'Riley. Father O’ Malley replied: "I'm going to Rome for a few years of sabbatical and I'll make sure that I light a candle for you at the Vatican. Perhaps the Blessed Mother will look kindly on you and your husband." Several years later, back at the church door, greeting parishioners, Fr. O’Malley meets Mrs. O'Riley: "Mrs. O'Riley, did you ever have any children?" "Indeed I did, Father," she said pointing to a family behind her. "We've had a set of triplets, a set of twins and two singles since we last saw you." Father O’ Malley replied: "Praise be the Holy Mother. She's blessed you. But I don't see Mr. O’Riley. Is he here?" "No, Father, he's gone to Rome to blow out your candle.”
More than the other evangelists, Luke talks about prayer and shows Jesus in the act of praying. Luke’s Gospel begins with people gathered for prayer at the incense hour, when Zechariah is told that his prayer has been heard. The first appearance of the adult Jesus shows him praying after his baptism. The last act of the earthly Jesus is to pray to his Father from the cross. When Luke gives the words of Jesus at prayer, Jesus is shown addressing God as “Father”: “Father hallowed be your name...”(11:2); “Father take this cup...”(22:42); “Father forgive them...”(23:24); “Father, into your hands...” (23:26). This close and personal relationship with God expressed in prayer stand in marked contrast to the prayer uttered by the Pharisee and the tax collector in the parable Jesus tells: both pray, “O God...”(18:11,13). This kind of relationship Jesus wants his disciples to have with God is as with a “Father,” as he instructs them in this gospel. Those who come to that kind of intimate relationship with God will experience God both as a Father and as the friend who responds to them in need. Moreover, knowing God so intimately, they will ask for and seek what God truly desires to give: the Holy Spirit.
This morning/evening we hear the words, “Lord teach us to pray.” Now many of us will become stuck at moments of prayer. We know the familiar prayers that most of us learned as children such as the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be but we seem sometimes not to go beyond these prayers. At times these prayers are not sufficient and we get frustrated when these prayers seem not to work for us. The problem at times is we are only communicating with God vocally and that shouldn’t be the only way. Last week we heard the story of Martha and Mary and how Martha was so busy with her work that she wasn’t paying attention to Jesus but the person that chose the better part was Mary who was listening attentively to the words of Jesus.
My dear brothers and sisters, I’m sure that at one point in our lives we all have engaged in conversations were people that are not engaging in a conversation but instead are just to talking to us. They just don’t seem interested in listening to us but instead they are listening to themselves. This same scenario can occur when we are praying with God, where we talk and talk and talk to God but don’t stop and listen. Why don’t we listen? It could be that we are afraid of what God might be telling us? It could also be that we are afraid of silence because that silence might actually do some good and change our hearts.
Others have a difficult time in their lives because they are going through dry spell in their prayer life and my question to those people would be, have you tried another form of prayer? We have to understand my dear brothers and sisters that when we are working on our spiritual journeys we actually grow and mature and what we might have found useful in the beginning we might have outgrown and might need to for a lack of better word go to the big boy’s playground. As Catholics we have an abundance of different spiritualities out there that we should take advantage of.
For example in the Franciscan Tradition we see prayer through creation and meditating the goodness of God that is around us from the beautiful blue skies, to the wind blowing through the trees to the waves of the ocean coming onto the sand. The Jesuits see their prayer through the spiritual exercises in which they focus on a passage of scripture such as the scene at the Last Supper and they meditate on what it must have felt like to be in the room with Jesus and his apostles, the smells, the tastes, etc. In the Benedictine tradition we have lectio divina where one sits with a passage of scripture and meditates on it and tries to hear what God has to tell them through that scripture verse.
Pope Benedict says that, “Prayer is the act of self-surrender by which we enter the Body of Christ. Thus it is an act of love. As love, in and with the Body of Christ, it is always both love of God and love of neighbor, knowing and fulfilling itself as love for the members of this Body. The person of Jesus is constituted by the act of prayer; of unbroken communication with the one he calls “Father.” If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it.
My dear brothers and sisters we cannot know God unless we work on our prayer life. We are not to give up even though at times it can become difficult but we are never to give up. We know when we stop communicating with a friend or a loved one we lose touch, we don’t know that person anymore. This also occurs with our Lord and as we leave this place of worship let us remember the words from our responsorial psalm, “you have the heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name.”
Living Liturgy, P. 181