THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for Thursday, October 27th, 2016
Liturgical texts here
St. John Paul II on a prayer walk near Edmonton, Alberta
(Arturo Mari; The Canadian Press)
IT came to me a few years ago, as clear as a flash of lightning: it will only be by God’s grace that His children will pass through this valley of the shadow of death. It is only through prayer, which draws down these graces, that the Church will safely navigate the treacherous seas that are swelling all around her. That is to say that all our own scheming, survivalist instincts, ingenuity and preparations—if undertaken without the guidance of divine wisdom—will fall tragically short in the days to come. For God is stripping His Church at this hour, stripping her of her self-assurance and those pillars of complacency and false security upon which she has been leaning.
St. Paul is clear: our battle is not with flesh and blood… not with Democrats or Republicans, not with liberals or conservatives, not with those on the left or right, but ultimately…
…with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (First reading)
In that regard, those who do evil are merely the pawns of Satan. Our warfare, then, is with the fallen angels who compel, deceive, and collude with the blind and foolish men and women of this generation. Our goal is to win the souls of our persecutors, and thereby defeat Satan (so watch out for the trap of falling into a political war with your neighbour!) As Christians, we have not only the armor, but the spiritual weapons to overcome this infernal enemy. And yet, it is only the childlike, those with a heart of faith, that are clothed in this armor. It is only the small and humble that truly wield the weapons of God. How?
With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. (First reading)
To pray in the “flesh” is to merely speak words, to go through the rote actions and prayers that do little more than vibrate the air. But to pray “in the Spirit” is to pray with the heart. It is to speak to God as a father and friend. It is to constantly lean upon Him, every moment, in both joyful and trying times. It is to recognize that I “can do nothing” cf. John 15:5 without remaining upon the Vine, who is Jesus, drawing constantly into my heart the sap of the Holy Spirit. Prayer of the heart, then, is what mingles our spirit with His, what unites our hearts to His, making us truly one with God. As the Catechism says,
Prayer is the life of the new heart. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.2697
If you aren’t praying, brother, if you aren’t communicating with God, sister, then your heart is dying. But again, it is more than just speaking words. It is seeking God with all your heart, soul, and strength.
Love is the source of prayer… —CCC, n. 2658
This takes a conscience and persevering choice upon our part—it’s not automatic! We have the gift of free will, and thus, I have responsibility to choose life, to choose God as the first love of my life.
…to desire Him is always the beginning of love… By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer: “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.” —CCC, n. 2709
We have to keep praying, and persevering in it, until prayer becomes our joy and peace. As the most restless person I know, prayer was very difficult for me in the beginning. The idea of “contemplating” God was challenging, and still can be at times when there are so many burdens and distractions. But the conscious choice to be with my God—to listen to Him in His Word, to simply be in His presence—almost without fail draws a “peace that surpasses all understanding” into the depths of my soul amidst some of the most turbulent trials. It is this peace that Jesus gives that will sustain you and I in these remarkable days to come. Listen to your Lord again:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)
Not as the world gives do I give it to you. That is, the world tries to find this peace by satisfying the flesh—but the peace of Jesus comes through His Spirit, it comes through prayer. And with this peace comes another gift: wisdom. The one whose heart is at peace is like a soul sitting upon the summit of a mountain. They can see and hear far more than the man who stumbles along in the darkness of the valley of the flesh. Prayer is what carries us to the Summit of Wisdom, and thus, puts everything—the meaning of life, our sorrows, our gifts, our goals—into a divine perspective. In a word, it armors us for the daily battle of life.
Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war. (Today’s Psalm)
Yes, Wisdom encompasses all the armor of God in the battle against the evil one.
Yet, it is with a certain fear and trembling that I say far too many today have refused this invitation to intimacy with God, and are thus exposing themselves to the Great Delusion that is already sweeping many into apostasy. cf. The Spiritual Tsunami Far too many have ignored the pleas of the Blessed Mother, sent to our broken world over and over again, to call us to “Pray, pray, pray.” Can you hear Jesus, speaking to us again today through a veil of tears?
…how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling! (Today’s Gospel)
And so, waste no more time today on trivialities. Waste no more time on filling the air around you with meaningless radio, television, and internet blathering. As you carve out time for supper, carve out time for prayer. For you can miss a meal, but you cannot miss prayer.
Last, ask Mary, Mother of the Word, to teach you how to pray, to help you to love prayer, to desire it… to desire the Father. She is the best teacher, because she is the only one on earth who spent decades learning to contemplate the direct Face of God in her humanity (and who now contemplates Him constantly in the beatific vision).
It is the Face of the Lord that we seek and desire… Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2657-58
This morning, during family prayer, I was inspired to tell my five sons again that they will not make it in the world today unless they pray—that they do not stand a chance unless they put God first every day, every hour. I repeat this again, to you, my beloved spiritual children. It is a warning, but a warning of love. There is so little time left to choose God. Make prayer the first priority in your life, and God will take care of everything else.
My mercy and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, in whom I trust, who subdues my people under me. (Today’s Psalm)
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|1.||↑||cf. John 15:5|
|2.||↑||cf. The Spiritual Tsunami|