Through the readings of this Sunday Jesus is teaching us how to pray and persistence in prayer. Do you pray with joy and confidence? The Jews were noted for their devotion to prayer. And the rabbis had a prayer for every occasion. It was also a custom for rabbis to teach their disciples a simple prayer they might use on a regular basis. Jesus' disciples ask him for such a prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he gave them the disciple's prayer, what we call the Our Father or Lord's Prayer. Authentic prayer is about exercising, screening, and correcting our desires. Prayer concerns crucifying our "flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24). Prayer is laboring (see Gal 4:19) and struggling not to get what we want from God but to give up what we want so as to obtain the desires of His heart. This means that the Lord frequently tells us "no" in prayer because our desires are out of order. What does Jesus' prayer tell us about God and about ourselves? First, it tells us that God is both Father in being the Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only begotten Son who, reciprocally is Son only in relation to his Father (Matthew 11:27). All fatherhood and motherhood is derived from him (Ephesians 3:14-15). In the Lord Jesus Christ we are spiritually reborn and made new, and we become the adopted children of God (John 1:12-13; 3:3). Jesus teaches us to address God as "our Father" and to confidently ask him for the things we need to live as his sons and daughters. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Jesus Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his atoning death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, he responds with grace (his favor and blessing) and mercy (pardon and healing). He is kind and forgiving towards us and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. Jesus' parable of the importunate and bothersome neighbor shows a worst case scenario of what might happen when an unexpected guest shows up in the middle of the night! The family awakens, unbolts the locked door to receive the guest, then washes the guest's feet, and the wife begins to prepare a meal. When the wife discovers that she has no bread to set before the guest, she prevails on her husband to go and get bread from a nearby family, who by now is also asleep with their door bolted shut. In a small village it would be easy for the wife to know who had baked bread that day. Bread was essential for a meal because it served as a utensil for dipping and eating from the common dishes. Asking for bread from one's neighbor was both a common occurrence and an expected favor. To refuse to give bread would bring shame because it was a sign of inhospitality. If a neighbor can be imposed upon and coerced into giving bread in the middle of the night, will not God, our heavenly Father and provider, also treat us with kind and generous care no matter how troubling or inconvenient the circumstances might appear? Jesus states emphatically, How much more will the heavenly Father give! St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) reminds us that "God, who does not sleep and who awakens us from sleep that we may ask, gives much more graciously." The Lord Jesus assures us that we can bring our needs to our heavenly Father who is always ready to give not only what we need, but more than we can ask. God gives the best he has. He freely pours out the blessing of his Holy Spirit upon us so that we may be filled with the abundance of his provision.
- Jul 18, 2019
- 3 min read
The story of the Good Samaritan shows us how wide God's love and mercy is towards every fellow human being. Jesus' story of a brutal highway robbery was all too familiar to his audience. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho went through a narrow winding valley surrounded by steep rocky cliffs. Many wealthy Jews from Jerusalem had winter homes in Jerico. This narrow highway was dangerous and notorious for its robbers who could easily ambush their victim and escape into the hills. No one in his right mind would think of traveling through this dangerous highway alone. It was far safer to travel with others for protection and defense. Jesus must have smiled when he heard this man challenge him to explain one's duty towards their neighbor. For the Jewish believer the law of love was plain and simple: "treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself." The real issue for this believer was the correct definition of who is "my neighbor". He understood "neighbor" to mean one's fellow Jew who belonged to the same covenant which God made with the people of Israel. Up to a certain point, Jesus agreed with this sincere expert but, at the same time, he challenged him to see that God's view of neighbor went far beyond his narrow definition. Love has to get near and get involved. Love by its very nature can't keep its distance. Jesus, Who is Love, could have remained in heaven in eternal bliss with His Father. However, His love impelled Him to seek us out (Lk 19:10), be near us , and even be God-with-us, Emmanuel (Mt 1:23). The priest and Levite both "saw" the wounded victim, but didn't want to get near him . The Samaritan, though, had no hesitation about getting near the hurting man. The Samaritan "approached him" and "treated him with compassion". So why did the religious leaders refuse to give any help when they saw a half-dead victim lying by the roadside? Didn't they recognize that this victim was their neighbor? And why did a Samaritan, an outsider who was despised by the Jews, treat this victim with special care at his own expense as he would care for his own family? Who was the real neighbor who showed brotherly compassion and mercy? Jesus makes the supposed villain, the despised Samaritan, the merciful one as an example for the status conscious Jews. Why didn't the priest and Levite stop to help? The priest probably didn't want to risk the possibility of ritual impurity. His piety got in the way of charity. The Levite approached close to the victim, but stopped short of actually helping him. Perhaps he feared that bandits were using a decoy to ambush him. The Levite put personal safety ahead of saving his neighbor. What does Jesus' story tell us about true love for one's neighbor? First, we must be willing to help even if others brought trouble on themselves through their own fault or negligence. Second, our love and concern to help others in need must be practical. Good intentions and showing pity, or emphathizing with others, are not enough. And lastly, our love for others must be as wide and as inclusive as God's love. God excludes no one from his care and concern. God's love is unconditional. So we must be ready to do good to others for their sake, just as God is good to us. Jesus not only taught God's way of love, but he showed how far God was willing to go to share in our suffering and to restore us to wholeness of life and happiness. Jesus overcame sin, suffering, and death through his victory on the cross. His death brought us freedom from slavery to sin and the promise of everlasting life with God. He willingly shared in our suffering to bring us to the source of true healing and freedom from sin and oppression. True compassion not only identifies and emphathizes with the one who is in pain, but takes that pain on oneself in order to bring freedom and restoration. To days gospel tells us that we all need to be loving and care takers to the needy around us. Jesus tells us that we are Good Samaritans “Love your neighbor as your self”.
- Jul 17, 2019
- 3 min read
“As He blessed them He parted from them and was taken up to Heaven.” Today we celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord The mystery of the Ascension encourages us to hope with Mary as we live our faith in the modern culture, a culture of despair and great temptations.
It was back in 1980 when Pope John Paul II did not hesitate to speak of a “meta-temptation” to denote a temptation which “goes beyond everything in the course of history. Modern man is slowly undergoing a great temptation to deny God and worship man. This is the climate in which the Church is currently living. The Church is undergoing temptations that are greater than ever. Satan the angel of darkness, “disguises himself as an angel of light” in order to seduce us, to lead us astray from the true path.
Mother’s and Fathers are undergoing great temptations in these modern times. As we focus on the Mother’s this weekend, we see that the modern world is tempting them in many ways. The devil always tempts Mother’s to lose their identity – to give up. As soon as a Mother chooses to be a friend to her children, she weakens her Motherhood. She looses her motherly authority.
Mother’s like Fathers are greatly tempted with discouragement, particularly for those who live their Catholic faith. Mother’s can be discouraged when they defend life or a large family. It can also be disheartening for a Mother to see her children being pulled into the world rather than living their Catholic faith. Therefore, Mother’s must form themselves to Mary in order to be true Mothers.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is Mother of hope as we see how she lived of the Ascension. We can see that her hope remained when her Son Ascended where the Apostles were still slow to understand. We see this when they asked Him a questions as He was about to leave them: “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” (Acts 1:6). This is their major concern.
The Mystery of the Cross did not enlighten them. In their view, Christ’s Resurrection should imply a Messianism, a kind of earthly political reign of Christ over the earth. Jesus, assures them they will not know the hour or day, but the power of the Holy Spirit will come upon them and they shall be His witnesses. The Apostles were not expecting such an abrupt departure. With any separation one is inevitably overcome with sadness, but their sadness is overcome with hope of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Mary, on the other hand, lives a direct way by the mystery of the Ascension.
Unlike the Apostles, she did not desire a Messianic reign because at the Cross she knew it was a Divine reign, a reign of love. While the Resurrection increased her hope and trust in Jesus. Her love was pure and she lived of the Ascension without sadness. Therefore, the Ascension allows Mary to consider Heaven even more intensely as her proper place and home. In her hope, she acquires a wonderful simplicity, since her desire of Heaven goes along with the desire of her maternal heart to be with her Son.
Let us pray for our Mother’s that they remain under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May they be strengthened to lead their children along with their husbands to deeper faith and a hope that someday the entire family will reach Heaven.