Monday, July 26, 2010

17th Sunday - homily

Last year when I first started here, I was holding a meeting with some students on the bottom floor of the Newman Center. The door opened and in walked a freshman. He blew past all of us and headed straight upstairs. About an hour later, he came back down and introduced himself. I asked him, “where did you go? Where have you been for the past hour?” He replied, “I was praying in the chapel”. “Oh, ok. Good”, I said. Wow! This became the norm as the year went on. The students at the Newman Center pray. Dozens of them came throughout the year to pray each week…some for minutes, others for hours. I am convince that these students will be fine as they go through life as long as they keep up their prayer lives. They are shining and inspiring examples to all of us.

Today’s readings focus on prayer. Many Catholics want to become better Catholics by having a better prayer life but don’t know how. When they ask me about this, I usually put it on the level of friendship. If they know how to do friendship, then they know how to do prayer. To be friends with someone means getting to know them, spending time with them, talking and listening to them. It’s the same with prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. It means getting to know God, spending time with Him, and listening to Him. We need to be committed to prayer as we would a friendship; we need to be persistent and persevere in prayer. How persistent was Abraham in the first reading! Many people think that God is tired of hearing them pray for the same thing over and over again. And yet, it is right there in Scripture, so God must be telling us to pray persistently like Abraham.

So, if this is what prayer is, how do we pray? When we pray for something specifically, I offer two suggestions: 1) pray “thy will be done” and 2) pray for what you need. Praying “thy will be done” is probably the most prudent way to pray. If some of our students are praying about getting a particular job after college, they might think, “is this what God wants or is this what I want?” They should just pray for God’s will to be done. ..pray for what should happen and for what will be best. Pope Benedict has said that when we pray this third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we become closer and close to God. We begin to see things the way God sees them, specifically with regards to the thing for which we are praying.

Also, we should pray for what we need as opposed to what we want. I remember one of my first nights in the seminary, praying in the chapel. I was alone with the Lord, freaking out about being in the seminary. ‘What am I doing here?’, I lamented. Then, someone else came in an sat down right behind me. It was one of the comedians of the house. He knelt down right behind my ear and said, “dear God, please give me….a million dollars!” I turned around and thought, ‘what the?’ I turned around and we both had a good laugh. We should pray what we need, not what we want. Pope Benedict also has said that we have the right and the duty to pray for what we need.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that God knows what we need…more than we do. Today’s Gospel is all about God’s benevolence and graciousness. He knows us better than we know ourselves, so He knows what we need more than we do. Christ commands us to pray for what we need. Some ask why? If God knows what we need, why do we have to pray for it? So that we participate in the process. So that we begin to see what God sees. So that we begin to see what we truly need. Some people get discouraged because their prayers aren’t answered. They feel that they have asked, but haven’t received. But, a wise priest once said that all our prayers are answered; it’s not always the answer we’re looking for. He said the answer is one of three things: 1) yes, 2) not now, or 3) I have something better in mind.

Finally, where do we pray? We can certainly pray anywhere: in nature, in our homes or rooms. But, the best place to pray is in Church, in the presence of the Eucharist. It is so fruitful to make the time to be with Christ. I have seen so many people bring all of their “stuff” to Christ in Adoration and experience tremendous fruit and healing. My challenge to all of you is to make a chapel visit sometime this week. It can be five minutes, it can be an hour. But, go see your friend, Jesus Christ. I promise you it will be fruitful.

I will close with a story about a man in France a couple hundred years ago who went to Adoration regularly. He would go for hours at a time and bring nothing with him – no books, no Bible, no rosary. The holy priest at the parish finally asked him, “sir, what do you do all this time you are here in prayer?” The man’s response is the example for our prayer. The man responded by saying, “I look at Him and He looks at me”.

No comments: