The Importance of Prayer: Homily for CatholicTV
I would like you to hear again the last sentence of this Gospel:
I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me
--John 5:30 (NABRE)
If this is how Jesus describes Himself, how can we describe ourselves any differently.
What is Jesus saying here? He is obedient to the Father and acts on the Father’s wishes. He knows the Father’s will and lives it. This means he subordinates His own will to that of the Father. Why? Because He knows that doing the Father’s is the greatest act he can do for the love of God and humanity which is the fulfillment of the commandments.
Remember, how in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus makes it clear that He was afraid and did not want to go through His passion, but only did this because the Father demanded it. It was the act of total love of God the Father and the humanity He took upon Himself out of love for each one of us. We learn from St. Maximus the Confessor that the suffering Jesus undertook was the Devil trying to get Jesus to disobey the Father, stop His passion and get off the cross. But he was totally obedient to the Father.
The lesson here is how can we have an attitude any different than what Jesus says at the end of this Gospel passage and say we are living the Catholic faith?
The answer is simple: We can’t.
So how do we take this attitude upon ourselves.
We must be daily in relationship with Christ and His Church and we do that through prayer and worship.
God demands of us two things: Love of God and love of neighbor, no more and no less.
The saints tell us that prayer is an essential part of our life in order to be whom Christ wants us to be and the Father created us to be. As Catholics, prayer is not an option or something that we do when we get a round to it. Being a person of prayer and living in relationship to Christ and His Church is as essential to our holiness as breathing is to our survival.
St. Paul calls us to pray always so that we can become more like Christ every day.
How do we do this?
St. Alphonsus Liguori says to talk to God as we would a friend. It is really that simple.
We can also add to this by engaging in devotions such as the daily rosary and of course we must go to Mass weekly because this is the way Jesus called for us to interact with Him and the Father through Him. It is God calling us to be in communion with Him so that we may be more like Him and be transformed in Christ.
We look to the saints and model their ways and methods of prayer. In fact, during this week which culminates in St. Patrick’s Day, this is a great time to pray St. Patrick’s Breastplate, one of the most powerful prayers in our tradition.
I pray it regularly.
The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen told priests to pray a holy hour daily and promised that no priest would be lost who did this. Why? Because prayer transforms those who engage in it to be more like Christ and prayer before the blessed Sacrament does the same.
Lay people are also invited in engage in a similar practice and there are plenty of places to do this.
In my own area there is St. Joseph Shrine in Lowell, There is the new Divine Mercy Shrine in Salem and even last week I dropped into the small, rustic chapel at St. Thomas More College in Merrimack, NH and did my Holy Hour.
When we pray, God changes our hearts and minds and leads us to be the people He calls us to be in holiness in love.
The great Father of the Church Tertullian explained the power of prayer this way:
Its only art is to call back the souls of the dead from the very journey into death, to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells, to free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.
Remember those words when someone says: “Oh what is prayer going to do.” Prayer to God is power the Lord gave to us at Baptism with the same force He gave to the prophets of the Old Testament.
Daily prayer can transform families, it heal marriages if both couples engage in it; it will strengthen your Catholic witness and for the shut-ins I am speaking to you, your prayer is really powerful. Your prayer for your family, for any needs and for those who ask you to pray for them is powerful and I ask you to pray and never feel that your prayer is not effective, it is indeed.
Finally, I have an intention I am going to ask everyone to pray for on top of your current intentions. I know people are praying for things like conversion of relatives, an end to abortion, to a greater holiness in the Church. Let me add one, especially for the shut-ins. We have to pray for the North Korean death camps to be closed. We need to pray that these atrocities we hear of which we saw with the death of Otto Warmbier be brought to an end, so to the shut-ins especially, please add this to your prayer list and as Tertullian says, pray knowing that there is power in your prayer.
NB: Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.