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Pray in His Name

October 16, 2016

A reflection for the 29th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year C. The readings are Exodus 17:8-13, Psalm 12, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 and Luke 18:1-8.

I was at St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto last week with Maria, a Mexican woman whose husband is on life support. He is a migrant worker that’s been coming to Canada every year, for 8 months of the year, for about 20 years. About a month ago, he had a bad fall, hit his head and has been in the hospital since. When I heard about the accident, I prayed. I prayed that he would be healed. I prayed that the doctors would find a way to fix him. I prayed that God’s will would be done. Surely God wills that a wife and three daughters do not lose their husband and father. I went to see him last Tuesday. He is in ICU hooked up to tubes and monitors, unresponsive. That day I held his hand and prayed more. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he miraculously woke up, if he would start speaking, would sit up? What a witness would that be to the doctors and nurses! How would that give Glory to God! I prayed for complete and permanent healing for him.

It’s so hard. I may be a deacon, but this is new for me. I’ve never been in the hospital with someone who’s dying. I’ve never been in the hospital with someone who’s on life support. (I’m not the deacon that goes to the hospital and does funerals; I’m much happier doing all the baptisms and marriages.) I know that many of you have been there. But I haven’t. And he’s not even related to me. I’ve never met him before – and still, it’s so hard; I hate it.

I’ve told you before that I struggle with prayer. And all readings today are about prayer – especially when it’s hard. In the first reading, Moses – and this is MOSES, the great prophet, the one who sees God face-to-face – Moses himself needs help. He supports his troops by praying for them while they are in battle – while they are in crisis. He can’t go to battle with them, but he can pray for them. I think this is what drove Pope Benedict to decide that he should retire. He felt that he could best serve the Church, not by doing the work, but by praying. That’s what he’s doing – I’m sure – 24 hours a day: praying for you and me; praying for the Church.

But even Moses needs help in his prayer. He gets tired and needs help. We also get tired and need help. We also lose hope and need help. We also get distracted and need help. This Mexican woman who is all alone in Canada with her husband on life-support needs help. She needs support. And if we can’t do anything to help her, well, we can pray.

And one great help that we have in our prayer life is Scripture. St. Paul tells Timothy in today’s second reading that Scripture is good for everything and it will help him remain faithful. I know that Catholics are criticized sometimes because we don’t know Scripture – and it’s true; we should know our Scripture better – but we can’t be criticized for not praying with Scripture. That’s all we do. In case you haven’t noticed, when you come to Mass, from the first thing that priest says, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” that’s from Scripture. When he says, “may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, be with you”, that’s Scripture. “And with your spirit” is from Scripture! Lord have mercy, the Gloria, the Holy, Holy, the words of Institution (“take and eat, this is my body….”), the Lord’s Prayer, the Lamb of God… it’s all Scripture. Half of the Hail Mary is word for word from Scripture. If someone ever asks you to quote Scripture and you can’t think of anything, just quote something from Mass: Say the words of the centurion, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….” That’s Scripture. We pray with Scripture all the time. But we should do so, not just when we come to Mass on Sunday; we should do so every day. Everyday read some Scripture and make it part of your prayer for the day. If you find the Bible to overwhelming or difficult, get yourself a little daily scriptural reflections. There is no excuse not to pray with Scripture. I love Scripture because when I am not in the mood to pray or I find it hard to find the words to pray, Scripture gives me the words. And when I need to hear what God may need to say to me, Scripture gives me the Word of God.

St Paul says we should do this when it’s convenient or when it’s inconvenient; whether it’s favourable or unfavourable. It’s easy when it’s favourable, when everything is going well. Not so much when it’s unfavourable. When it’s hard; when your husband is on life-support, when you’ve lost your job; when you have debt; when you’ve received a cancer diagnosis… when you pray and pray and pray and pray and pray and… nothing… God seems to not even be there.

And in today’s Gospel Jesus says that God always listens and always answers our prayers. That’s why we need to pray without becoming weary. Be persistent in prayer like the widow with the judge in the Gospel reading. If the dishonest and mean judge responds to her persistence, imagine how much God, who loves us, will respond? But God doesn’t always respond in our time, according to our schedule and He doesn’t always respond with what we want. That’s when we need to continue to persevere and pray – that’s when it’s inconvenient. That’s when we begin to grow tired and we need the help of others. That’s when we need Scripture.

There’s another place, I believe it’s John chapter 14, where Jesus says that anything we ask in his name he will do. That’s why we end every prayer with “this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.” But asking for something in the name of Jesus doesn’t mean just adding those words at the end of your prayer: “I ask you this in the name of Jesus.” Asking for something in the name of Jesus means asking for the will of Jesus. You can’t ask something in the name of someone else, on behalf of someone else, if it’s not what that person wants. When we ask something “in the name of Jesus” we are asking “for the will of Jesus.”

And what is the Will of Jesus? We may not know what his Will is, specifically for every single circumstance, but we know his Will. Jesus wants us to have an intimate relationship with him. He wants us to have increasing Faith. He wants us to have deeper conversion, greater repentance, growing love and hope for eternal life. So when we pray for physical, temporal things – that is things that are not eternal, like being cured of a disease (and believe me, God cares about our health and happiness in this life. He does) we need to pray it in the context of the Will of Jesus. We can pray for physical healing but we should always pray for increasing Faith, deeper conversion, greater repentance, growing love and hope for eternal life. We should always pray that Jesus will increase our Faith and bring us closer to Him. If we do – every day – we will, slowly, but surely, get closer and closer to Jesus and our will will be conformed more and more to his Will. That was the opening prayer today – if you have a Missal read it again (we don’t always pay attention to the opening prayers or the prayer after Communion). The prayer is “grant that we may always conform our will to yours.”

I was never really big on praying Novenas – you know, the prayers we do for nine days before a feast day, but last year I subscribed to an online service called – they send the prayers to your email every day, so you don’t miss a day. They send a different prayer every day for the nine days and encourage you to include your own intentions – there’s nothing wrong with that. On the 10th day, which is the Feast day, they have a beautiful concluding prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, I have specific requests that may only partially fill the infinite needs and desires that are in my heart. I ask that You answer me not only for those requests but also for a greater reliance on You to satisfy the needs and desires that You have given me.

May I seek You with a sincere heart knowing that it will profit me nothing if I gain the whole world yet lose my soul.

So, help me to see Your good and gracious purpose in all my trials. Help me to see Your blessings in every day and help me to love You more.
Thank You for everything, Lord Jesus!

That’s what we should always pray, no matter what our special needs are, so that our will may be conformed to the Will of Jesus.

At the hospital, I was with Maria as the doctors where explaining to her the two options that she has. They can do a tracheotomy and leave the respirator tube going in through the trachea and he would then be alive but may never recover. He would never have the use of his limbs. He would be unresponsive and would need to be cared for. And still, he would only survive about a year. Or if she chose to not have that surgery, they would have to disconnect him and move him to the Palliative Care unit where he would be cared for and kept comfortable until his condition took its course. That would be maybe, a few days.

Pray with me for Maria, for her husband Samuel and their three daughters, that they will have a greater reliance on Christ to satisfy the needs and desires that He has given them. May they seek Him with a sincere heart knowing that it will profit them nothing if they gain the whole world yet lose their soul. And help us, Lord, to see Your good and gracious purpose in all our trials. Help us to see Your blessings in every day and help us to love You more. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.


From → English, Reflections

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