Engaging the Gospel – Luke 18:1-8

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 18:1-8

Today’s Gospel “is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith” (Catechism paragraph 2613).

Through the parable of the widow, whose sheer persistence wears down the dishonest judge, Jesus encourages us to keep praying, no matter what difficulties we have in prayer:

When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? (2732)

We tend to get distracted (2729), or lazy (2733), or even discouraged if we don’t get the results we want.

What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? Or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (2735)

In fact,

In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father Who is good beyond measure, with His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit…Thus the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with Him (2565).

If we understand prayer in that light, and not only as a recitation of words, it is possible to pray always.

As St. Therese of Lisieux observed,

for me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven; it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (quoted in 2558).

Question for reflection: In what ways have I witnessed the power of prayer?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 17:11-19

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 17:11-19

The ten lepers’ crying out to Jesus to “have pity” on them is an example of a prayer of petition, when we ask God for help with any need:

By prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end.

— Catechism paragraph 2629

Jesus responds to their request by healing them. His gift not only restores their physical health, but also ends their isolation from society, reuniting them with their families and giving them back their lives. Despite the life-transforming nature of this gift, only one person returns to express his gratitude and glorify God, in a prayer of thanksgiving.

We too have been cleansed by Christ, but our healing is an even greater miracle of redemption: we have been “disfigured by sin and death,” yet Christ restores us in the “Father’s likeness” (705), brings us into the very life of the Holy Trinity (1997), and enables us to fulfill our “original vocation” of eternal life (518, 1998).

How can we give thanks for this awesome gift? Christ himself has instituted the perfect way – through the Eucharist, which literally means “thanksgiving.”

The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer: it is the pure offering of the whole Body of Christ to the glory of God’s name…it is the sacrifice of praise (2643).

Question for reflection: When have I been especially grateful to God?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 11:1-13

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 11:1-13

“The meaning of prayer in Christ’s ministry” is emphasized throughout Luke’s Gospel (Catechism paragraph 2600), but especially in today’s passage.

Jesus encourages us to pray persistently and confidently to the Father, trusting that He will give us whatever is best for us.

“Prayer and Christian life are inseparable” (2745). We must not only believe in our faith, and celebrate it at Mass, but we must also “live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer” (2558).

“Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget Him Who is our life and our all” (2697).

Hence the Church’s sacred Tradition helps us by setting out “certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer” – i.e., “morning and evening prayer, grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours,” and of course Sunday Mass, along with the great feasts of the year (2698).

Even so, we often find it difficult to pray faithfully. “Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love” (2742).

Let us have recourse to the Holy Spirit, “the interior Master of Christian prayer…To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all” (2672).

Question for reflection: How might I seek to deepen my prayer life?

Engaging the Gospel – Sixth Sunday of Easter

6th Sunday of Easter: Gospel – John 14:23-29

Jesus tells the disciples that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to them. The Catechism explains:

Before His Passover, Jesus announced the sending of ‘another Paraclete’ (Advocate), the Holy Spirit. At work since creation, having previously spoken through the prophets, the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them into all the truth.

–paragraph 243.

This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us (683).

The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls His word to them, and opens their minds to the understanding of His death and resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist…(737).

The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer (2672).

The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ – the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates His work of salvation through the liturgy of His Church, until He comes (1076).

Question for reflection: When have I been comforted by a timely reminder of Jesus’ words?

Engaging the Gospel – First Sunday of Lent

1st Sunday of Lent (Year C): Gospel – Luke 4:1-13

Jesus was subjected to temptations after forty days of fasting in the desert, for the devil “would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from His Father” (Catechism paragraph 394).

By categorically rejecting Satan’s lures, “Christ reveals Himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror” (539).

The fact that “Christ vanquished the tempter for us” (540) encourages us as we face our own temptations.

Our human nature has been “wounded” in the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin. Even after baptism, original sin’s “consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle” (405).

“Prayer is a vital necessity” (2744):

Prayer is a battle…against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God….The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer (2725).

Let us recommit ourselves to prayer during this season of Lent, “the solemn forty days” when “the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (540).

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:46-52

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:46-52

As the Catechism explains, “the urgent request” of the blind man in today’s Gospel – ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!’ – has been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith” (paragraph 2616).

Through the Jesus Prayer, “the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy. The invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always….This prayer is possible at all times because it is not one occupation among others, but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus” (2667-68).

Question for reflection: What important needs should I bring before the Lord in prayer?

Pope Francis on Lectio Divina

Lectio divina, “divine reading,” is a form of prayer that includes meditation.

Pope Francis explains:

There is one particular way of listening to what the Lord wishes to tell us in His Word and of letting ourselves be transformed by the Spirit. It is what we call lectio divina. It consists of reading God’s Word in a moment of prayer and allowing it to enlighten and renew us…

In the presence of God, during a recollected reading of the text, it is good to ask, for example: ‘Lord, what does this text say to me? What is it about my life that you want to change by this text? What troubles me about this text? Why am I not interested in this?’

Or perhaps: ‘What do I find pleasant in this text? What is it about this word that moves me? What attracts me? Why does it attract me?’

When we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations usually arise. One of them is simply to feel troubled or burdened, and to turn away.

Another common temptation is to think about what the text means for other people, and so avoid applying it to our own life. It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. Or we can wonder if God is demanding too much of us, asking for a decision which we are not yet prepared to make.

This leads many people to stop taking pleasure in the encounter with God’s Word; but this would mean forgetting that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait.

He always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly before Him, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from Him what we ourselves cannot as yet achieve.

Evangelii Gaudium, 152-53.