Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Prayer of the Lowly---30th Sunday In Ordinary Time/22nd Sunday After Pentecost

October 28, 2007 Year C

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time/22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

Theme:  The Prayer of the Lowly

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Prayer is again the emphasis of today's readings.  Like last week, we are reminded that poverty of spirit is the characteristic of true prayer.  While lack of prayer creates poverty of a different sort, presumptuous prayer is equally impoverished.  Prayer that congratulates self returns to the maker of the prayer much like mail that is returned as undeliverable.  

But prayer that 'pierces the clouds' comes from the heart that says, "Let my soul glory in the Lord."  It is to those of broken heart to whom the Lord is close.  And it is those who are crushed in spirit who receive the salvation of the Lord.  Anybody who thinks himself a nobody is somebody in the eyes of the Lord.  It is the sick that need a physician and Jesus is the Great Physician.  So pray and be healed of your alienation from God.  

We must always be mindful that we did not choose the Lord, but rather he chose us.  He has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  We cannot boast of anything as of ourselves, for what do we possess that we did not receive? 

The love of heaven like a libation was poured out and received into Mary's womb.  In the Magnificat, Mary reminds us, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden…" (emphasis added)  Neither in Mary nor in today's tax collector is there found a spirit of presumption.  Nor is guile found in their mouth.  

I am reminded of the young preacher who went up into the pulpit full of expectation of personal success.  However, having failed miserably in the delivery of his sermon he came down from the pulpit feeling dejected and humbled.  A wise and older Pastor advised him later that if he had gone into the pulpit the way he came down, he might have come down like he went up.    

Much the same can be said about the attitude of our hearts when we pray.  Jesus says, "Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."  When we enter into our prayer closet we are advised to shut the door.  To come into prayer is to come into a deeper awareness of Him who judges the thoughts and intentions of our heart, neither is anything hidden from His eyes.  

Let us be quick to open our heart to his heart.  As deep calls unto deep, the words we will find rising from deep within us will be,  "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you or that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Let us prayer:  Dear Jesus, help me learn to linger in your presence.  And when I leave the closet of my prayer, let my heart be like your heart, and your presence the presence I   bring to my loved ones and my neighbors.




Friday, October 19, 2007

Remaining In Prayer

October 21, 2007 Year C World Mission Sunday

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time/21st Sunday after Pentecost

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121:1-8

2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2; Luke 18:1-8

Theme:  Remaining in Prayer

To effect things by prayer we must be saturated in prayer.

Each of the readings reflects our need to be persistent in prayer.  Moses assists in the outcome of Israel's battle with Amalek.  Standing on top of a hill lifting the staff of God above the fray, Israel prevails as long as Moses keeps his hands raised.  Like Moses, we are to lift up holy hands unto the Lord.  I come from a tradition where the lifting of the hands was freely done.  I continue to be inclined to do so in the Celebration of the Mass and the prayers of the Church.  We lift up our hearts, we lift up our eyes as the Psalm reads today, and we lift up our hands.  Each action brings us into the fullness of prayer.  

And from the fullness of prayer comes the fullness of proclamation of the Gospel.  The fullness of the Gospel is to be urgently preached and received prayerfully.  All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  There really is no excuse for poor preaching or teaching of the faith.  St. Paul reminds Timothy and us to be urgent in season and out of season. This means the Gospel is always timely.  We first must be convinced and then seek to convince, i.e. persuade others of the claims of Jesus.  The scriptures not only inform us but they rebuke us and exhort us to be better disciples of Christ.  

This being World Mission Sunday, today's readings are a timely reminder to be persistent and fervent.  But if we are going to be effective ambassadors of Christ, we must also be bold.  Persistence and urgency are never partners of timidity.  

As the Lord reminds us in the Gospel, people of prayer should not be timid.  We who cry out day and night are promised a hearing with the Lord of heaven and earth. This requires persistence, fervency and boldness.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.  Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again and the heavens gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. (James 5:16-18)

To remain in prayer is to pray without ceasing.  This is the communion we have with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It is with confidence we draw near to this holy conclave that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)  To this Throne of Grace we have been summoned. It is in this secret place where our prayers take shape and have expression.  It is in this Triune fellowship in which we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)  

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust." (Psalm 91)

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, I am in you and you are in me.  In this heart of yours may the words of my prayers and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you.  O what peace is forfeited when I fail to remember to whom it is I belong, in whose heart I am safe.  Amen.



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reflections on the Readings: Jesus, Master, Haver Mercy On Us!

October 14, 2007 Year C

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time/20th Sunday after Pentecost

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98:1-4

2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19

Theme:  Jesus, Master, Have Mercy On Us!

The cry of humanity is a cry for mercy.

This little colony of lepers is a micro-cosom of humanity.  Their condition had no end in sight.  Ostracized from their community and families, they had only each other for company. How do they represent humanity?  Humanity in all its brokenness and despair is heard in their cry for mercy.  

Perhaps they had heard that Jesus touched lepers and made them clean.  They had probably talked among themselves and wondered aloud if they might someday meet Jesus. 

It is instructive that ten were cleansed but only one returned to give thanks.  And that one was considered an outcast in two ways.  First by being a leper and secondly by being a Samaritan.  But it was this Samaritan who returned and fell down at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks.  Jesus highlighted the moment for those who thought themselves better than others.  

To whom much is given, much is required.  And this Samaritan realized how much he had received.  Do we?  Do we truly know what treasure is ours in the breaking of the bread?  We say,  "For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven:  by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man."  We bow low at this time because we are reminded of the great mystery of our salvation.  Think about this often:  For our sake he became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich.  O what mercy is ours.   

Worship in the Spirit is more than a fulfillment of a Sunday obligation.  Coming to Mass is a fulfillment of our need to return and give thanks.  It is the Great Thanksgiving.  So each time we return to the table of the Lord it is about getting into praise.  It's about getting into thanksgiving.  It's about acknowledging that we have been bought with a price.  We depend upon the feast of the body and blood of Jesus for our spiritual well being.  Through it we are being changed from glory to glory.

The ministry of mercy is the ministry of Jesus. It is for us and for the life of the world that each Sunday we witness Jesus high and lifted up. Some dismiss this event as mere symbolism.  But no mere symbol could make such a profound and redemptive impact.  It is in the hands of the priest we behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  

In the reception of the same we pray once again, "Jesus, Master, have mercy us and upon the whole world."

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, the majesty of your mercy is abundant in your Church.  As you are lifted up in the Eucharist you draw the whole world to yourself.  Draw me nearer, nearer precious Lord to your precious bleeding side.  Amen.