Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Both the first reading for this Sunday and the passage from the Gospel according to St. Luke that is proclaimed have references to prayer of intercession and prayer to receive graces.
Abraham intercedes for Sodom and Gomorrah. In the Gospel the Lord exhorts us to ask for graces in prayer, to make requests from the Father with boldness and audacity.
These kinds of prayers, to request favors from the Lord and to intercede for others are quite frequent among us. However, we ought to dedicate ourselves to constantly deepening our life of prayer. We must dedicate additional time to it and increase the quality of our prayer in all its forms: petition, intercession, thanksgiving and adoration.
Our beautiful Catholic faith is, before anything else, a relationship of love with God who is Three and One, who became flesh for us. We are Christians because we have encountered the Risen Christ and we have established a relationship with him, rather, He has established a relationship with us, and we have responded to his invitation.
This relationship of love with God, like any other relationship ought to be cultivated, otherwise it becomes routine, it fades and eventually dies out. God, who is perfect, does not need to cultivate his relationship with us. It is we who have that need because of our limitations and frailty. Sin has left a mark in our humanity. It has clouded our understanding, it has weakened our will and it has introduced disorder in our feelings, passions and emotions.
We cultivate our relationship with God through our attentive listening to his word and our sacramental life. The Church promotes prayerful reading of the Bible in its many forms such as lectio divina.
With regards to the sacraments, Sunday Mass is the most sublime form of prayer because when we participate in it, we pray through Christ, with Christ and in Christ. Good music, an esthetically beautiful sacred space, a good homily, the personality of the minister are elements that help, but ultimately, they are not essentials for a good relationship with Christ. Obviously, that cannot be an excuse for our celebrations to be sloppy, lacking in devotion, but we ought never to lose sight that the Eucharist is center of the Church’s life, because it is Jesus Christ himself.
To go to Mass is to pray through Christ, with Christ, in Christ. Mass is before anything else a moment of intense prayer where we find God as we cannot find him anywhere else in this world. It is important to remember this fact, especially in the difficult times we live in. The Church has been rocked by horrible scandals involving cardinals and bishops making many people doubt their faith. The abominable actions of Christians and inconsistencies in the faith of any person, whoever that may be, the ugly face of sin present in the Church in many ways ought never to separate us from our relationship with Christ, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, animating universal history to its consummation in Him. The deepest reality in the life of the Church is Jesus Christ, it is He who makes the Church. Christians who are unfaithful to his teachings, especially if they are bishops or priests, soil with mud the immaculate face of the Church, but as the Nicaraguan poet, Ruben Dario, said, a pearl or diamond covered with mud remains what it is.
At the inception of many scandals and counter-witness of Christians we encounter precisely a lack of prayer. As Pope Francis recently pointed out to German Catholics, the difficulties and problems in the life of the Church are not corrected with simple organizational changes. The Church is not a mere sociological reality, but the people of God, the community of those redeemed by Christ on a journey towards its Lord, a people on the move who seeks to deepen communion with Christ and grow in fidelity to Him. Obviously, communion with Christ manifests itself concretely in our lives through our actions. Prayer helps us to transform every single dimension of our existence, from the most intimate to the most public aspects. Prayer makes us operators of peace, builders of the civilization of love and truth. To achieve those objectives in our lives, made possible before anything else by the grace of God freely offered to us, we must open our hearts to grace, allow Him, His example, His teachings to transform us. An intense, persevering and growing life of prayer is a must.
Without prayer it is impossible to make advances in our journey of conversion. Every single one of us needs conversion. What the Church needs from Christians at this moment in her history is prayer in all its forms to snatch from the Lord, as it were, the grace we need to reach personal holiness and become what He wishes us to be: the light of the world and salt of the earth.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid