HOMILY FOR THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A
HOMILY THEME: “OH, MY GOD!”
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Three men, a Catholic, a Protestant and a Muslim, were discussing the best positions for prayer. “Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray,” the Catholic said. “No,” said the Protestant. “I think standing with my hands outstretched to heaven is more effective.” “I disagree,” the Muslim said. “The most effective prayer position is bending the whole body and with the head touching the floor.” An electrician happened to be passing by and overheard their discussion. He butted in. “Hey, guys! The most effective praying position I ever had was when I was hanging upside down from an electric post with a live wire right above me.”
Peter cried: “Lord, save me!” That was a real and serious prayer. And he meant it. This is a very important lesson. Many times we do not really mean what we say. In our daily conversation we hear people say, “See you later!” But they do not really intend to see each other later in the day. The word later could mean next month or some time next year or never. The word “sorry” is spoken so very often, but it comes out only as an expression, devoid of sincere repentance. Unfortunately, a similar thing happens with the name of God. How many times in a day do we hear the expression, “Oh, my God”? Young people nowadays use the euphemistic acronym for this: “OMG!” This is using the name of God in vain! It is definitely a violation of the second commandment! We, therefore, begin to wonder: Do we really mean the words we use in our prayers? When we pray the “Our Father”, do we understand what it means? St. Edmund reminds us, “It is better to say one Our Father fervently and devoutly than a thousand with no devotion and full of distraction.”
This Sunday, let us reflect on the need for sincere and genuine prayer. Nowadays, people find it harder and harder to pray. The world we are living in makes us all busy with so many things and activities, mostly unnecessary ones. And when we are busy, the first activity that we drop is prayer. “I’m too busy, Lord! I have no time to pray or to go to church. I will talk to you later when I’m done.”
The example of Jesus will undoubtedly put us all to shame. Who can be busier than Jesus? His ordinary day is spent moving around, teaching, curing the sick, expelling demons and helping the needy. The Gospels would say that he was too busy that he had no time even to eat (Mk 3:20). But did he ever drop prayer from his schedule? In the Gospel this Sunday, he has just finished another gruelling day, capped with the stressful event of feeding the five thousand from five loaves and two fish. But instead of taking a much-needed rest, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. He did not excuse himself of being tired. In fact, he was on the mountain for six hours, appearing back on the scene at about 3 o’clock in the morning. Who among us will spend six hours in prayer after such a long day? His example clearly shows us that prayer is not just an activity, but is a way of life. As the Catechism tells us, “Man was created to live in communion with God, in whom he finds happiness” (CCC, #45). And since, according to St. John Vianney, “Prayer is union with God,” there can be no communion with God without a life of prayer.
However, an atmosphere conducive to prayer is necessary – silence. Jesus had to leave behind his disciples and go up the mountain by himself. Elijah went up the mountain of Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to talk to God. He waited at the entrance of a cave. First there came a hurricane wind, but God was not in the wind. Next came an earthquake, followed by a blazing fire, but God was not in them. Finally came a gentle, soothing breeze. Elijah covered his face with his cloak, for he knew God was in that tiny whispering sound. God’s voice is clearly heard in the silence of our surroundings that brings silence in our hearts. The lack of silence is what makes prayer life more difficult in our time. The world is full of noise. Like the disciples in the boat, we are battered by the big waves of confusion and troubles, our ears are deafened by the strong winds of conflicting doctrines and opinions, deceptions and lies and we are distracted by the relentless advertisements in mass media, competing for our attention and consumerist appetites. It is said that the average person is exposed to over two thousand advertisements every day – in television, radio, newspapers and billboards, and even on taxicabs, subway and buses. For an ordinary person, it is almost impossible to have any clear focus on the Lord. We cannot hear His voice, nor feel His presence. We are, therefore, invited to go to our inner core: “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” (Mt 6:6). In the silence and stillness of the innermost chamber of our soul, which is the spirit, God resides there. St. Teresa of Avila said, “The soul remains all the time in the center with its God…It never moves from its center nor loses its peace, which is Christ-within…The center of the soul which is the spirit is not touched nor disturbed; there the King dwells.”
This is what the new translation of the English Missal reminds us with the change in our response to the greeting, “The Lord be with you.” From “And also with you,” we now respond, “And with your spirit.”
In the midst of life’s troubles, noise and confusion, we need not be overwhelmed and confused. Jesus bids us, “Come!” In prayer, we come to Him, and we personally encounter Him especially in the Mass, for we receive the real Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. He truly resides in us. This realization led St. Padre Pio to conclude: “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.”
Venerable Louis of Granada puts it beautifully: “Prayer is a royal gate through which we enter into the heart of God.” It is, in fact, “the key of Heaven” according to St. Augustine. He who holds the key has the power to open the door. So, the one who prays is truly powerful. St. John Chrysostom said, “God governs the world, but prayer governs God Himself!”
A catchy little quote is posted on Facebook: “God has no Blackberry or iPhone, but He is my favorite contact. He does not have Facebook, but He is my best friend. He does not have Twitter, but I follow Him. And He does not have Internet, but I remain connected to Him.” This time, I hope we truly mean it.
Let me close with this little quote: “Prayer is not a ‘spare wheel’ that you pull out when in trouble; it is a ‘steering wheel’ that directs us in the right path throughout our life.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422