Thursday, July 25, 2013

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive" 17C

In this Sunday's Gospel for July 28, 2013, we find Jesus praying. This provokes the curiosity of the disciples who then ask him to teach them to pray. Jesus instructs them in the basic elements of the prayer we know today as the Our Father. This is followed up with some instruction on importance perseverance in prayer and the overwhelming generosity of God. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Prayer is a vitally important aspect of the life of any Christian. One could say that prayer is the life-blood of faith, the vital force that gives us energy and moves our faith forward.

"Teach us How to pray, Lord"

The disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us how to pray.” They came to the Lord. And like them we also come to the Lord, asking the same. This was the longing of their souls then, it is the longing of ours today. We want to be with God.

Jesus is the master of prayer, for as the God-man He prayed perfectly. And He does so still. What is wonderful for us, Father Cusick explains, is that our Lord invites us to enter ourselves into His life of perfect prayer and communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit of God. And in teaching the apostles how to pray, our Lord Jesus gave them - and us - the Lord’s Prayer. And, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino adds, Jesus also gave us the Eucharist. Today He invites us and challenges us to enter into deep prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every time we receive communion.

The Lord's Prayer

Of all prayers, the Our Father is the best known. This is good but it also bespeaks a challenge. For when something is so well known we can say it mindlessly and miss its message. Msgr. Charles Pope tells us that the Our Father gives us more than words to say. It also gives us a structure for our prayer life, a basic plan for our spiritual life. Thus, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. thinks we might best call it "The Disciple's Prayer" for it is a model prayer. It tells us what we are to pray for, and it gives us the order of the requests.

In explaining the meaning of the Lord's Prayer, Marcellino D'Ambrosio, points out how Christianity is absolutely unique. That the supreme Being is not just “King of the Universe” or “Master” but “Father,” and that he desires a close, familiar relationship with Him. This you don’t find anywhere outside the teaching of Jesus. Furthermore, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, this prayer is an apostolic prayer because it is said in the plural and takes for granted one's awareness of a people, of co-responsibility, of solidarity. The Our Father links each of us to the other.

The Lord's Prayer is so central to our Christian experience that when asked how to be a true ontemplative, St. Teresa of Avila is supposed to have said, "You must simply say the Lord's Prayer. But you must say it very, very slowly!" The implication, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says, is that we will never exhaust the wisdom found in this wonderful prayer which is so special because it was given to us by Jesus himself.

Have you ever wondered what if while praying the Our Father, God really answered and initiated a conversation with you? You should read this and see what it just might be like.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

We are often told not to spend too much time in intercessory prayer; they tell us that we should not constantly ask God for this or that. They imply that this is just another kind of selfishness. But this is not what Jesus teaches. Fr. James Gilhooley quotes a prayer leader who once advised his listeners to adopt the A-P-U Program when they pray. When predictably they asked what the acronym meant, he said with a smile, "Be aggressive. Be persistent. Be unreasonable."

‘Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.’ Have no hesitation in asking God for whatever we might need whenever we might need it. Be obstinant, says Fr. John Foley, S. J. Keep knocking and it will be opened to you. And do not doubt the Father’s love and truest desire for you, adds Msgr. Charles Pope. Fr. Phil Bloom sums it up best: Ask, seek, knock. Try God.

But why, Fr. Ron Rolheiser asks, why doesn’t prayer always work? Sometimes we pray for something, pray for it in Jesus’ name, and our request isn’t granted. This likewise presents us with another with an interesting conundrum. Does God respond to our requests by intervening in the world? College student Rachel Blanton points out that God is on God’s time. And it is human to find it difficult to trust God’s time — difficult to be patient, to be persistent.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains that it is not that we pray for what we want. It is that the Holy Spirit prays in us and gives expression to our deepest desires which, because we are disciples of Christ, are in harmony with God’s What we are being told here is that God’s greatest gift to us is Himself. The person, who experiences grace or healing as a result of prayer, is not moved so much by the grace as by the new awareness of God in his or her life.

Bible, Eucharist, Liturgy & Prayer

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. As the new Missal is is set to be implemented, the topic of “What does active participation mean?” takes on a prominent place for discussion. He rightly says that because the Holy Mass is at the center of the whole Church, it is the center of the Liturgy. For this reason, to talk about liturgical formation is to talk about Eucharistic formation.

But, Rhode Island's Bishop Thomas J. Tobin points out, as Catholics we have the tendency to take for granted God’s most precious gift of the Holy Eucharist and all that it means for us. Although we typically pay lip service to the importance of the Eucharist, he wonders if we really appreciate its significance in our lives.

And although it jumps out of the pages of the Bible with just a cursory reading, the Eucharist is one of several Catholic beliefs that Protestants or ‘Bible Christians’ reject. Eric Sammons offers several others in the “Biggest biblical blind spots of Bible Christians." Plus a recent Catholic convert talks about one of the challenges of Christian parenthood: How can parents help children stay strong in their faith?

We also tackle an interesting question on bio-etics and the latest Church teaching about couples seeking a Catholic marriage: When one or both of the spouses are impeded from having children by a tubal ligation and/or vasectomy, can they marry?

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Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Should we hold hands during the Our Father? FEATURED BLOG: Never take the Eucharist for granted PASTORAL HISPANA: Dios contesta nuestras peticiones cuando oramos
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