Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sermon on prayer, July 25th

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
July 25th, 2010
Luke 11:1-13, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray

Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

If we are ever to succeed in the spiritual life, we must believe and accept this fundamental truth: In heaven or on earth, there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Prayer really makes a difference in the world – God really hears and answers our prayers and, because God is all powerful, so too prayer is all powerful. Nothing is more powerful than prayer.
I would like to share with you three stories which illustrate the great power of prayer.

First, consider St. Monica in northern Africa at the end of the 4th Century. Her son, Augustine, had lost his moral compass; he had renounced the true faith, he had gone astray. And yet, Monica did not lose hope – with many tears and sacrifices she offered her prayers to God for her son’s conversion. And, because of her perseverance and her faith, God answered her prayer. Not only did St. Augustine convert to Catholicism and reform his life, he even became a priest and eventually a bishop. St. Augustine is one of the greatest and most influential Fathers and Doctors of the Church – the whole Church relies upon him for the clarity and brilliance of his teachings, and he relied upon the prayer of his mother Monica. How great indeed the power of prayer!

Second, we look to 16th Century Rome. A young boy named Paulo Massimo, the son of a nobleman, has just died. His parents, grieved by their loss, call a local priest to come and offer prayers – the priest is named Fr. Philip Neri, he would one day be St. Philip Neri whose renown is so great that he has been called the Second Apostle of the City of Rome. St. Philip comes to the house, kneels at the foot of the bed where the boy’s body lay, and begins his prayers. The young boy suddenly opens his eyes, resuscitated by the power of St. Philip’s prayers, sits up in bed and begins speaking to his parents and the priest. How great the power of prayer!

And finally, consider that today, at the many altars throughout the world, priests will take bread and wine – and, by the simple words of the Eucharistic prayer, these natural elements will be transformed, becoming the very Body and Blood of Christ our Savior. Behold the true power of prayer!

Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive” – how shall we ignore his invitation? When we consider how powerful prayer is – for all good things can be gain through prayer – how is it that we pray so little and with such little zeal? Truly, there are many graces which are lost, simply because no one asks for them in prayer.

Do not doubt the power of prayer, it is far greater than any human power. All the kings of the earth cannot force the conversion of a heart, and yet the humble mother Monica won her son’s conversion through prayer. All the doctors in the world cannot raise the dead, and yet Fr. Philip restored life through prayer. No human or angelic power can effect the mystery of transubstantiation, and yet the prayer of simple priests throughout the world confect the Eucharist today!

We turn to the Lord and say: Oh Jesus, grant that in seeking, we may find you; that in asking, we may receive your blessings; and that in knocking, may prayer (which is the door to the interior life) be opened to us.