THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for November 24th, 2017
Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Andrew Dũng-Lac and Companions
Liturgical texts here
IT takes two legs to stand firm. So too in the spiritual life, we have two legs to stand on: obedience and prayer. For the art of beginning again consists in making sure that we have the right footing in place from the very start… or we’ll stumble before we even take a few steps. In summary thus far, the art of beginning again consists in the five steps of humbling, confessing, trusting, obeying, and now, we focus on praying.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus rises in righteous anger when He sees what has been made of the temple area.
It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.
On the outset, we may think that Jesus’ dismay was directed only toward the buyers and sellers in the courtyard that day. However, I suspect that Jesus was also looking ahead to His Church, and to each of us who are one of its “living stones”.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
So what occupies your temple? What are you filling your heart with? For, “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy,”—that is, when our treasure does not lie in heaven, but on the things of this earth. And so St. Paul tells us to “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  That is really what prayer is: to fix our eyes upon Jesus who is the “leader and perfecter of faith.”  It is to gaze “upwards” over everything else that is temporal and passing—our possessions, our careers, our ambitions… and reorient ourselves to what matters most: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength.
For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…. (Phil 3:9)
Jesus said, in order to “remain in me”, we should keep the commandments. But how, when we are so weak, tempted, and subject to the passions of the flesh? Well, as I said yesterday, the first “leg up” is to resolve to be obedient—to “make no provisions for the flesh.” But now I find myself needing the strength and grace to persevere in that. The answer is found in prayer, or what is called the “interior life.” It is the life within your heart, the place where God dwells and awaits to communicate the graces you need to become victorious. It is the “starting line” from where you begin, continue, and finish your day.
…the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life… These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2010
But prayer is not like inserting a coin into a cosmic vending machine which then spits out grace. Rather, I am speaking here of communion: a love affair between the Father and His children, Christ and His Bride, the Spirit and His temple:
…prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is “the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity… with the whole human spirit.”—CCC, n. 2565
So important and central is prayer to your life, dear Christian, that without it, you are spiritually dying.
Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. —CCC, n. 2697
When we forget Him, it is suddenly like trying to run a marathon on one leg. That’s why Jesus said, “Pray always without becoming weary.”  That is, remain in and with Him at each moment of the day as much as grapes continually hang on the vine.
The life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. —CCC, n.2565
Oh, how few priests and bishops teach this! How even fewer laypeople know of the interior life! No wonder Jesus is once again grieved with His Church—not so much because we have turned our temples into a marketplace where our generation is consumed with “buying and selling,” but because we keep stunted and delayed our transformation in Him, which is why He died for us: so that we might become holy, beautiful, joy-filled saints who share in His glory.
No matter what my condition may be, if I am only willing to pray and become faithful to grace, Jesus offers me every means of returning to an inner life that will restore to me my intimacy with Him, and will enable me to develop His life in myself. And then, as this life gains ground within me, my soul will not cease to possess joy, even in the thick of trials…. —Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, The Soul of the Apostolate, p. 20 (Tan Books)
There is so much more that could be said. So, I have written a 40 day retreat on the interior life that also includes audio so you can listen to it in your car or while out for a jog (on two legs). Why not make this part of Advent this year? Just click Prayer Retreat to begin, even today.
The Great Commandment from Christ is to love the Lord your God… and your neighbour as yourself. In prayer, we love God; in obedience to the commandments, we love our neighbour. These are the two legs that we must stand upon and renew each morning.
So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. (Heb 12:12-13)
When I was young man in my teens and even early twenties, the idea of sitting down in a quiet room to pray sounded… impossible. But I soon learned that, in prayer, I was encountering Jesus and His grace, His love and His mercy. It was in prayer that I was learning to no longer despise myself because of the way He was loving me. It was in prayer that I was gaining the wisdom to know what was important and what was not. Like the people in today’s Gospel, I was soon “hanging on his words.”
And it was and is in prayer that this Scripture becomes real to me each day:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. (Lam 3:22-25)
With God, every moment
is the moment of beginning again. —
Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Note: I have made it easy for you to find these writings again. Just see the category on the sidebar or in the Menu called: BEGINNING AGAIN.
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