Given by Canon Raphael Ueda, ICRSS, at St. Francis de Sales Oratory last Sunday:
In today’s Epistle St. Paul tells of his shipwrecks and dangers in the sea, all the torments he endured for the Name of Christ. What then is the lesson to be taken from the life of a man whose life was filled with such suffering for the name of Christ?
Without doubt when considering the life of St. Paul, one would immediately see a man who believed in the power of prayer. The fact is St. Paul was very diligent in prayer. His exhortation to the church at Ephesus was, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereupon with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ep 6;18)”.
One can see the example of perseverance in prayer, as St. Paul prayed over and again regarding the thorn in the flesh. We can hear in his prayer the echoes of Jesus’ words. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
The end result of persecution and imprisonment produced a man concerned with growing stronger spiritually. This is certainly one of the great desires that every one of us would have. The need to mature and grow stronger in faith with each passing day. St. Paul’s reproach of the church at Corinth was about the matter of their failure to grow spiritually.
So especially this time of awaiting for Lent we need to be aware of the importance of prayer.
St. Francis de Sales tell us the benefit of prayer. Prayer brings our mind into the brightness of divine light, and exposes our will to the warmth of divine love. Nothing else can so purge our mind from its ignorance and our will from its depraved affections. It is a blessed fountain which, as it flows, revives our good desires and causes them to bring forth fruit, washes away the stains of infirmity from our soul and calms the passions of our heart.
To pray, the Catechism tells us, is to adore God, to thank him for his goodness, to ask his graces and the pardon of our sins to raise our hearts to him and enter into communion with him. This definition is correct. If prayer is necessary for salvation, then what is true prayer?
The majority of people for better or worse, do not fight against God, but they do not actively desire God’s love in any way. Many virtuous and cultured people want to live uprightly, socially correct, without God or religion. Many among them can justly be called wise according to the world. These persons do not deny God or despise those who pray. Nevertheless it is obvious that they experience nothing but intense emptiness when they kneel before an altar. To say for example that God is present in a special way on an altar sounds childish to them.
Today’s Gospel mentions different types of people who receive the seed of the divine word. They can be compared to the hard ground, to the stony soil, to the earth choked with thorns. They certainly understand how to live, but they fail to face the most fundamental questions, such as “Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?”
St. Paul says “Though this outer human nature of ours may be falling into decay, at the same time our inner human nature is renewed day by day. And a secret awakening awaits us. What kind of shock will awaken these souls? Unexpected happiness or misfortune? Or the word of God fervently uttered by the lips of a saint? Or even perhaps exercises suitable for well-known ascetics but beyond the reach of ordinary people?
The answer is clear. It is none of these things. Our souls are waiting for God. Only God can reveal himself. But is he just the one who lives in the heavens and who govern humanity as absolute master? If it were so, Christ’s incarnation would be in vain. The eternal and infinite God assumed all of human existence with all its weakness and frailty out of love for each human person. Assuredly, this surpassed all understanding and yet it is this God who at this very moment, continues to pursue and to challenge each one of us interiorly by knocking on the door of our minds. To listen to this call is itself pre-prayer. We need to prepare the good ground with a good and upright heart, hearing the word of Jesus, keep it and bring forth fruit in patience.
And so leaving this dull existence, the soul awakes and allows its prayer to rejoice in song as it winds its way to heaven.
In the book of Revelation (3:20) we read “Listen, I am waiting at the door knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me."
We need to respond to his invitation to stay with Him.
The prayer of Jesus continues still today. In the Eucharistic Liturgy, Christ the High Priest offers to the Father his redeeming sacrifice. He offers it in communion with his body which is the Church. Every prayer of ours is raised to the Father through Christ our Lord. It is this prayer of Christ which sustains all our prayers, those spoken and those in the heart.
Dear Faithful, let us continue to prepare the good ground, ready to receive His Divine word. Amen