“Return to prayer, little children…”
Fr. Maximilian gave a homily on prayer at English Mass in Medjugorje, July 24, 2016. It was the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. And the readings were Gen 18:20-32, Col 2:12-14, Lk 11:1-13.
Lord, teach us how to pray. We should always ask this question. Jesus, teach us how to pray. Jesus, pray in us, for we don’t know how to pray. We should never say, “I know how to pray.” Because we are always beginners.
Prayer (the first word makes it clear) – Father – is a relation. A relation is always new. A relation is not a technique. If I enter into a relation with a technique, I don’t love that person, I am trying to manipulate. It easily becomes a temptation to possession. And when there is possession in a relationship, there is no love. It is the opposite of love, because love is to give oneself.
And so in prayer, we start, empty handed. We give ourselves, and God gives Himself. That is a loving relation. When the disciples ask Jesus, “Teach us how to pray,” He teaches them a vocal prayer. Vocal prayer is the foundation of all other prayers. If we see our spiritual lives like a building, vocal prayer is the ground floor, the earth. Because the earth is a sign of our body. It is the participation of our body in prayer. We pronounce words.
Vocal prayer can be said either in forms or in written prayer like the “Our Father”, the prayer that Jesus gave us. Or they can also be free words. Both are good. Obviously when we pray according to forms already given to us, like the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Psalms, or when we pray with the Word of God, God teaches us how to speak with Him. Because by ourselves, we as human creatures in relation to God, we only stutter. We don’t know how to pray as St. Paul says to us. The Holy Spirit is guiding us into prayer, because without God we don’t know what to say.
But as St. Paul says, He teaches us to pray, and in these prayers we read in the Holy Bible, God teaches us which words to use. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to pray the Our Father, and the Hail Mary (which contains words from the Bible, at least the first part, with the very important words, the words of the Incarnation) and in the Psalms we learn how to speak to God in the way that He wants us to speak to Him, like the way the mother and father teach a child to speak!
We don’t know the language of God yet, which is the language of love. It is the language of relation, father and son. John Paul II spoke about prayer, that prayer is a relation between “I” and “you”. We think in the beginning when we start to pray that the “I” is more important. I have to say this prayer, I have to finish this novena, I have to pray the Rosary and say this and that prayer, and inform God about all my needs. That is all good and holy.
But as we go along we discover that it is not all about the “I” but about the “you”. Because for God, from the heart of God, He starts our prayer. Our prayer is always an answer. We have to learn to listen to the voice of God, to allow the Holy Spirit to breath on us and to guide us into the depths of prayer.
Vocal prayer is the foundation. After that comes meditation, comes contemplation, which are higher levels that reach up to heaven. But we should never climb up there by ourselves. Only if we are guided by the Holy Spirit. Theresa of Avilla makes it very clear. “He who wants to arrive at contemplation by himself makes a big mistake.” We enter humbly, we pray vocal prayer, we meditate, and we listen to the Holy Spirit. And if He wants He helps us up.
In His house we know there is an elevator. If we go in that elevator which is the heart of Mary, she brings you straight up to the highest contemplation by saying a simple Our Father or Hail Mary!
Prayer is a relation. A familiar relation, Father. We ask the Father the greatest things. We ask the Father for His Glory. The first thing to ask is always the Glory of God because that is the end of all creation, is for God to be glorified.
And the best way is our sanctification, His Kingdom in us, in our midst and our hearts. And in the rest of the Our Father are the means to achieve these two fundamental goals. The first one, God Glorified, is the primary one. But how is this, that through our earthly relations, our familiar relations we can be heard. It may be difficult for us to speak to the Father in a friendly way because maybe we have not known our father or he has beaten us, so Jesus, for this reason and also other reasons, immediately he brings the parable about the friend.
In this parable, He speaks about a friend who speaks with another friend about a third friend. What does it mean but that God wants to be your friend? Mary has said in her messages, “You forget that God is your greatest friend.” And if there is true friendship with God, no storm can destroy it.
Now friends trust. And you can ask a friend anything. You see Abraham in the first reading, (Gen 18:20-32) that he dared to ask God again and again, please for more and more, he asked for more. But he stopped at 10, he should have stopped at one. He didn’t know Jesus! We can and we should ask God for the impossible, for the salvation of all. Obviously every prayer is heard. Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive, knock and it will be open to you.” He means that when we pray according to His will, when we pray for something which is needed, necessary and according for salvation, then He wants to give us all, all, everything. Because it is He Himself who prays in us.
Paul stated clearly, twice, that the Holy Spirit speaks in us, He prays in us, He cries in us. It is not only speaking, when we compose a prayer or contemplate our piety, but it becomes a cry, it becomes loud “Abba, Father!!!” We don’t say it, but the Holy Spirit in us does. In Romans 8 it says that the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray “Abba Father”. And in Galatians, the Holy Spirit in us prays. It is a collaboration with the Holy Spirit. In our prayer we have to listen to the Holy Spirit.
More and more it is not just a form, it is not just a duty, like the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son who says, “I have always slaved for you, and you have never even given me a kid goat for my friends – to celebrate with my friends.” Because the father is not his friend, he was just the master and the son was the servant. That is not the way that God wants us to be with Him. Pray, worship Him, love Him, like a father, like a friend, like the best friend, the true friend. The word “charity” actually means friendship with God.
And so Abraham, through many tries becomes the “friend” of God. Why? Because he trusted God. He trusted God and so he could ask. And it was not he who asked good things and God was hesitating. Ok for fifty, ok for forty, ok for thirty, ok for even ten. No it was the Holy Spirit prompting Abraham, but Abraham was ready to ask so much because he had a heart full of mercy.
So God now is looking through Mary here in Medjugorje, and in the whole world, for people who have a friendship with God, who believe in His mercy so much that they dare to ask for the salvation of all. For mercy for all in the Year of Mercy where we talk about mercy, we read about mercy, we should start to invoke mercy.
Invoke mercy for our countries, for our families, for the world. God needs those friends who believe in His mercy, so that the Holy Spirit through us can cry out to God and God will listen to this cry. (English Mass Homily, July 24, 2016. Fr. Maximilian Dalve)
In Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
©Mary TV 2016