Prayer As Essential For Holiness

6.20.18  Wed.. wk. 11 – Ordinary Time (II)

2nd Book of Kings  2: 1,  6 – 14

Gospel  of  Matthew  6:  1 – 6, 16  – 18

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.    The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                          Prayer As Essential For Holiness

In our Gospel readings at daily mass – we are in the midst of three weeks of reflecting on the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.  The first ten days of our Gospel readings at daily mass, †Jesus was setting the standard for holiness.  First – the Beatitudes – we are to regard – “poverty in spirit, meekness, hunger and thirst for righteousness and mercy” (cf. Matt. 5:3-10).  We are to see those as “blessed” ways to live.

Then †Jesus teaches that anger and restlessness are behaviors that distract from holiness.   We are not to engage in “getting even” toward those who hurt us, but “turn the other cheek”.  We are to strive to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect”; holy as He is Holy.

As Elisha, in the first reading today, took up the mantle of the prophet Elijah, when Elijah was carried off into heaven, disciples of †Jesus are to take up the Mantle of †Jesus, proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and His mercy.  That’s the mantle we are to pick up.  We are to bring about God’s Kingdom through love and mercy.

†Jesus does not ask us to ‘part the waters in a river’, like the Old Testament prophets did.  And, †Jesus doesn’t ask us to perform miracles either.  †Jesus asks us simply: “Make a difference in the world”, just make a difference in your home, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  We are to bring the holiness of God to others. We are to bring God’s unconditional love to others.  Discipleship must begin with trust in God and we deepen our trust and our faith in God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving – that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel today.

Prayer is a powerful way to call on God’s help, to bring the presence of God into our own world; to bring the holiness of God into the world.  In his Apostolic Exhortation on The Call to Holiness in the Today’s World, Pope Francis writes that ‘Prayer’ is a sign of holiness’ in the world.  The Holy Father writes: “Holiness consists in a habitual openness to the transcendent, expressed in prayer and adoration.  The saints are distinguished by a spirit of prayer, and a need for communion with God”. (Gaudium et Exsultate, 147)  The concerns of this world are myopic and they are blinding because the worldly care only about themselves, their own selfish agenda.  Saints, however, long for God and they lose themselves in prayer and adoration of the living God.  According to Pope Francis, holiness is not possible without prayer; and prayer does not have to be complicated.  Prayer can be very, very simple; it need not be long, nor does it need to involve intense emotions.

Here’s what St. John of the Cross writes: “Endeavor to remain always in the presence of God, either real, imaginative or unitive, in so far as it is permitted by your works”. (Degrees of Perfection, 2)  Just remain in God’s presence throughout your daily life – that’s prayer.  Our prayer must find expression in our daily life and our activities and we must learn to “live out of” our prayer; our life reflecting our conversation with God.  Again- according to John of the Cross: “Try to be continuous in prayer, and in the midst of (daily activities), do not leave it.  Whether you eat, drink, talk with others, or do anything, always go to God and attach your heart to Him”. (Counsels to a Religious on How to Attain Perfection, 9)  How many of you – when you go out to eat in a restaurant – will people know you are a Christian because you make the sign of the Cross when you say Grace. Why not?  Involve the Lord in your eating by starting your meal with prayer.  You are safe in your home but in restaurants, we sometimes don’t like to do that, we don’t like to show-off our faith.  Well – why not?

What is necessary for prayer is solitude.  Quiet moments of encounter with the Lord are essential in our prayer.  Here’s what St. Teresa of Avila writes: “(Prayer) is nothing but friendly (exchange) and frequent solitary converse with Him, who we know loves us”. (St. Teresa of Avila; Autobiography, 8.5)  The solitude in prayer is not reserved only for cloistered or contemplative disciples; it is meant for all of us who are striving for union with God.  We need that solitude!  If we are striving for holiness – we need that quiet time with the Lord.  According to Pope Francis: “It is in that silence we can discern, in the light of the Spirit, the paths of holiness to which the Lord is calling us…For each disciple, it is essential to spend time with the Master – to listen to His words and to learn from Him always”. (ibid. 150)   Without spending the quiet moments listening in our prayer – our words are merely useless ‘babbling-on’ like the pagans” (cf. Matt. 6:7); as Jesus says during ‘The Sermon on the Mount’.

Take up the Mantle of Prayer given you by Jesus; that Mantle is assisted by the Holy Spirit, because we can’t always pray that well ourselves.  And if your prayer seems to be a struggle at times, remember these words of St. Paul: “The Spirit too, comes to the aid of our weakness, when we do not know how to pray as we ought.  But the Sprit itself intercedes with inaccessible groaning’s, and the one who searches hearts, knows what is the intention of the Spirit because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will”. (Rom. 8:26-27)

     In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.