Message: Prayer is the heart of our new Life in the Spirit - and the gateway to eternal joy.
In today's Gospel Jesus gives us a glimpse of the end of the world. He says it will come down to two categories of people - the weeds and the wheat. God's angels will gather the harvest of wheat, but the weeds they will burn.
As your pastor, your spiritual father, I want you to be that good harvest and I want to be part of it myself. But what is the difference between the weeds and the wheat? I could say a lot, but today's second reading has the key. St. Paul describes prayer. Here we find the difference between wheat and weeds: one prays, the other does not.
Prayer is the theme for this Sunday - the third week of our Life in the Spirit series. Very appropriately it comes in the middle of five weeks. Prayer is the center, the heart of our new Life in the Spirit.
Prayer is mysterious. As st. Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit prays within us. This might seem strange if you have never thought about it, but prayer is God talking to God. God the Holy Spirit brings us to Father through Jesus. By prayer we participate in the inner life of the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
If prayer is something God does in us, what is our part? Actually, a lot. We are not quietists. God bless them, they thought all they had to do was just to sit quietly and God would do everything else. They had a good instinct, but we can - and must - do our part.
First, we should give thanks. I didn't create myself. Like you, I was thrown into this world. Every good thing that has come to me is a gift: a child's smile, a glass of water on a hot day, a place to walk. Thank God for those and all wonderful things. I have been with people who live in miserable hovels; the land owner could evict them at any moment, yet they have more gratitude that people who have so much more. In spite of our troubles can you and I not find something to thank God for?
After thanking God we then ask him for our needs and those of others. Along with my problems, I pray for people in my family, for parishioners and for people in the world, like those children arriving unaccompanied to our country. Don't be afraid to pray for something too big - or too small. In the same sentence a person can plead for peace in the Middle East and for an arthritic hand. Prayer involves asking - intercession - for others and one's own self.
Following thanking and asking comes repentance - telling God I am sorry for my failings. In her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell observes that many people today have little or no sense of sin. In the past even pagans knew they were sinners. So the Gospel of Jesus' forgiveness came as super-good news. Today many don't recognize they are sinners until they have a relationship with Jesus in prayer. However it happens, that recognition is essential. A healthy person doesn't need a doctor; a sick person does. When we repent - express sorrow for sins - we acknowledge that we need a savior. And that there is ultimately only one - Jesus.
After thanking Jesus, asking for his help and repenting, there's one more thing to do: praise. We are a people of praise and the perfect act of praise is what we are doing now - the Mass.
Now, you may have noticed that I chose some specific words for prayer and you may have guessed that they form an acronym. You are right: Thank, Ask, Repent, Praise make the word TARP. Like a tarp prayer protects us from scorching sun and devastating storms. Prayer is the heart of our new Life in the Spirit - and the gateway to eternal joy. I will return to prayer in week 5 when we address the great problem of envy.
For now, I ask you to not not worry if your prayer is full of distraction. St. Paul tells us the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. He makes us participants in the very life of the Trinity. So, take a deep breath and allow your deeper longings to come to the fore: thank, ask, repent and praise. By prayer the Holy Spirit transforms us from weeds to wheat and gathers us to that joyful harvest. In the words of today's Psalm: "Hearken, O Lord, to my prayer...For you are great and you do wonderful deeds; you alone are God." Amen.
*Week 1: Humility - "You are not in the flesh; on the contrary you are in the spirit"..."spirit willing, but flesh weak"
Week 2: Freedom - "the glorious freedom of the children of God"
Week 3: Prayer - "we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes..."
Week 4: Trust - "all things work for good for those who love God."
Week 5: Overcoming Envy - "What will separate us from the love of God?"
From Archives (for Sixteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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List of Audio Files of Homilies
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