Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Seventeenth Sunday: “Teach Us How to Pray”
“Teach us how to pray,” the disciples asked Jesus. This is the longing of our souls. We want to pray. We want to be with God. In his book Beginning to Pray Anthony Bloom tells the story of an elderly woman who wanted to pray but had no sense of God’s presence. She spoke with her pastor about her frustration. The pastor told her to just go to her room, put off any noise or distractions, and knit for fifteen minutes. He told her not to try to say any particular prayers, just knit and enjoy the quiet of her room. She did that and began to embrace the silence of her room. She realized that this silence wasn’t just the absence of something, the absence of noise, it was the presence of something. Eventually she realized that at the heart of silence there is God, who is stillness and peace.
Prayer is not just a formula of words and rituals. Prayer is the awareness of God as the source of all that is good and the ultimate fulfillment of life’s journey. Prayer is not the scope and breadth of the words we utter, but the sense of gratitude that compels us to give voice to those prayers.
Prayer is what we are about, not just here in Church but as people committed to the Kingdom of God. We need to nurture our dialogue with the One who became one of us, Jesus Christ. We always need to strengthen our prayer Life. We call out to the Lord throughout our day saying, “Lord, help me here, in this task you have given me. Lord watch over my loved one, my spouse, my son, my daughter, my parents. Help me to fulfill my vocation well. Many times we say particular prayers such as grace before meals, or the three meditations I foster, God loves me unconditionally, God forgives me and God is with me, or devotional prayers like the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy or night prayer. Our days are meant to be united to God in prayer. Prayer expresses who we are, the People of God. We come to Mass to pray the Lord’s Supper as a community and to reverence the Lord within us in communion.
We need each other for our prayer life to grow. We need each other so we can celebrate God’s presence. We need to call upon Him to become present on the altar through the actions of our priests and bishops. Mass is not just important for us. It is fundamental to our prayer life. Perhaps you have come upon people who say that they don’t attend Church, but they pray on their own. They are depriving themselves of the greatest prayer, the prayer of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, on the Cross and at Easter. By refusing to join the community they are depriving themselves of the Eucharist.
We always need to reflect on the mystery of the Eucharist. We go to communion so often that it is easy for us to forget what we are doing and whom we are receiving. When we receive communion, we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We are united to Him as He offers Himself up to the Father for us. When we receive communion, Jesus is closer to us than our skin. When we receive communion, we worship Him within us with our whole being. When we receive communion we enter into the silence of the presence of God within us.
Here at St. Ignatius we have been blessed with the great charism of loving Eucharistic Adoration. We have Eucharistic adoration here every Thursday after the 9:00 am Mass and all day on First Fridays, as well as 40 hours during Lent. Our young people love Eucharistic Adoration. It is always the highlight of their retreats, conferences and camps. All of us love reverencing the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Eucharistic adoration must be seen in the context of the Mass and reception of communion. Every time we receive communion we take Jesus within ourselves. He is there at the Last Supper, looking at each person here and saying “Take and eat. Take and drink.” When we receive communion Jesus is present on the cross saying, “My body is given up for you. My blood is yours. Even if you were the only person to ever live, I would still accept the cross for you. I want you to have my body and blood.” When we receive communion, Jesus is present within us at the Resurrection. This is the food of the new life of the Kingdom, the food of eternity, the Bread of Angels.
Jesus once told the story about a jewel merchant who came upon a valuable pearl. When he found it, he sold everything he had so he could possess it. We have
the Pearl of Great Price offered for us and to us every day. Jesus comes to us whenever we receive communion. Nothing should stand in the way of our reception of the Eucharist. We need to keep our priorities straight.
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” We seek happiness. We seek peace. We seek union with God. The door to our spiritual fulfillment is opened for us when we receive communion.
“Teach us to pray, Lord,” the apostles asked. We ask this too. He taught us the Lord’s Prayer, and He gave us the Eucharist. He calls us into the silence of His Presence.