Friday, December 21, 2012

Devotion: Lord, hear our prayer

This week’s study of the Mass ends with the Prayers of the Faithful, a beautiful form of petitioning and interceding to God. The passage below is a bit long so maybe if you are busy you can read it in segments throughout the day and the weekend as my friend Sue does. She says it works, so why not try it? There is just too much wonderful thought to leave anything out!

Scripture for meditation: Romans 10:1
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: II. PRAYER OF PETITION (read this today)
2629 The vocabulary of supplication in the New Testament is rich in shades of meaning: ask, beseech, plead, invoke, entreat, cry out, even "struggle in prayer."102 Its most usual form, because the most spontaneous, is petition: by prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end. We are sinners who as Christians know that we have turned away from our Father. Our petition is already a turning back to him.
2630 The New Testament contains scarcely any prayers of lamentation, so frequent in the Old Testament. In the risen Christ the Church's petition is buoyed by hope, even if we still wait in a state of expectation and must be converted anew every day. Christian petition, what St. Paul calls {"groaning," arises from another depth, that of creation "in labor pains" and that of ourselves "as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved."103 In the end, however, "with sighs too deep for words" the Holy Spirit "helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words."104
2631 The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"105 It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that "we receive from him whatever we ask."106 Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.
2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.107 There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.108 It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.109 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.
2633 When we share in God's saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.110 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.111
 III. PRAYER OF INTERCESSION (read this Saturday)
2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.112 He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."113 The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."114
2635 Since Abraham, intercession - asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ's, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.115
2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.116 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel117 but also intercedes for them.118 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: "for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions," for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.119
.102 Cf. Rom 15:30; Col 4:12.103 Rom 8:22-24104 Rom 8:26.105 Lk 18:13. 106 1 Jn 3:22; cf. 1:7-2:2.107 Cf. Mt 6:10,33; Lk 11:2,13.108 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.109 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4,12.110 Cf. Jn 14:13.111 Cf. Jas 1:5-8; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:16-17; 1 Thess 5:17-18.112 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.113 Heb 7:25.114 Rom 8:26-27.115 Phil 2:4; cf. Acts 7:60; Lk 23:28,34.116 Cf. Acts 12:5; 20:36; 21:5; 2 Cor 9:14.117 Cf. Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25.118 Cf. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4. 119 2 Tim 2:1; cf. Rom 12:14; 10:1.

My thoughts: We have learned a lot in the above passages from the Catechism. What jumps out at me is the line 2630: “The New Testament contains scarcely any prayers of lamentation, so frequent in the Old Testament. In the risen Christ the Church's petition is buoyed by hope, even if we still wait in a state of expectation and must be converted anew every day.” I never thought about the fact that we don’t have long passages of deep mourning and lamenting in the New Testament as the Old Testament does. It makes sense. As Christians, we have the knowledge and the hope of the Redeemer, the Messiah, right in our hearts. We are saved, we are loved, and we know it for fact. When we present our petitions to the Lord at Mass, we do so not out of doubt or despair, but out of confident assurance that God will hear our prayer and answer us. The Church prays for many needs at this time. Listen carefully to the petitions, pray with all your heart, and believe in your power to intercede for others. It was given to you by God. Use it. And remember to always pray for the redemption of your loved ones. We want everyone to go to heaven with us!!!

Prayer: Novena to the Divine Child Jesus (read this Sunday. It is a nine day novena, very powerful)
Divine Child Jesus, we believe in You; We adore You; and we love You; have mercy on us, sinners.
We've come to this Temple in response to your love. We've come in response to your mercy and grace. We are here because You invited us to come before You and to pour out the cares of our hearts to You since You deeply care for each of us.
We remember Your words to the disciples: Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened. Trusting in your infinite goodness and trusting that You always keep your promise, we now ask this intention which we pray in the silence of our hearts...<silently mention the request>...
Thank you, Divine Child Jesus, for listening attentively to our prayers all the time. We hope that You will ask this before Our Heavenly Father. And, if what we ask for may not be good for our salvation and sanctification, we trust that you will grant us instead what we truly need, so that one day we may be with You for all eternity enjoying that ultimate happiness of Heaven.
Divine Child Jesus, bless and protect us.
Divine Child Jesus, bless and lead us.
Divine Child Jesus, bless and provide for us.
All this we ask through the intercession of your Holy Mother, Mary, and in Your powerful and Most Holy Name, Jesus. Amen

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Devotion for today: We stand in the presence of Christ

Today we answer some frequently asked questions about the reading of the Gospel.

Scripture for meditation: Exodus 19:16-19
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp tremble. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.

The Gospel Reading: Why do we stand: Standing has always been a gesture of deep respect. We stand in the presence of royalty, when we meet dignitaries, or when we’re introduced to someone. Many people still stand to greet women or their elders. It is only natural that this respect would flow into our liturgical life, as well. Standing to pray was the usual posture in the Jewish temple and synagogues… thus during the Mass, we stand during the reading of the Gospel, we stand during many of the prayers and, in the United States, the norm for the reception of holy Communion is standing. Elizabeth Solsburg
At last we have reached the highpoint of the Liturgy of the Word, the Gospel reading. The word Gospel means “good news.” What we hear proclaimed at Mass truly is good news — the best news we can hear: Jesus Christ speaks to us! It is important to remember that when the Gospel is proclaimed, it is no longer the priest or deacon speaking, but Christ himself. We should pay especially close attention to the words of the Gospel as they are proclaimed. To help us focus on this very important reading, the Church gives us some additional postures and symbols of respect. First, we stand out of respect for the Gospel reading. Second, the Gospel is often carried in a special book, the Book of Gospels, that is placed in a place of honor during the Mass. Incense and candles are used on solemn feasts to indicate that Christ is present, speaking to us, through the Gospel we hear. It has become a custom for one to make a small sign of the cross on the forehead, lips, and heart before the proclamation of the Gospel. Why do we make small crosses before the Gospel is read? Originally this gesture belonged only to the deacon or priest proclaiming the Gospel, and only then if the Mass was celebrated by the bishop. Over time, priests and deacons began to use this gesture at all of the Masses they celebrated, and the laity adopted the same gesture. Even though this gesture has been used for centuries, there were no regulations requiring this gesture at Mass until the 1980s! When you make this gesture, ask God to bless your mind, that you may ponder his Word; your lips, that you may speak his praise; and your heart, that you may love the Word of God!

My thoughts: It is so important to remember that the Gospel is the highlight of the Liturgy of the Word. We stand because God is speaking to us. Just as the Jewish people stood when God spoke to them, out of respect and wondrous fear, we, too, should realize that we are actually hearing the words of Christ as He spoke them, the actions of Christ as He lived them, and the love of Christ as He poured it into the hearts of those who lived in His time, and into the hearts of us present now in the assembly of the faithful. It must be a priest or deacon who proclaims the Word of God; they are In Persona Christi, in the Person of Christ. Some people tell me they never read along with the priest when the Gospel is proclaimed. Rather, they close their eyes and picture themselves in the scene and at Christ’s side at that moment. I like that. Here is the Word of God being proclaimed; let us listen, and learn.

Prayer: Speak, Lord, by Gary Ault (you can hear the hymn at this site…so beautiful)
Speak, Lord, I’m listening
Plant your word down deep in me.
Speak, Lord, I’m listening
Please show me the way.

1.       Sometimes my heart is slow to follow you;
Touch me to hear and understand;
And I’m told the things you promise;
And I hope they all come true;
And I know what waits for those who wait;
And put their trust in You.

2.       Sometimes I stumble on my way to you;
Stretch out again, your healing hand;
And I’m told the things you promise;
And I hope they all come true;
And I know what waits for those who wait;
And put their trust in You.
 From St. John Fisher Chapel Community Songbook; #32





Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Devotion for today: The Second Reading at Mass

Today our study takes us to the New Testament.

Scripture for meditation: Psalm 119:105 
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: 133: The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

Here is some interesting information on one source of the Second Reading at Mass: The Epistles are the twenty-one books of the New Testament written in the form of letters to churches or individuals. The fourteen Epistles of St. Paul are called after the group or person to whom they were addressed. The remaining seven are called by the name of the author. They are called "Catholic" because they were intended for the Church at large, although the second and third Epistles of St. John are addressed to individuals. St. Paul's Epistles were not deliberate treatises and systematic expositions of Christian theology. They were not something studied and literary. They were simple letters, pastoral and not personal, written on a specific occasion and to a particular body of converts. They were suggestions in regard to local difficulties, or words of counsel, encouragement or consolation. They were supplementary to the ordinary teaching, and he does not dwell in them on anything that is not a matter of controversy or difficulty. Hence, they were not called forth by any inward purpose or necessity on the part of the Apostle to formulate his thought, but each of them was written in response to particular conditions in the community to which it was addressed. And the contents and form are often due to the Apostle's vivid realization of the situation to which he is addressing himself.

My thoughts: The Second Reading at Mass comes from the above mentioned Epistles, as well as from the Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation. St. Paul wrote his epistles before the gospels were written, as he was actively seeking to correct errors in his young church communities and to set the newly formed Christians on fire with a love and passion for Christ. His young church communities were constantly falling back into their pagan ways, getting lazy about practicing their faith, and falling prey to false teachers and ideologies. Sound familiar? Nothing has changed, really. Today more than ever, we must listen to the Second Reading at Mass to be reminded of the saving work of Jesus, of His love for us, and of the practical life-changing attitudes we must adopt in order to be part of the kingdom of God on earth. The Second Reading usually shows us how to turn from sin and turn to Christ.

Prayer: Psalm 86:11-13
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Devotion for today: Sing psalms of praise and petition

Today we look at the Responsorial Psalm, said or sung after the first reading at Mass.

Scripture for meditation: Ephesians 5:18-19
Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs ….

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: 2579 David is par excellence the king "after God's own heart," the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name. His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people. His prayer, the prayer of God's Anointed, is a faithful adherence to the divine promise and expresses a loving and joyful trust in God, the only King and Lord. In the Psalms David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the first prophet of Jewish and Christian prayer. The prayer of Christ, the true Messiah and Son of David, will reveal and fulfill the meaning of this prayer.

I found the following explanation on the internet and I think it is quite good: The Psalms are prayers of Praise, Thanksgiving and Petition we inherited from the service of the synagogue and we pray them [recited or sung] after the first reading from Scripture in order to join prayer to instruction. The Psalm chosen usually echoes or "responds" to the message contained in the Scripture reading. Liturgical use of the Psalms dates from the time of Christ and His Apostles. The gospels tell us Jesus and His Apostles recited chants of praise (Psalms 113 through 118) during His last Passover meal, “Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Jesus also quoted His dying words from Psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” The Book of Psalms consists of 150 sacred poems expressing virtually the full range of Israel's faith…. Mary and Joseph would have taught the Psalms to Jesus and they were committed to memory. Therefore, even if they were unable to attend temple, they would be able to worship the Lord by singing the Psalms. The tradition of singing prayers of thanksgiving to God can be traced back to the prophets of Israel, e.g. the prophetess Miriam (Exod. 15:20-21), Isaiah (Isa.26:1-6) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 33:32). Today when we either recite or sing the responsorial Psalm, we do so following St. Paul's dictum “give thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).

My thoughts: The events of this past weekend in Connecticut have left us all shaken and confused. Our hearts are troubled and our spirits cannot rest. Sadness fills us all, and we feel united in grief with the victims’ families. Where can we go to put voice to our sadness and pleading for answers? Go to the Psalms. David captures the essence of sadness, joy, despair and promise in the Psalms. We hear them at Mass as pleadings, repentance, thankfulness and praise. We must always pay attention to the Psalm at Mass. It is a beautiful prayer which goes back and forth between the reader and the congregation, an antiphonal movement with roots in our Jewish ancestors. It was a common form of prayer for them, and one we retain in our Mass, to hear an exaltation and then to respond. In this troubled time, listen to the Psalms at Mass, and read them on your own. You will find a voice for your soul.

Letter from Archbishop Lori,
Former Bishop of Bridgeport
Read at all Masses today (December 16) at St. Rose of Lima Parish

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Along with you, and along with the rest of our nation and, indeed, the rest of the world, I was shocked and horrified to learn of what had taken place in Newtown so suddenly and terribly on Friday morning. I was in Rome for meetings, and it was early evening there when I heard.

Since that moment, my heart has been heavy, and I can't stop thinking about everyone in Newtown, especially the victims, the children, and their families. So I just wanted to say very sincerely and simply that I am close to all of you in my thoughts and prayers right now.

Coming at this time of year, so close to Christmas, the tragedy is all the more difficult to bear. I can only say that, especially for the sake of the victims and their families, we cannot allow ourselves to lose hope, but indeed, now more than ever, must strengthen one another through our friendships in Christ, and our unity of faith in him and his resurrection.

I have been thinking very much of the words of Blessed John Paul II, who once said, "To receive Jesus Christ means believing that in the history of humanity, even though it is marked by evil and suffering, the final word belongs to life, and to love, because God came to dwell among us, so we might dwell in Him."

So in these days of Advent, let us not forget that, as we read in Saint John's Gospel, "The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Our lives will never be the same. But neither will we have to face a single day without the strength and peace that only Christ can give to us. In that strength and in that peace I am very much united with you today.

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore