June 18, 2020 – Thursday 11th Week in OT – First day of Novena
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061820.cfm)
How do I pray? What are those that I usually ask from the Lord?
Others usually pray spontaneously asking what they want and desire for themselves and for their loved ones. Others also are more comfortable of using the memorized prayers as forms of meditation and deeper reflection of the mystery of God. We usually ask many things from the Lord. Others would even have a litany of requests and petitions. And as a form of asking God’s favor others would even observe number of days of prayer, like observing 9 days novena, or the 9 days Misa de Gallo during December, believing that God would grant ones desires and prayers.
Well, today we are starting the first day of our novena in preparation for the feast of our mother. I am sure all of us, devotees of our mother have countless petitions these days especially as we are now experiencing a very difficult time. People get sick of corona virus that has no vaccine yet. As a result, our movement has been limited to stay at home. People are having so much difficulty with the status of their jobs and businesses. Others get paranoid of getting sick and some have become anxious of what lies ahead and on what the coming months are offering us. We might have friends and family members too who have become desperate while waiting for their turn to come home as thousands of OFWs and migrant workers were left at the mercy of their Local Government. Thus, the environment itself that we have now has become gloomy and stressful.
Our theme for today’s novena really speaks of this recent experiences we have now, “OMPH: Source of Help for Families Fragmented for Various Reasons.” Even before this lockdowns and quarantines, we come and ask the help of Mary for our families suffering and being tried from various reasons. Hence, our own family might be wounded by broken relationships, by unfaithfulness and betrayal, poverty, sickness and death. Moreover, covid-19 joined and added to these current concerns we have and has made more difficulties in our families.
Thus, we, as devotees would always find comfort and recourse to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I have witnessed it myself recently also. The gate of our parish is left open at some certain time of the day to welcome people to pray in the Church. One afternoon as I was walking in the Church grounds, a woman caught my attention as she prayed before the Icon of Our Mother displayed at the entrance. She stayed there gazing at the icon long enough for me to notice her. Perhaps, she too has been carrying so many burdens and has ran to Mary to ask for help. For many of us, that has been our experience too.
As many concerns are brought into our prayers it would be good also to take a look in the way we do our prayer, of the intentions we make in our prayer and of the consciousness that we have in our prayer. This is something very important too because this will help us to evaluate our personal relationship with God and with others.
Now, in today’s Gospel Jesus reminds his disciples of the importance of prayer and also of the importance of the kind of consciousness in their prayer.
Jesus mentions about the way the pagans pray. These pagans love to use many words in their prayers because they believed that it was in that way that they would be able to get the attention of their gods and goddesses. They believed that these gods and goddesses were unforgiving, impulsive and frightening. These pagans babbled in their prayers in order to get the favor from these difficult and terrifying deities.
However, Jesus reminds his disciples that our God is not like that. God is not vengeful, not inconsistent or terrifying but rather God is loving and forgiving. Hence, to use many words would not be necessary because God knows the desires of our heart.
Moreover, as Jesus reminds his disciples, he also tells us now that our prayers are not meant to appease an angry and hateful god or to gain favor from a terrifying God. This also means that the content of our prayers should not be self-centered. To pray is not just to ask something for ourselves but also for others. That is why Jesus taught us his own prayer.
This prayer starts with these two words, OUR FATHER. It did not say My Father and not even Their Father. This tells us that when we pray we always remember others. We are always together as people. Our relationship with God though can be personal but it is also founded in our community. That is why it starts with “OUR” because this includes you and me and everyone else.
This prayer (Our Father/Lord’s Prayer) tells us that God is a Father. This means that God relates to us personally. God is not somewhere out there who is so far away from us but God is here with us. This means also that we are invited to seek God’s will and God’s desire not just our desire. Most of the time, when we pray we only think of what we want and desire but we forget to ask, what is it that you desire for me Lord?
It invites us also to become dependent to God because God is generous and faithful to us. To pray, give us this day our daily bread, means to be more focused of today, this day not tomorrow because tomorrow has not yet come. Indeed, we can be too anxious of what will happen tomorrow that it will prevent us to see what is more important today. Thus, Jesus invites us to be more contented of today and to ask sustenance enough for today also.
Notice also that in this prayer, it recognizes our sinfulness and need to be forgiven. It is necessary that we become humble and ask God’s mercy because this is the way that we make ourselves open to God’s grace. When we remain arrogant and unrepentant of our sins, then we prevent God to transform us and prevent others to come into our life.
And finally, we make ourselves aware that there is also the presence of the evil one around us. The evil one constantly tempts us to move away from God and to cut our relationship from the Lord. The evil will always try to allure us to think that it is better not to pray and that we do not need God. The evil will seduce us to think that we can do everything in our power without the help of God and that we do no need to think of others but ourselves alone.
In this seemingly hopeless situations, the evil one may tempt us also to believe that we are beyond hope, beyond salvation and beyond the grace of God. Thus, the evil one may bring us into a hopeless scenario to bury ourselves into self-doubt and guilt, into depression and death. Be careful then of these temptations.
So hopefully, being made aware of the consciousness behind the Lord’s Prayer, we too shall grow in our relationship with God and with one another, that we may become less self-centered and self-serving but to become self-sacrificing and life-giving as God desires us to be.
May our devotion then to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, bring us closer to the real source of our hope and help, to Jesus. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR