Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Homily: 17th Sunday of the Year

“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”

1. “Lord, teach us to pray.” This phrase, which has been uttered by Christians through the ages, resonates within every person who seeks to follow Christ. Within each of us dwells a desire to be able to pray as the saints have prayed; with fervor, with great love, and with a burning passion that surpasses no other passion known to man. And the good news is that this kind of prayer is available to each and every one of us. This kind of prayer, this deep and passionate prayer, is not just for monks and nuns, it is for married people, for single people, for men and women, for children and adults, for rich and poor, for teenagers and the elderly…it is for everyone without exception.

2. My brothers and sisters, the world is in dire need of men and women set on fire; for it is only men and women set on fire with love for Christ, men and women living saintly, prayerful and virtuous lives who can transform our sinful world into a place of peace and holiness. As Fr. Thomas Dubay, a noted expert on prayer has said “As the experience of centuries attests, true transformations in the world and in the Church continue to come about only through the interventions of men and women on fire – that is, through saints. The evidence is overwhelming.”

3. Even in our own time the evidence piles up. I don’t think you would disagree with me when I say that world we live in has been and is continuing to be transformed by the lives of such people as Pope John Paul the Great and Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Two people, who against all odds, set the world on fire with love for Christ and His Church; two people who were and still are blazing bonfires giving light to those around them in the midst of a world darkened by sin. And, my brothers and sisters, each of us, no matter who we might be, are called to become bright lights, blazing furnaces of love for Christ, men and women who will bring the transforming light of Christ to the world.

4. Yet, if we are honest, we may find that we are a bit doubtful as to whether we can really be set ablaze with the fire and passion of the saints. Even though we can believe in our minds, agreeing in theory that we are called to a life of holiness, we fail to believe it in our hearts. And even more, some of us might be reluctant to take the path that leads to holiness because of the changes that we would have to make in our own lives. But today, my people, Jesus is calling us to move forward, to trust Him enough to abandon ourselves into His loving embrace knowing that He will lead us and give us the strength to transform ourselves into the blazing fire that we are called to be.

5. If we, my friends, want to be set of fire with love for Christ, if we want to set the world on fire, then we must ask the question ‘Lord, teach us to pray.” For it is only prayer that will set us on fire with passionate love for Christ.

6. So, how is the Lord teaching us to pray? When he was asked by His disciples to teach them to pray He responded by teaching them the Lord’s Prayer, but He didn’t stop there. He continues, even today, to teach us how to pray. He does this primarily through the Church, who throughout the centuries has continued to teach us how to pray in the name and with the authority of Christ Himself.

7. One of the best ways that we can spend time in prayer is by making visits to the Blessed Sacrament. To come here, to the Church, to adore Christ, who day and night dwells in our tabernacles. St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests said that ‘I fall before the tabernacle like a dog before it’s master.” Why? Because dwelling within the tabernacle is the God Man, Jesus Christ. Dwelling here, veiled in mystery is Christ Himself, waiting to set us on fire with His love.

8. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, whom many of us know from watching his Emmy winning television show Life is Worth Living, was a man who knew how spending time before the Blessed Sacrament could set us on fire. For Archbishop Sheen, his daily hour of prayer before the tabernacle was like “an oxygen tank that revived the breath of the Holy Spirit.” In explaining why this form of prayer is so important he said “We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset the face takes on a golden glow. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord….transforms the heart in a mysterious way.” In another place he said “Sitting before the Presence [of Christ] is like a body exposing itself to the sun to absorb its rays.” Archbishop Sheen believed in the importance of daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament that he himself, from the day he was ordained never missed his daily holy hour, even until the day he died.

9. My brothers and sisters, we must pray. We must allow the fire of Christ Himself to transform us, to set us on fire so that we might set the entire world on fire with Love for Christ beginning right here at St. Rose of Lima in Garretson. For then, and only then, will the world find true peace and joy. It is only then that we will find the fervor, the great love, and burning passion which characterized the saints. It is only then, that we can truly become the saints God is calling us to be.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us. Amen.

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