Thursday, June 21, 2012

There is a vast difference between saying prayers and praying

“My secret is very simple: I pray.” – Mother Teresa

(Gospel Text Mt 6:7-15)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This is how you are to pray:
 "Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil."

"If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

Today is the memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a young Jesuit who never made it to ordination, due to poor health.  His spirit was bold, generous, and willing to undertake the rigor of Religious formation, but the body was too weak to support it.

As such, he is the patron saint of young students, and bubonic plague victims (with whom he worked during most of his last days).

What is compelling about his story, I believe, is that he died young.  He was 23.  According to legend, he had visions of his death well beforehand, so he knew the exact date of his death.

What would we do if we knew the exact dates of our own deaths?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us to pray the Our Father.  That’s where we learn what is permanent, in what we should spend our time and our attention.   If we knew the exact dates of our deaths, perhaps this prayer would be all we would really need in the end.

Thy Kingdom come”:  We know where we are now.  Where are we going from here?

Thy will be done”:  Isn’t this part of the prayer perfect in helping us as we contemplate our mortality?

Give us this day our daily bread”:  What REALLY nourishes us?  How can we steep ourselves in it during our remaining time?

As we forgive those who trespass against us”:  Forgiveness.  True forgiveness, from the heart.  I’ve never heard of someone regretting time spent praying for and working for forgiveness of another.  Never.

Praying the Our Father:  Not a “heavenly rewards” plan.  Just a good way to live our last days.

(And whom, except perhaps for St. Aloysius Gonzaga, knows exactly when those last days are?)

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