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  • Father David M. Knight

Father David's Reflection for Monday of Week Thirteen (Ordinary Time)

The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 103) gives us the belief that motivates all Christian prayer: “The Lord is

and merciful.”

Genesis 18: 16-33 shows us Abraham “bargaining” with God to save the sinful city of Sodom from destruction. In the story Abraham appears to be more kind and merciful than God. And when we pray for others, don’t we sometimes wonder why we need to “talk God into” helping them, since God loves them more than we do and knows better than we what they need?

The answer to this involves a very basic and important principle, which is that God does not want to save the human race by himself. He wants to give humans a part. The fact that we can cooperate with God in the work of our own salvation saves our dignity and saves God’s reputation as Creator. It shows that the human nature he made is not totally useless and incapable of good, even after sin. And one way we cooperate is by praying for each other. Then, when God answers us, the gift he gives comes not just from him but from us as well. The recipient is receiving love from us as well as from God, which helps us all grow together in love. As we discover that “the Lord is kind and merciful” we learn that we can be too!

In Matthew 8: 18-22, however, Jesus teaches us that to work with him for the salvation of the world we have to do more than pray. We have to dedicate ourselves. Although we don’t have to be perfect to begin with, we do need to have the intention of growing into greater and greater dedication until we arrive at the “perfection of love.”

When a scribe approaches Jesus and says, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus warns him he must be willing to give up the security of having a place to sleep. To another he makes clear that serving him takes precedence over social obligations, even to family. Jesus’ prayer was heard because he prayed from the cross.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. [1]

The Mass is the greatest prayer because during the Eucharistic Prayer we join ourselves to Christ’s self-expression on the cross, desiring and choosing to make his words and gestures the expression of our own pledged love.

We are best heard when we pray from a condition of total dedication, total self-sacrifice in love. That is why prayer is so often joined to penance. Penance puts our bodies where our mouths are.

Is this “buying grace”? No, the key is self-expression: “When we pay as we pray we assay what we say.” Penance lets us realize how much we want what we pray for, and how much we believe the Lord is kind and merciful. It makes prayer a “real-symbolic” expression of faith: words that carry an investment of something real, something of value to back them up. The greatest investment is the total gift of ourselves.

Initiative: Be a priest. Give your flesh with Christ for the life of the world.

[1] See Hebrews 5:7.

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