Pray for One Another
Monday, August 28, 2023
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for Monday, 21st Week of Ordinary Time: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings LECTIONARY no. 425 (1Thes 1: 1-5, 8b- 10; Ps 149: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9; Mt 23: 13-22)
August 28 is the feast of Saint Augustine, who was born in North Africa in 354 A.D., the son of a pagan father, Patricius, and a Christian mother, Monica, whose prayers are believed to have won his conversion to Christianity at the age of 33. Three years later he was ordained a priest, and five years after that, at the age of 41, he became bishop of Hippo.
St. Augustine is always portrayed as having been a wild sinner before his conversion, but that is a misleading description. He was a sinner, as he himself makes clear in his autobiographical Confessions, but he was not just a playboy. He had a mistress and a son outside of marriage (whom he named Adeodatus, "Given-by-God"), but he was always intense searcher after truth. His philosophical studies led him to accept Manichaeism, which solves the problem of evil by positing two eternal first principles: God, the cause of all good, and matter, the cause of all evil. He began to be disillusioned with this when he met the leader of the sect, and later became attracted to Christianity through the preaching of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. The moment of his conversion came after a conversation with an African visitor who began talking about St. Anthony of the desert, and about two men who had turned to holiness of life by reading about him.
Augustine became filled with disgust at his own weak and sensual life, and prayed despairingly to God for help. His prayer was heard. He spent the rest of his life teaching and defending the truth of Christianity against all sorts of errors, and has been declared a Father and Doctor of the Church. During the ravages of the Vandals in Africa he argued that defensive war was justified under certain conditions, but one of the three rules he made for himself as bishop was never to persuade anyone to be a soldier. He did not accept the death penalty for even individual killing in self-defense.
Here is the reflection for today's readings at Mass:
We all have various things on our mind when we come to Mass. Various feelings about being there. Various feelings about the people we are going to be with. The Responsorial(Psalm 149) recommends God’s attitude: “The Lord takes delight in his people.” In 1Thessalonians 1:1-10 Paul gives a guideline to every community that assembles for Eucharist: We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Does seeing the community assembled for Mass fill you with joy? Do you feel thankful for each one? Glad to be there with them? If so, why? If not, why not? Ask the same questions about the last wedding you went to. Did the bride and groom, and all the young people look full of life? Full of faith in themselves and one another? Full of promise? Were the older people all looking on them with love? Were you? Did it make you feel hope for the human race? Paul mentions “faith,” “hope,” and “love” in the Thessalonians assembled for Eucharist. They made him thankful and glad. Doesn’t what you feel at a wedding involve faith, hope and love, even if only on a natural level? Do you, or more importantly, can you find joy in seeing your own faith, hope and love reflected in the community at Mass? Paul said, “We constantly remember you in our prayers.” At home, do you pray for all the people in your parish? At Mass, are you alert when the Eucharistic Prayer passes into the Intercessions after we ask the Holy Spirit in the second Epiclesis to unite us as Church? Do you join in consciously? Pray for all with love? The presider leads by vocalizing the prayer — the desires called forth in each one’s heart — saying, “Lord, remember your Church throughout the world... those for whom we offer this sacrifice.... Hear the prayers of the family you have gathered here before you....” We pray for the priests and bishops, for the living and dead, for those we know as Christians and “all who seek God with a sincere heart... whose faith is known to God alone.” This builds unity. It is important to do this, and important to do it consciously. It is a law of human psychology that “what we do not praise we will not appreciate.” And what we do praise, we will appreciate. It may or may not be true that we do not love those we do not pray for, but it is certainly true that we do or will begin to love those we do pray for. The Intercessions are an important moment in the Mass. They help to unite us in love with one another and all the world. In Matthew 23:13-22 Jesus blasts the “scribes and Pharisees” — the only people toward whom the Gospel writers say Jesus ever showed “anger.” He excoriates them because they focus on everything in church but God and people. They don’t love. They wouldn’t “fit” in Eucharist![i]
Initiative: Be focused during the Intercessions. Pray consciously for each group.
[i] See Mark 3:5.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry