Monday, Week Twenty-Four
The Responsorial (Psalm 28) exclaims: “Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.” For whom do
In 1Timothy 2:1-8 Paul urges “that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for every person, especially for kings [say ‘presidents’] and those in authority.” We do this at Mass.
During the Eucharistic Prayer, after the Institution Narrative (“Consecration”) there are a series of Intercessions, beginning with a prayer for “N. our Pope and N. our Bishop and all the clergy.” We pray especially for them because during this part of the Mass we are focused on unity, and “those in authority” are charged to maintain it. We pray for civil authorities—the ones Paul had in mind—during the Prayer of the Faithful (“General Intercessions,” “Universal Prayer,” or “Bidding Prayers”) after the Profession of Faith.
The point is, Paul wants us to pray for every person, and this is because God “wants all humans to be saved and come to know the truth.” The “kings and those in authority” in his day were mostly Roman or Greek “pagans.” And, depending on who is in office, we may not think ours are much better! But God wants them all “to be saved and come to know the truth.” And he wants us to pray for this. Consciously. Fervently. From the heart. And with love!
Paul says, “Prayer of this kind is good, and God our Savior is pleased with it.” But we can’t pray for presidents or politicians every Sunday with love -- and then badmouth them the rest of the week! God is not pleased with that!
Luke 7:1-10 is all about a “pagan” officer, a Roman centurion, about whom Jesus says, “I have never found so much faith among the Israelites!” (“Pagan” is a pejorative word. Let us use it no more!). The words of this one have been incorporated into the Mass, and every Christian recalls and paraphrases them together with the presider before Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Quoting this non-Christian Roman military officer should make us conscious that in Communion we are not separating ourselves from nonbelievers as if we were some kind of social elite, but rather uniting ourselves to Christ in whom we hope to be united finally with every man and woman on earth at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” Meanwhile we learn from all.
No one is “worthy” to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We do so humbly, as invited sinners, conscious that in doing so we pledge ourselves to try to bring every person we can into the fullness of salvation and full knowledge of the truth. Conscious also that, even while others “worship what they do not know,” Jesus may be saying of them, “I have never found so much faith among Christians!” The blessing of faith makes us feel grateful, not superior (see John 4:22).
Action: Pray with respect for all and respect all you pray for.