17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year

     Last month, Fr. Waldman, Fr. Sullivan and I participated in a stump the associate night at St. Margaret Mary. When you allow people to come and ask any question they want about the Catholic faith, you know you are opening Pandora’s Box. About halfway through the evening someone asked us what we thought was the greatest problem facing our Church. Our Church, while founded by Jesus Christ and protected by the Holy Spirit, is composed of sinful human beings and so She certainly has her fair share of scandals, but I think the biggest problem in our Church is indifference.

     Statistics show us that fewer and fewer people are practicing their faith every year. It’s not that people don’t believe in God anymore, but rather that our society has relegated Him to the sidelines of our lives. Sadly people just don’t seem to care about faith anymore, it seems that for many people in our society, it doesn’t matter if God exists or not. Our lives have become so busy we don’t have time for everything and so it becomes so easy to squeeze God out of our lives. Our actions speak louder than our words. How we live our lives shows whether we believe God has power in our lives, or if we have relegated Him to the sidelines of life.

     One of the best ways to judge where our relationship with God stands is to look at how we pray. After all it is prayer that acknowledges that we have a relationship with God.  Prayer is nothing more than communication with God. It is the act of a child speaking with his Heavenly Father and so the quality of our prayer relates to the value we place on our relationship with God. To not pray says to God I don’t need you, I don’t need your friendship or your love. In other words, to fail to pray says to God, “go back to the sidelines; I’ll call you back into the game when I need you.”

     Prayer is essential for a Christian; it “is the breath of the soul and of life.”[1] Genuine prayer puts us at God’s disposal. In fact “human life without prayer … lacks sense and direction.”[2] In last week’s homily I reflected briefly about how we are beings of communion, how we are created to be in relationship with God and one another. If we want to have a relationship with someone we must communicate with them. So if we want to remain in relationship with God, we must daily spend time speaking with Him.

     Friends, if we are honest with ourselves we should recognize that “no one is strong enough to travel the entire path of salvation unaided. All have sinned, all need the Lord’s mercy, the love of the crucified one.”[3] “In prayer we too should be able to lay before God our labor so, the suffering of a certain situation, of certain days, the daily commitment to following him, to being Christian, and also the weight of the evil that we see within ourselves and around us, so that he may give us hope and make us feel his closeness and give us a little light on the path of life.”[4]

     None of us are immune from regulating God to the sidelines of our lives. I don’t think we wake up and say we are not going to pray, but rather we wake up to busy lives and before we know it the day is over and we did not pray. If we want to make prayer a part of our day, we must schedule time for it, just like we do with every other important event in our lives. Perhaps it’s scheduling 10 minutes at the start of our day and 10 minutes right before we go to bed to pray. Perhaps we have to set an alarm on our phone to remind us. If we want to keep Christ at the center of our lives, we have to resolve to do whatever it takes to be sure we are spending time in prayer every single day. But it’s not enough to just schedule time for prayer in our day, we must schedule how we are going to use that time of prayer.

     The first rule of prayer is simply to pray as you can, not as you can’t. If you are not sure how to start praying why not simply talk to God about your day, thanking Him for all the good things that happened and asking for forgiveness for those times where you fell short? Why not open the Scriptures and spend 10 minutes prayerfully reading the word of God, or find a daily devotional that you find helpful? Perhaps its tuning the radio off on the car ride to work and praying the rosary. There are countless ways to pray, the challenge is to pick one and get started praying every day. If prayer is already a part of our daily lives, then perhaps today’s Gospel invites us to “expand the dimensions of prayer, to turn to God, not only in times of need and not only for ourselves, but also in an undivided, persevering, faithful way.”[5]

     None of us wants to regulate God to the sidelines of our lives, yet so often by our actions we do just that. The foundation of every relationship is communication, and it is no different in our relationship with God. What is your daily habit of prayer? Do you have one? What changes do you need to make in your life, so that you can allow God back to the center of your life?

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Prayer. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2013. Pg 192.

[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Prayer. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2013. Pg 12.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 151 – 152.

[4] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Prayer. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2013.

[5] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 179.

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