Pray Constantly

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According to the words of St. Alphonsus, one of the great doctors of the Church, prayer is the great means of salvation. He even wrote, “He who prays is certainly saved; he who does not pray is certainly damned. All the saints in heaven, except infants, were saved because they prayed; and all the damned in hell were damned because they did not pray, and this is their greatest torment to see how easily they could have been saved, had they prayed, and that now the time for prayer is over.”

Elsewhere Saint Alphonsus tells us the reason for this: without prayer, all our good resolutions will vanish into smoke, because we will not receive the grace we need to keep them. We know well enough what we should do; we even want to do it; but unless God helps us, when the occasion arises, we do not do it.

Saint Paul himself was conscious of this contradiction: “The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom. 7,19). Only through God’s grace, we are enabled to overcome the power of sin, and grace is given to prayer.

Prayer can rightly be compared to breathing. Breathing is made up of a twofold movement: expiration and inspiration, breathing out and drawing in. The same with prayer: from the heart goes out praise and thanksgiving to God, and in return man draws in forgiveness and grace.

Breathing is the condition of life; as long as there is a breath, there is life, but the moment breathing stops, death is certain, unless somebody is able to restore respiration. It is the same with prayer: as long as one prays, even if he is the greatest sinner, there is still some life in his soul and there is hope that he may recover. But when one has given up prayer, the only hope left for him is that through the prayers of others he may be brought back to prayer. And as risky as it is to count on artificial respiration to bring somebody back to life, it is equally risky to count on the prayers of others to be saved.

From this we understand why Jesus insisted “about the need to pray continually and never lose heart” (Lk. 18, 1); why he warned the Apostles in the garden to stay awake and to pray so as not to give in to temptation, because “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mk. 14,38).

The Apostles did not forget the lesson. The first thing they did after the Ascension was to gather in the upper room, where they were staying, and all together they “joined in continuous prayer” (Acts 1, 14). We see in the Acts how they remained faithful to prayer either in common or as individuals, before an election or an ordination, in time of persecution, before working a miracle, in prison, etc. In their writings, they exhort their disciples to do the same. Saint Paul, who so often assures his correspondents of his prayers for them and asks for theirs, reminds them also that they must be persevering in prayer (Col. 4,2), pray for all they need (Phil. 4,6), and “pray all the time” (Eph. 6,18). Peter (I Pet. 4,7) and John (I Jo. 5,14-16), James (1, 5-6; 5,13; 16-18), Jude (20), and the author of the letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 13,18) do the same.

Yet, great as it may be, our need to pray it is not the first reason why we must pray. The fundamental reason is that we owe it to God, a duty to thank and to praise him. This is why Jesus taught us to ask for God’s glory before asking ourselves, and even then, to ask what we need to fulfill this duty. Ours is a passing need and therefore we ask only for this day, the present life, while praising and thanking God remain our duty forever and will be our eternal occupation in heaven.

Even if prayer is a duty, it does not mean one should pray just because one has to. To be true, praise and thanksgiving must come from the heart; on the lips, alone they would be lies and it impossible to lie to God. Gratefulness and admiration spring from love and there is no love unless it is free. Yet we have a duty to love God; it is the first commandment and that love must be free.

How would it be possible not to be obliged to be grateful to God and at the same time not to love him for his goodness to us? All that we are all that we have, he has given us, and in addition, he wants to give us all that he has. Not only does he take constant care of us, but also he has adopted us for his children when to be accepted as servants in his heavenly palace would have been undreamed of honor. How heartless would we be, were we never to thank him. We should consider it a most elementary duty to say “thank you,” even for an insignificant gift or a passing kindness. Is it not a duty to recognize and honor excellence, and do we not admire it when we meet with it? When this excellence is an excelling goodness, how could we not live it? Excelling all excellent goodness is the infinite goodness of God, who gives to all most abundantly, not because he must or for the sake of gain, but out of pure generosity, because he is good, so infinitely good that he even gives to those who have offend him. Even when he asks us to love him in return, it is for our own good, so that loving as he loves, we may be happy as he is, since he is infinite happiness because he is infinite love.

Moreover, he rewards us when we give him the love we owe him. Did ever a man reward anybody for paying his debts? He might perhaps grant a discount, but surely not repay a thousand fold over what he received.

If prayer is a duty as loving God is a duty, then how foolish it is to say, “I pray or I go to Mass when I feel like it.” Would you dare say: “I’ll love God, when I feel like it?” Would you dare tell your boss: “I’ll work when I feel like it?” Better, not try it, not even once! A duty binds, whether we like it or not. However, if such were your disposition then all the greater would be the need for you to pray and to ask God to open your eyes on your spiritual misery.

Because we all fall so short in giving God the praise and thanksgiving, he deserves, and because we cannot even hope ever to praise and thank him enough, we all need to ask with the Apostles: Lord, teach us how to pray.e52ba72bd99102208b63e3455a828d7c

Paul@thecatholicword.com

The Adventure

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Esther 4:13-17

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Esther Plans to Intercede

15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him.

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The Adventure

When I was about seven, I was in the car with my mom and my brother when my mom pulled over to the side of the road to study the map. “Are we lost, Mom?” I was worried.

“Oh, no,” she replied cheerfully, quickly folding up the map. “We’re on an adventure.” My brother and I exchanged doubtful glances as he whispered knowingly, “We’re lost.”

Adventures can be fun—and scary. They usually involve a bit of the unknown. As we walk in fellowship with God, it is likely that our lives will have many adventures—opportunities to serve Him. If we are reluctant or scared and we turn down an opportunity, we miss out. Will God still get the job done? Of course, but someone else will receive the blessing.

In Esther 4, Mordecai encouraged the young Queen Esther to help rescue her people. He cautioned: “If you remain completely silent….deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (v.14).

Esther was naturally frightened to take this assignment, but God used her courage and faith to deliver her people. Trust God to show you the way. Adventure ahead!

 

For life’s adventure, Lord I ask

Courage and faith for every task;

A heart kept clean by high desire,

A conscience purged by holy fire.

                                                                                                                                                                            Courage is fear that has said its prayers

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Good Friday Meditation

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Weeks of the year come and go, shortening to days as the years mount, till they move so rapidly they become trains rushing by each other in a continuing blur, trains peopled with Jesus memories.

It must have been so with Christ, as even the days became hours running out of minutes during the week that began on a donkey, seemed to all the world to have ended on a cross, and started all over again in a garden.

Everything chaotic now, minutes tumbling over one another, time racing onward and backward simultaneously, splintered by shrieks and giggles and lashes and thorns and questions that don’t make sense because the answers are already known, or feared, or twisted into a sentence of death…better that one man should die for the people.

Jesus Do some tricks for me, make me some miracles. What is truth, are you a king, where are your armies? Better that one man die for the people. He makes Himself out to be the Son of God. Better that one man die for the people. Tear your garments, tear His flesh, hosanna to the Son of David, crucify Him and give us Barabbas. Let me wash my hands. It is better that one man die for the people.

My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? O Lord Jesus, is that the way it was with You? Did you get all mixed up and ask Yourself how it had all happened – where had all the flowers gone and the people who thought You were so wonderful? Did the pain shoot way past Your head and Your hands and Your feet; deep, deep, deep into Your soul, so that you could no longer feel the touch of Your Father’s love in the numbness of it? Did the blood run into the eyes of Your heart so that You could no longer see the wonder of His glory in You?

Is that why You know our pain so well, our suffering, our loneliness and desolation, and how we get all mixed up about life? Is that why You understand how our faith falters and we’re not always sure of what we believe or why, and how much it hurts to be misunderstood or ridiculed or slandered or deserted or divorced or unwillingly pregnant or emptied by an abortion? Is that why we can lay on You the insecurity of our dwindling years, the confusion of our adolescence, the broken dreams of our middle age?

Is that what Your having become a human being is all about?

Thank You Jesus

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The Path of Dispossession

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When I get up and read my email, sometimes there is something there that sets the mode for the day. gets me thinking in the right direction for the whole day. I get so many daily reflections that after awhile they tend to merge together, but……….. this one from Father Robert Barren stuck out this morning and is worth sharing. Please enjoy.

 

The Path of Dispossession

They are some of the harshest, most shocking words that Jesus speaks in the Gospels: “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” 

Why do these words sound so counter-intuitive? Because ever since we were children, the culture has drilled the reverse into us. You’re not happy because you don’t have all the things you want to have. You will be happy only when you have so much money, or so big a house, or so much respect. You might not be happy now, but some day you might be if you acquire the right things

And what follows from this? Life becomes a constant quest to get, to attain possessions. Remember the foolish rich man from Jesus’ parable, the one who filled his barns with all his possessions. Because he had no more room, he decided to tear his barns down and build bigger ones. Jesus calls him a fool because–and I want you to repeat this to yourself as you read it–you have everything you need right now, right in front of you, to be happy.                                                       

I know it’s completely counter-intuitive. We say, “No, that’s not right at all; I’m very unhappy, but I’m trying to become happy, and I know I will be a lot happier when I get (fill in the blank).” But I want you to repeat this in your mind: “If I say, ‘I’ll be happy when,’ I won’t be happy when.” 

What makes us truly happy? Forgetting our ego and its needs and desires, opening our eyes, minds, and hearts, and letting reality in. What makes us happy is always right in front of us, because what makes us happy is love, willing the good of the other. 

Next time you’re unhappy, here’s what you do: you love. When you’re feeling miserable, write a note to someone who is lonely; make cookies for your kids; visit the nursing home; donate some money to a charity; sign up to help with an after-school program; say a prayer for someone who’s in trouble. 

Love is not a feeling. It’s an act of the will, and it’s a great act of dispossession. This is the wonderfully liberating path of holiness that Jesus wants us to walk. He wants joy for us. But the path to joy is the path of detaching ourselves from getting and acquiring. 

-Father Robert Barren-                                                                        Image

The Window

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The WindowTwo men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour a day to drain the fluids from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and   families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed next to the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed would live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the outside world. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake, the man had said. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amid flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by.  Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Unexpectedly, an alien thought entered his head: Why should he have all the pleasure of seeing everything while I never get to see anything? It didn’t seem fair. As the thought fermented, the man felt ashamed at first. But as the days passed and he missed seeing more sights, his envy eroded into resentment and soon turned him sour. He   began to brood and found himself unable to sleep. He should be by that window – and that thought now controlled his life.

Late one night, as he lay staring at the ceiling, the man by the window began to cough. He was choking on the fluid in his lungs. The other man   watched in the dimly lit room as the struggling man by the window groped for the button to call for help. Listening from across the room, he never moved, never pushed his own button, which would have brought the nurse running. In less than five minutes, the coughing and choking stopped, along with the sound of breathing. Now, there was only silence–deathly silence.

The following morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths. When she found the lifeless body of the man by the window, she was saddened and called the hospital attendant to take it away–no words, no fuss. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his   first look. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it all himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 ?????????????????????????????????

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

James 4:1-10

The pursuit of happiness is a matter of choice…it is a positive attitude we consciously choose to express. It is not a gift that gets delivered to our doorstep each morning, nor does it come through the window. And I am certain that our circumstances are just a small part of what makes us joyful. If we wait for them to get just right, we will never find lasting joy.

The pursuit of happiness is an inward journey. Our minds are like   programs, awaiting the code that will determine behaviors; like bank vaults awaiting our deposits. If we regularly deposit positive, encouraging, and uplifting thoughts, if we continue to bite our lips just before we begin to grumble and complain, if we shoot down that seemingly harmless negative thought as it germinates, we will find that there is much to rejoice about.

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If anyone keeps my word, he will never experience death

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Today’s Gospel was very inspiring to me. Not only did it remind me of just how easy it is to love the Lord, but, It was as plain as the nose on my face. Even as a Catholic, I would be lying if I honestly say I don’t fear dying. While it is true, I can’t wait to be with the Lord, I still think everyone is afraid, even just a little.

John 8: 51-59

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Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but you say: ‘Whoever keeps my word will never experience death.’ Who do you claim to be? Do you claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.” Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise myself, it would count for nothing. But he who gives glory to me is the Father, the very one you claim as your God, although you don’t know him. I know him and if I were to say that I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I know him and I keep his word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.” The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

Consider This….

Death may be inevitable to all but in the Gospel today Jesus says that for those who keep his word they will not experience death. How is this possible when in truth no one escapes death? The Jews could not understand him. What death is Jesus talking about? Is it possible to live forever? Actually, Jesus was not talking about physical death. He meant that a life lived in him will bring one to eternal life. Jesus’ word is life giving. This means that if we keep his word and live it, we bring out the “shine of Jesus” in us. Therefore, we are alive when others see more of “Jesus” and less of us. As we experience more of the life that Jesus has shown us, we will come closer to the life everlasting that all of us are hoping for. Sin, on the other hand, means death (cf. Romans 8:5-6)  because it opposes Jesus, the Light. It operates in the darkness of evil and does not give light.

Let us allow the Light of Jesus to give us life. Live Jesus because he is the Resurrection and the Life! Something to ponder about today: we are made to live a life in preparation for what is eternal and reserved for all those who love God and do His will.

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No complaints, please!

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ImageDo you ever find yourself complaining about abundance? Too much food, too many t-shirts, too many gadgets, too many events on the calendar! The grumbling of the ungrateful has a long biblical tradition. In the desert years, the Israelites complained about the “wretched food” they were forced to eat daily. It’s shocking to realize they were complaining about manna, once celebrated as “bread from heaven” and now consumed with contempt! If you’re tempted in the upcoming weeks to grumble about “so many extra liturgies in church,” take a minute to recall what these services are commemorating, and give thanks.

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