27 February 2010


Lent Su Wk 2 Yr C

Recently I stumbled across an interesting perspective on St Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain and it is simply this: what time of day did it occur? Was it, as I have long suspected, daytime or was it, in fact, night-time? To some extent the evidence is not compelling and I don’t propose, here, to go into all the details, but it does serve as a gentle reminder that we do well to ponder and contemplate the Word of God. To paraphrase: The Word of God is for Life, not just for Christmas.

Such contemplation is, of course, prayer. During this season of Lent (it’s obviously not Christmas now) we are asked not only to fast and to give alms (which we are hopefully all about to do for the CAFOD Family Fast Day) but we are also asked to pray. This might be simply popping into church to light a candle every now and then during the weeks before Easter. It might be following the Walk With Me booklet and its excellent daily prayer reflection. It might just be saying ‘thank you’ to God from time to time. To some extent, it just matters that you ensure you raise your heart and mind to God.

Jesus teaches us to pray, not only by the greatest of all prayers, the Our Father, but also and importantly through his example. Notice again, whether it be night of daytime, at the start of the Transfiguration Jesus is found to be taking his three faithful disciples, Peter and John and James, up the mountain to pray and it is as he prayed that he is changed. Prayer, without doubt, will change our lives too. If only we believe it. Prayer is so central to who we are and what we are about. “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing” is how Martin Luther King put it. Prayer takes us away from ourselves and puts us into the realm of the other. In a world which incessantly tells us that we are the most important person in our lives, prayer reminds us that this is simply not true.

Think, for a moment, about listening to the news: when you heard of the awful tragedy of 9/11; Darfur in 2004; the tsunami of the same year and, just recently, the earthquakes in Haiti and now Chile. Was it yourself you thought about? Or was it for the victims of the tragedy? Did you not reach out, spiritually at least, and ask God to be present in the mess of life? Such is the power of the simple expression: “I’ll pray for you” that you can find yourself dismissed from work, ostracised by the people you know and left wondering why you bother and yet bother we must.

Ghandi once said: “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” This is often our prayer in the face of adversity. We do not know how to pray and yet we turn with confidence to our merciful Father who consoles us with the truth of his Son. God just wants us to pray in whatever way we can.

As a priest I daily meet people who ask for my prayers. People do believe in the power of prayer, they are living examples of the efficacy of prayer. I know prayer works, and yet I struggle. I struggle to make time for prayer, I struggle to know how to pray and I even struggle to know what to pray about first and so my prayer, this day, is simply this: Lord, help me to pray. Help me, whether it be night or day, to look upon your face and see the wonder of your glory. Lord, just help me to pray.

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