The Second Sunday after Epiphany—20 January AD 2019 Ave Maria!

January 20, 2019

 

 

On Prayer


The scriptures read at Mass today tell us something about how we ought to pray—particularly our prayer of petition. You know, of course, that there are four different kinds of prayer:

There is Prayer of Adoration, in which we speak of God's greatness and goodness, and tell Him that we love Him.

There is Prayer of Thanksgiving, in which we thank God for all the good things He has given us, and will give us in heaven; and for the ability to bear up under the evils which me may encounter in this world.

There is Prayer of Reparation, in which we plead with God for the forgiveness of our sins and for the forgiveness of those who will not pray for themselves; and for the remission of the punishment that is due to sin even after it has been forgiven.

Finally, there is Prayer of Petition, in which we ask God for the things that are necessary for us in the world, and for the graces necessary to win eternal life. It is this prayer of petition that comes to mind in today's readings.

Saint Paul begins by telling us how we are to behave with one another.[1] It would be foolish to think that God will reward our petitions if we are unreasonable with the people around us—with those whom He loves as much as He loves us. So Paul begins by telling us that we are to make use of the talents we have for the common good. And then he goes on to say that we are to “love one another with fraternal charity.” He is saying that there ought to be a positive bond of affection between us as Christians, for we are united (or should be!) in our common love of God. (A few verses earlier he explained that we are members of each other in the Mystical Body of Christ.[2] And since we are all united in this love of God, we must all look out for one another.

That doesn't mean that we have to be "busy-bodies," sticking our noses into everyone else's affairs. But it does mean a mutual concern, and attempt to anticipate each other’s needs; whether those needs be spiritual or material. Certainly, we can all pray for one another—and should—even without actually knowing each other’s' specific needs.

Very often in the scriptures our Lord reinforces this idea, that we will be rewarded in proportion to the good we do for others; that we will be forgiven our sins in proportion to the forgiveness we have for those who offend us. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”[3]

And certainly, if we are looking out for each other’s' well-being, God may make use of that to answer our prayers. He may send me to help you in your need; He may send you to help me in mine.

This morning's Gospel adds a complementary idea to what Saint Paul is telling us. First of all, it demonstrates the powerful ability of the Blessed Virgin Mary to win favors for those whom she loves. At first it seems that our Lord isn't going to do anything about the wine shortage; they've probably been partying too long anyway, and He hadn't planned on working any miracles until He got His public life underway: “My hour has not yet come.”

What is instructive here is that Mary doesn't even argue with Him. She doesn't start using any of the various techniques that mothers have for getting their sons to do things: no guilt trip, no “pretty please,” no “shame on you,” or any of that sort of thing. She simply assumes that He will do what she wants, and starts giving directions to the waiters to do what He says. She knows that He will not let her down in her need to help those who need her help.

But this Gospel also demonstrates a second thing. Notice that her friends, the bridal couple, didn't even have to ask for her help, or suggest a specific thing that they needed. Because, for those that are Mary's friends, it is enough to be in need—and she will notice. And having noticed, she will put the need in her Son's hands, and will get results.

That really is a better way to pray, anyway. It is surely a lot better than telling God how He ought to run the universe, and what He should do for us. That is a pride-filled attitude, and one that God often disdains. On the other hand if we simply ask Mary to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” we know that she will obtain only those things that are truly good for us, and for our eternal salvation.

Now, I suspect that we will always go and itemize our needs when we pray—that's human nature—but, at least if we refrain from telling Mary and Jesus what they should do, we will be rewarded with the best possible outcome for our prayers.

Just think about what the Gospel said. When Mary insisted that her Son see to the needs of her friends, He didn't solve the problem by just putting a suggestion in the guests' heads that maybe they were tired anyway and it was time for the party to be over. No, instead He made wine from water so that all could rejoice through Mary's generosity.

And the wine wasn't just good—the wine was the best!




NOTES:
[1] Epistle: Romans 12:vi-xii http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drl&bk=52&ch=12&l=6-#x

[2] Romans 12:i-v http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drl&bk=52&ch=12&l=2-#x

[3] Matthew 6:xii http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=47&ch=6&l=12#x 

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