St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Prayer, Battle with God                                                        -Homily November 10, 2013

 

 

Dear friends,

Prayer is a relationship with God in which God always has the first initiative. This makes us realize that the Mass is also a drama between us and God. Every Sunday God calls us to Mass: sometimes it is the bell that calls us with the voice of God; other times it is his word calling us “Keep holy the Lord’s day.” And we answer: we are here. “Here I am, Lord, I came to do your will.” “Speak, Lord, your servant hears.”

Then, the Mass continues with the readings. In the first reading, God speaks to us. In the responsorial psalm we answer. In the second reading and the Gospel God keeps on speaking to us. We answer with our willingness to practice what we have heard, and most of all with our profession of faith. We answer him “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” “We believe in you.” We say the creed, we say our petitions to him.

In the last part of the Mass, God gives us not his word, but his own self, his body and his blood. He speaks with actions, he dies for us on the cross, upon the altar, and he offers himself for us. Our answer is “Amen, I welcome you in my life, I want to do your will, I want to give myself to you.” The Mass is a drama between God’s offering and our personal answer.

 

The readings of today invite me to continue our reflections on prayer. We are looking at the different models of prayer in the Old Testament. We have seen Abraham last week, let us see today Jacob and Moses.

 

Jacob: “Before confronting his elder brother Esau, Jacob fights all night with a mysterious figure who refuses to reveal his name, but who blesses him before leaving him at dawn. From this account, the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance (cf. Gen 32:24-30). (2573) Jacob spent the whole night in battle with God. Prayer is sometimes a battle. God wants us to persevere like Jacob, and not to stop asking because we don’t soon get what we need.

 

Moses: God calls Moses to be his servant. A vocation can also be understood as prayer, because prayer is not only to speak to God, but also to hear his voice. A vocation is God speaking to our heart. Let’s hear what the Catechism says about the prayer of Moses: “God reveals himself in order to save [his people], though he does not do this alone or against their will: he calls Moses to be his messenger, an associate in his compassion, his work of salvation. There is something of a divine plea in this mission, and only after long debate does Moses attune his own will to that of the Savior God. But in the dialogue in which God confides in him, Moses also learns how to pray: he refuses, makes excuses, above all he questions: and it is in response to his question that the Lord confides his ineffable name, which will be revealed through his mighty deeds" (2575).

 

“Moses "is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly, not in figures," for "Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth." (cf. Num 12:3,7-8)” (2576). Here we can see how in order to pray well we need to be humble. Humility is the basis of prayer. God cannot enter a heart that is full of self. He needs an empty space, a humble heart. It is the humility of faith that accepts the word of God as it is. It is the humility of obedience that accepts that God can command me because he is my Father.

 

Another aspect in the prayer of Moses: there is a sweet intimacy in prayer. The humble heart that welcomes God enjoys his presence in a particular way. But this encounter is not selfish or sterile: “From this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession. He does not pray for himself, but for the people whom God made his own…” Moses is led by his experience of God to intercede for his people.

 

Intercession is a mysterious battle with God, in which we fight with God to obtain what we want for our neighbour. Think of yourselves asking the Lord for your children. Moses teaches us how to fight with God: “The arguments of his prayer […] will inspire the boldness of the great intercessors among the Jewish people and in the Church: God is love; he is therefore righteous and faithful; he cannot contradict himself; he must remember his marvelous deeds, since his glory is at stake, and he cannot forsake this people that bears his name. (cf. Ex. 32:1- 34:9)” (2577) Our prayer could be: You love him, Lord: take care of him. You died for her on a cross, Lord: bring her back home. Lord, I am a Christian and I am doing wrong: help me to change! What will people think about you if I give such a bad witness to you? If you help me to change, more people will love you. Etc.

 

Prayer: not only words, but conversion of heart, like in Zacchaeus. Prayer: Not mainly words, but obedience and faith, like in Abraham. Not an egoistic encounter with our “own God," but an attunement with the will of God, who wants the salvation and love of our neighbour. Like in Jacob, prayer is perseverance. Like in Moses, prayer is to listen to the voice of the Lord, and try to answer the best we can. Prayer is humility, prayer is sweet intimacy, and prayer is intercession, like a battle with God, the battle of love.

 

What a beautiful thing must prayer be! Is it not beautiful to know that God enjoys the time we spend with him; that God wants our love, that God can speak to our heart, if we try to listen? May we never be indifferent to the love of God who calls us first. May God give us the gift of prayer.  –Fr. Andrew