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Tuesday, First Week of Lent

March 7, 2006

Blessed Sts. Perpetua & Felicity Day! (look for their story in the “Saints of Lent” category)

Readings:
Isaiah 55:10-11 (God’s word will not return void)
Psalm 34:4-19 “From all their afflictions God will deliver the just”
+Matthew 6:7-15 (Jesus gives us the “Our Father”)

“For just as from the Heavens the rain and snow come down
And do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats,
So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
– Isaiah 55:10-11

Do you ever feel as if your prayers “return void”? As though they just bounce off the ceiling without doing any good? It’s a fairly common experience. Of course, our feelings aren’t always plugged into Reality. Sometimes our prayers feel useless when they’re actually very powerful indeed. But God has told us that there are prayers that don’t get through, if we’re asking wrongly, asking for the wrong thing (James 4:3) or rejecting the truths God’s already given us (Proverbs 28:9). How can we pray, feelings or no feelings, so that our prayers do not return void? This is precisely the question Jesus answers in today’s Gospel. First we hear that God’s Word does not return void. Then God Himself gives His Word to us so that we can use it in prayer. That prayer will not return void.

There is a double meaning here–Jesus Himself is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), and we unite ourselves to His perfect prayer, to His self-offering to the Father, at every Mass. That Word will not return void! But Jesus, the Word, gave us words besides. We don’t know how to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26-27). God knows this, and through Jesus and through His Holy Spirit He provides for us. He intercedes for us Himself and He gives us words. He teaches us to talk, to speak the language of Heaven. Specifically, He teaches us to pray. Not only that, in teaching us how to pray, He teaches us how to live. The things that prevent our prayers from getting through are the very things the Lord’s Prayer addresses. We cannot ask wrongly or ask for the wrong thing when we ask for God’s will: “Thy will be done”. We cannot honestly reject God’s laws and pray “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” at the same time.

If we meditate on what we’re saying and live up to it, we will grow into kind of relationship God wants to have with us. We will learn that He Fathers us lovingly, perfectly; that we are dependent on Him, and that He has rightful authority over us. We also learn that we are all family (“Our Father who art in Heaven”). We will learn to hold His Name in high esteem (“Hallowed be Thy Name”). We will learn to value His Kingdom (“Thy Kingdom come”). We will seek only those things our body truly needs and we will grow in appreciation of our need for the Eucharist, which is the Bread of Life (“give us this day our daily bread”). We will learn to forgive and to humble ourselves enough to ask for forgiveness (“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”). We will learn to avoid temptation and near occasions of sin (“and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”).

This is only one example of God’s mercy to us in giving us words to give back to Him, giving us words that will not return void. He also gives us words through the celebration of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and the many prayers that come to us through His Body, the Church.

May we be diligent in learning the language of Heaven, the language of love. May we live what we pray and pray what we live until our lives become prayer in union with the oneness of the Blessed Trinity.

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