Second Sunday of Lent – Deacon Scott Maentz
March 17, 2019 – 8:30 and 11:00 Masses
Lent is period of 40 days where we are called to amp up three practices in our daily lives: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Today I’d like to talk about prayer.
Plain and simple, a healthy prayer life is essential to living a life filled with peace and joy. Prayer is the most effective method we have for receiving the graces God wants to give us.
Today’s readings all teach us about prayer.
Today’s First Reading tells us that “The Lord God took Abram outside…” and had a conversation with him. In this reading we witness Abram in prayer. He is conversing with God. The essence of prayer is having a conversation with God.
Like a conversation with a good friend, prayer is not a one-way conversation where we tell God everything we need and then say goodbye. The best prayer is comes when we sit quietly in his presence and listen to him, perhaps meditating on a verse of scripture and allowing him to speak to us through it.
By allowing God to speak to our hearts as we sit quietly before him, maybe in the adoration chapel or in a quiet place in our home, we allow the divine surgeon to operate on us, although we often won’t feel a thing as he works.
Silent prayer can be a lot like surgery where we are under anesthesia. When we wake up, the work is done without our ever being aware of the procedure that has just taken place. However, we know that it has taken place as our ailment is repaired and there are visible signs, such as an incision that has been closed.
Through prayer we know God has operated on us because we experience his peace in our hearts after spending time with him. Sometimes it’s a great river of peace and other times it’s just a few drops. Whatever the amount of peace we receive, it is exactly what we need for today.
All it takes on our part is the commitment to show up every day, to spend quiet time with God, even if just for 10-15 minutes, especially on those days when we’re so busy or we just don’t feel like it doing it. It’s our effort, our effort to be faithful to spending this time with God that he blesses.
St Paul, in today’s Second Reading, reminds the Christians in Philippi that while most people occupy their minds with earthy things, but that our citizenship is in heaven. In prayer our attention should be on God, on heavenly things.
We should do our best to clear our minds of all of our concerns and fears, attempting to give our full attention to God during our prayer time. While we will certainly experience distractions, when this occurs we should try to put these things out of our mind, returning our focus toward God. It’s not easy, and we don’t always succeed, but, it’s our effort he rewards.
Finally, in today’s Gospel, Jesus leads his three closest disciples away from the crowds, up to the top of a high mountain, where he can be alone with them and give them a glimpse of his glory as they witness his Transfiguration and he speaks with Moses and Elijah.
In this moment they receive perhaps the most important lesson about prayer, directly from the Father when he speaks some of the most important words we can hear as Christians. He says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Listen to him!
How can we listen to the voice of Jesus if we don’t make time to meet with him? Certainly we hear him speak when the Scripture is proclaimed at Mass, but to really listen to him requires us to enter into his presence in silence, free from distractions and the busyness of our lives. Only in prayer are we are able to digest his word, to let it seep into our hearts.
All of us should reflect on our prayer lives. We need to be honest with ourselves. Has our prayer life grown in the last year? If not, we need to do something about it and Lent is the perfect time to start.
God still has so much he wants to do in our lives. Improving our prayer life will give him room to work on us, to perform his divine surgery.
A good way to do this is by instituting a daily quiet time, making time every day for God in some quiet place. I’m not talking about reciting prayers or praying the rosary. These are wonderful devotions and I strongly encourage them, but I’m speaking now about something else. I’m asking you to make a habit of sitting in silence in God’s presence.
Doing this is really quite simple. It doesn’t involve any preparation, other than setting aside 10-15 minutes of your day.
First, choose a time and place where you won’t be interrupted. I recommend getting out of bed 15 minutes earlier to accomplish this. Yes, it’s going to involve some sacrifice, but you won’t regret having made the effort. Then do three things: Remember, Read, and Reflect.
First, Remember. Remind yourself that Christ is with you and that he wants to be with you. Think of all the blessings he has given you.
Second, Read. Take out a spiritual book, a Bible, or your favorite prayer book and read a paragraph or two, slowly. No rush.
Third, Reflect. Think about what you read. Listen to what God wants to say to you through it. Apply it to your life.
Before you know it the fifteen minutes will be up, and you will have received a word of encouragement from God. He will give you his peace. He will give you joy, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
As I said before, sometimes God will give us a great river of peace and other times just a few drops, but it will be exactly what we need to get through our day and stay grounded in his love.
Resolve today to make time for silent daily prayer if you don’t already do it, the same way you make time for your meals and your sleep. Like food and sleep are essential for the health of your body, prayer is absolutely essential for the health of your soul.
Just like your first cup of coffee or tea, make this daily quiet time with God a habit. They say a new habit is established after doing something for about 30 days. There are exactly 32 days remaining in Lent. Why not use them to establish the habit of daily silent prayer?
I promise, establishing a time within your daily routine to just be in God’s presence will be the one habit that yields the fruit of peace and joy like no other. Give it a try!
God bless you.
This homily was inspired to a large extent by Fr. Jacques Philippe in his Thursday evening talk on inner peace at the recent pre-Lenten conference and retreat he gave in Knoxville two weeks ago. Below is the video of this talk. You’ll find all of Fr. Philippe’s talks from that weekend on the diocese’s YouTube channel.