Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jesus' Prayer (offered through YOU) Will Bring an End to Abortion

Here is my talk from today's luncheon:

My hope is to encourage you and renew your excitement over the Mystery at work in you - this Mystery I saw lived out this morning at Mass and in praying the Rosary on behalf of the unborn. We have many incredible Mysteries in our Faith, to which one am I referring?

The Epistle to the Hebrews says that in Heaven, Jesus always lives to make intercession for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church draws our attention to the way He exercises that intercession through His Mystical Body, the Church!  (CCC 2740)  “The prayer of Jesus makes Christian prayer an efficacious petition. He is its model, he prays in us and with us … the heart of the Son seeks only what pleases the Father …”   We’re going to look at Jesus’ human prayer, He wants to reproduces it within us. We want to consider how we can most effectively cooperate in this Mystery, how we can allow the intentions of Jesus’ Sacred Heart, especially for the unborn, to be lifted up to the Father through us.

Short outline:
1)    Details of Jesus' daily prayer
2)    Talk about His Passover, His offering of Himself, to the Father
3)    How we the Church enter into His Passover sacrifice and prayer
4)    And how Mary assists us in this.

It seems strange for us to think about Jesus learning to pray.  This is God the Son.  He, the Father, and Spirit are eternally communicating Themselves to each other.
When God the Son became one of us, He didn’t lose anything of His Divinity.   He is still one with the Father.  In His human soul He gazed upon the Father just as clearly as the Saints and Angels in heaven.  What He did learn, what He did grow in, however was how to express His love for the Father as a human being - in words and actions!  (CCC 2599)   “The Son of God . . . learned to pray in his human heart.  He learn[ed]  to pray from his mother… He learn[ed] to pray in the words and rhythms of … his people,”

Jesus’ prayer was Jewish prayer.  When we think of Israel’s prayer, the first place most of our minds go is to the Temple.  Luke both began and ended his gospel there.  Jews recognized God as being present in the Temple as in no other point in all creation.  The Holy of Holies was His earthly throne room, heaven’s embassy on earth.  Jesus called the Temple His Father’s House and like all Jews, He, Mary, and Joseph traveled there three times a year for the Pilgrim Feasts of Tabernacles, Passover, and Pentecost.  John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus and His relatives made the 75 mile trip from Nazareth  even when it wasn’t required, such as to celebrate Hannukah (Jn.10:22)

The worship of the Temple was avodah, sacrifice.   Why was that?  With New Covenant hindsight, we understand that God is an exchange of life – A Son Who receives all He is from the Father and pours Himself out in a return of  Love in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Man and woman were created to share, to have a created participation in, that circle of love and life – to receive all we are from God and pour ourselves out in gratitude and love.  Our first parents said “No” and that original sin damaged us, closed us in on ourselves.

God started to undo the damage by establishing a covenant with Israel.  He began the long process of rehabilitation by calling them to sacrifice,  to give back to Him a portion of the earthly gifts they received.  For an agricultural people like the Israelites, when they sacrificed their animals and crops – the very elements of life – to the Lord, they symbolically offered themselves.   In many sacrifices the Lord stipulated that a portion of the animal was to be held back – part of it eaten by the priests and part by the family making the offering.  God and his people were united in the life of the sacrificial victim.  This was how God wanted to be worshipped, and it was the absolute heart of Jewish prayer. 

I had heard of the Passover sacrifice and sacrifices for sins and to give thanks.  What I didn’t study until very recently though was the Temple’s daily liturgy.  It took place every day at 9 a.m. and again at 3 p.m.  The liturgy began with the priests leading the people in the Shema and the Ten Commandments.  With a crash of symbols priests and people launched into singing the Psalm for that Day.   Trumpets sounded  between the verses and everyone in the Temple went facedown in worship!   After that the priests then placed the perpetual, or daily offering, on the a lamb, cake of bread, and wine on the altar.  Trumpets sounded again and everyone in the Temple prostrated themselves in worship.  A priest chosen by lot went into the Holy Place to offer incense on the altar at the entrance to the Holy of Holies- the prayers of God’s people ascending upward.

The Temple and its sacrifices were the pinnacle of Jewish worship.  Obviously though - Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and millions of other Jews could only participate on very special occasions.  So what did they do on a daily basis?

At least two centuries before the birth of Jesus, Jewish people adopted the practice of stopping wherever they were to pray … 3 times a day, facing toward the Temple.  They prayed at 9 a.m., and 3 p.m., when the Tamid – the lamb, bread, and wine – were placed on the altar and then again around sunset when any final scaps remaining from the day’s offerings were burned on the altar and the Temple gate closed for the night.  Their daily, personal prayer  united them to the sacrifices in the Temple.

At their first and third time of prayer, as the spiritual bookends of the day, they recited the Shema, the Creed.  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD;  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deut.6:4-5).  [The full Shema consists of  Deut.6:4-9; Deut.11:13-21; and Num.15:37-41]

Just like when you and I begin and end our day with the Sign of the Cross.  Yes, we have our Creeds, the Nicene and Apostle’s; but every time we make the Sign of the Cross we pray the Creed in miniature. Through the Christ’s Cross, we enter into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and His grace empowers us to do so with all our mind, all our heart, and all our strength!  There’s the Shema, our Christian Shema.

At all three times of prayer people prayed The Eighteen Benedictions.  In Hebrew they are known as Tephilla, simply “the prayer”  (Because the Benedictions are always prayed  while standing, you’ll also hear it called the Amidah, which means “standing.”  This is probably what Jesus was speaking of in the Gospels when He said, “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them” (Mk.11:25).  The Eighteen Benedictions are a beautiful tapestry of blessings and petitions:  “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – our shield (#1);  Blessed be the Lord, the only God. (#3); Blessed be the Lord Who raises the dead (#2); Blessed be the Lord Who loves repentance.  Make us turn back to you. (#5) … Who forgives, forgive us our sins. (#6)  ... Who rebuilt Jerusalem.  Restore the kingdom of David, your anointed. (#14).

Scripture says that Jesus entered history in the “fullness of time” (Gal.4:4), precisely the right moment in history, when these blessings and petitions would be a part of his prayer three times a day.  I suggest that when God willed the Incarnation,   He willed the petitions Jesus offered as a man, willed to bring about Jesus’ resurrection, and all that would mean for humanity, in response to them.

The early Church kept the Jewish practice of praying three times a day, but they didn’t pray the Eighteen Benedictions.  Instead of the Eighteen they prayed the Our Father.  (We find this in the Didache, the earliest Christian writing we have outside of the New Testament.  The Catechism makes note of it in Paragraph 2767.) The Our Father is the perfect prayer.  Listen to the Catechism, “, in the words of this prayer the only Son gives us the words the Father gave him [Jn.17:7] … [Jesus] knows in his human heart the needs of his human brothers and sisters and reveals them to us: he is the model of our prayer” (CCC 2765).  In those seven petitions of the Our Father Jesus encapsulated all Eighteen Benedictions!

The Gospels show Jesus’ prayer extending far beyond the 3 fixed times.  He prayed long after everyone else fell asleep.  He got up before anyone else to go off and pray.  Sometimes He just stayed up the entire night communing with the Father!  But the pinnacle of Jesus’ human prayer was reached at the Cross, when as the Catechism says (2605), “prayer and the gift of Self were one”

It’s at the Cross that Jesus’ gathered up his whole earthly life and poured it our to the Father in one great, irrevocable act of obedient love. The words of Psalms 22, 69, and 31 were on his lips, even as the texts took flesh in His Body – the piercing of His hands and feet, His incredible thirst, and his heart melting like wax within Him.  Mark’s Gospel tells us that He was nailed to the Cross at 9 a.m., the time of the morning sacrifice. His sacrifice was culminated at the 3 o’clock hour, as the Tamid – the lamb, bread, and wine – were again placed on the altar and Jews throughout the world prayed the Eighteen Benedictions:  Blessed are You Lord:  Restore the Kingdom of David … Make us turn back to You … Forgive us our sins … Raise the dead!

That was the moment when Jesus “cried out with a loud voice and yielded up His Spirit.”  The Catechism says that His final cry pulled all of the petitions and intercessions of all history into itself and carrying them to the Father. Jesus’ death was when all the prayers of God’s people, all the prayers of our Messiah’s thirty some years on earth reached a “critical mass” and the Father unleashed the graces of salvation upon the world through the Spirit, blood, and water issuing from Jesus’ pierced Heart.

This  great mystery of salvation and of Jesus’ prayer is being lived out by you and me.  In baptism our souls were fused to Jesus and the Holy Spirit rushed from His heart to ours.    As Paul said “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.” (Gal.2:20). The good works we do are not done under our power but His – it is Jesus loving His Father and brothers and sisters through us. St. Paul says that our sufferings are a participation in Jesus’ Cross, and because of that, they have redemptive value. And part of our prayer is Jesus praising and thanking and petitioning the Father through His Body.

We pray the Our Father – St. Paul says that “God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father” (Gal.4:6)  The Spirit started praying in us the moment we were baptized.   Paul told the Romans (8:26-27):  “. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

The highest point of Jesus prayer, where prayer and the gift of Self became one was at the Cross.  And His sacrifice becomes really, truly present for us at every Mass!  That’s why the Eucharist is the CENTER of our lives, the source and summit of our prayer.

Just this morning, Jesus once again made pilgrimage to His Father’s House.  He made pilgrimage in us!  The Shema echoed when we began with the Sign of the Cross and it will echo again in tomorrow’s Mass when we pray the Creed.  The Eighteen Benedictions were prayed in our Gloria and the Our Father.  The true perpetual offering – the Lamb, under the appearance of Bread and Wine – became present upon our altar.  And we offered ourselves and all of our petitions to end abortion through, with, and in Him!  It is Jesus’ offering, and Jesus’ petition to end abortion, so we know with absolute certainty that they are pleasing to the Father.  The petitions made by Jesus through, with, and in His Body are efficacious – they will be answered by the Father!

But we’re not able to stay at the altar, at least not physically.  God has given us work to do out in the world.  We have to go to our jobs, and see to the needs of our families and friends.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did too!  But that’s where personal prayer comes in. That personal prayer is meant to unite our entire day to Jesus’ sacrifice, made present on the altars throughout the world.   It’s meant to help us live the Eucharist, to become Jesus’ offering to the Father.  Like Him, our every thought, word, and action are to be an offering to the Father.  St. Paul practically begged the Romans, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, for this is our spiritual worship” (12:1)

Anybody else out there feel like they ain’t getting’ the job done?  Like they’re coming up short?  How do we change that?  I believe that Jesus gave us the answer at the Cross when He told the beloved disciple, "Behold your mother." We have to take note of what John did, "And from that moment on the disciple took Mary into his home."  John took Mary to himself.  Wherever John was, there was the Blessed Mother. 

Think about John’s Gospel.  It soars up to speak about Jesus Divinity, it penetrates His Mystery in a way much different than the synoptics.  It shows Jesus’ connection to the great feasts in the Temple and the way they were fulfilled in Jesus.  He give us the Bread of Life Discourse and Jesus’ great high priestly prayer at the Last Supper.  I have to think that sharing his life with Mary had something to do with that! 

She became John’s mother.  The woman who taught Jesus to pray as a boy prayed with John.  Think about this woman:   For 9 months His Heart physically beat beneath her own; the flesh and blood He offered in sacrifice were taken from her…;  Mary was Jesus’ prayer partner throughout His Life  - and then she became John’s.  She became John’s mother too.  Jesus wants that for us.  The Mother of the Head, is the Mother of the Mystical Body as well.  In the Communion of Saints she has a special connection to each soul.

Today is the 95th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.  What did Mary say to the children?  Jesus wanted to establish devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.  Very simply that means to love Jesus with the Heart of Mary.

The way that I read St. Louis Marie DeMontfort it means that the Faith, Hope, Charity, and virtues that the Holy Spirit poured into the soul of the Blessed Mother remain accessible to other members of the Mystical Body - what is of benefit to one, is of benefit to the whole.  And the Holy Spirit wants to knit our hearts together with Mary’s so that we can share her union with Jesus – her prayer and surrender to Him, her performance of every thought, word, and action out of love for God.  One of the most awesome ways we join Mary in loving Jesus is through the praying of the Rosary.

How did Jesus tell the Apostles to prepare for Pentecost.  Go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Gift My Father promised. The went back to the Upper Room and spent the next nine days in prayer, with Mary. What was there prayer like in those nine days?  Petition, combined with a whole lot of meditation.  They were meditating on, thinking and rethinking the life, death, rez, of Jesus in the light of Scripture.  (Look at Acts 1, and you’ll see Peter sharing what he discovered in the Psalms)  They were meditating on the life of Jesus in the light of Scripture, with the Blessed Mother.  That's the Rosary!

Outside of the Mass, the Rosary is where I think you find the greatest number of elements from Jesus’ human prayer woven together.
· Sign of the Cross – Shema
·  Apostle’s Creed – Shema
·  Our Father – the prayer taught to us by God the Son, the prayer that comes to us in Scripture, and the Holy Spirit cries out within us!
·  On the Cross, Jesus prayed the words of Scripture:
·   The Hail Mary – a prayer composed from Scripture, the words of the Angel Gabriel and St. Elizabeth.
·   The Glory Be – “The glory be to God” the angels sang at Jesus birth;  “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be” – that’s the Book of Revelation’s “God Who is, was, and is to come”

These are the words are lips are praying as, along with Mary, our hearts and minds are focused on Jesus and how He brought about our salvation.  I love the way Pope John Paul II put it, “With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 1).  If Mary was good enough for the Apostles, if she led John deeper and deeper into the Mystery of her Son … if she taught Jesus how to pray as a child, then she’s good enough for me!

On this 95th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima we recall our Lady’s requests to the children.  Our Lady was sent to bring about conversion.  She requested acts of penance, Communions of Reparation (the celebration of the Eucharist), and the praying of the Rosary.  That is the prescription to bring an end to abortion too. 
Just as Jesus offered petitions throughout His entire earthly life, before that critical Mass of intercession was reached at the Cross, so now the Father seems to have ordained a participation in the intercession of Christ to us.  But know this:  It is the intercession of Christ.  It will be efficacious.  God the Father wants to answer this prayer, and He will answer this prayer.   In His Providence He has woven our petitions, penances, and participation in the Eucharist into His plan to end abortion.  He has ordained that certain graces only be released in response to our prayer, our participation in the intercession of Jesus!  What an honor!  To share in the redemptive prayer and mission of Christ!

Let’s join the Blessed Mother in uniting everything else we do today with the Eucharist celebrated this morning:

Daily Offering from the Apostleship of Prayer (with one addition)
“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.
I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, AN END TO ABORTION, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.”

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