Newsletter for Sunday 17 July 2022

16 Jul

The Necessity of Prayer

In last week’s Gospel we heard the familiar Parable of the Good Samaritan, and this week we have the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Mary sits at Our Lord’s feet while Martha is running around being busy. This is often interpreted as a call for a proper balance between prayer and work – the Church needs Marthas and Marys. But this seems to miss the point. At the end of the passage, Our Lord doesn’t say to Martha, “You do your thing and let Mary do hers.” Rather He says, “Only one thing is needed and Mary has chosen the better part.” In other words, prayer must be an absolute priority.

Just as eating keeps the body alive, so prayer keeps the soul alive. And as we know, the soul is more important than the body, because at the General Resurrection at the end of time you will get a new body but you won’t get a new soul. Your soul is ‘you’! God is the very life of your soul just as your soul is the life of your body. So if you don’t pray your soul will spiritually wither and die in the same way that your body will wither and die if you don’t eat.

“But praying is hard” people say. Well if you can talk to a friend you can talk to God because God is your friend. And neither do we have to be really holy to pray. On the contrary, it is through prayer that we become holy!

The main requirement for prayer is that we have faith. We can’t see God and usually we don’t feel Him either, but we know He is present because He said, “Behold, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). This is a matter of faith. In this way that our faith is tested and made stronger and we learn not to rely on feelings. Sometimes God may give us that consolation of feeling good in prayer to encourage us, but it’s not the foundation to build on. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) in his famous hymn about the Holy Eucharist, ‘Adoro te devote’ wrote, “Sight, touch and taste in Thee are each deceived; the ear alone most safely is believed. I believe all the Son of God has spoken; than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.” So here we have one of the most brilliant minds in the whole of human history saying he believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist because Christ said it, and that settles the matter. So we trust in His word.

In addition to faith we also need hope, because we expect that God will hear and answer us, and then we need love, because if we didn’t love God we wouldn’t want to spend time with Him.

A short word about distractions in prayer. This shouldn’t worry us overly because even the great saints suffered from it. If you’re disturbed by a distraction it means you didn’t will it and you really wanted to remain focused on God. God knows that and He’s pleased by your effort. He is patient with us and so we ought to be patient with ourselves. The important thing is not how much we achieve here, but our intentions. But the best thing to do when distracted is to ignore it and then just try again and again and again.

Every Saturday morning we have Adoration of Our Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament between 10.30am and 12.30pm concluding with Benediction. Come and visit Him. Bring your children in too. Did Our Lord not say let the little children come unto Me (Mark 10:14)? He is there waiting for you.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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