Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily 3-2-23

First Week of Lent, Thursday, 3-2-23, Year A
Readings: First Reading Est C:12,14-16, 23-25; Ps 138:1-3,7c-8; Gospel Mt 7:7-12

Theme: Purpose, Meaning and Sincerity in Prayer

Have you ever noticed that when something is really troubling you and you pray on it, your prayer has purpose, is more meaningful, and is full of sincerity? It seems when we are at our wit’s end, that is when we really find ourselves praying the way God wants us to. For some people who have not prayed at all, when they find themselves facing death, it is at that moment they find God.

God would probably prefer that we do not wait until the last minute to discover Him or call out to Him. Long before we are faced with death, we should have already had a relationship with God, one that is personal, loving, and filled with humility and dependence on Him. How do we do that? We do it through prayer.

I was told once that everything you do should have purpose, and meaning, and be sincere. From this perspective, we should think about praying to God in the same way we would spend time with a close friend or loved one.

For them, we take time out of our day. For them, we are caring and tell them how much they mean to us as friends. With them, we feel comfortable in their presence and can talk about some of our deepest worries, greatest joys, and sometimes just about the weather. It is through prayer that we establish our relationship with God and spend quality time with Him.

Most of the readings this week help to show us how we can develop a relationship with God through prayer. We are given examples from Isaiah (ask and the Word comes down from heaven), the King of Nineveh (put on sackcloth and ashes and pray for repentance of sins), Esther (ask to be delivered from our enemies), and finally Jesus Himself (teach us to pray as in the Lord’s Prayer).

It is in prayer to God that we are most pleasing to Him. But if our prayer is without purpose, lacks meaning, or sincerity, then we are nothing but babbling people in the streets, looking for acknowledgment from our neighbor instead God Himself. Use your soul’s voice, and in the quiet of your day, pray to Him.

As Catholics, we are called to pray often. The danger can come when we pray for the sake of praying and really do not have the reverence or personal relationship we should have with God. Many prayers can be rote, meaning we say them over and over. Sometimes when we constantly say the same thing, or do the same actions over and over, it can become a matter of routine. This is when we can begin to daydream or find ourselves waiting for the end, or focusing on some task we have to do later. Would you do that in conversation with a close friend? Probably not.

If you haven’t been praying as you ought, this Lenten season is a good time to start. Pray with purpose, meaning, and sincerity and your prayers will reach into heaven for the Almighty to hear. As St. Augustine says:

“Many cry to God, but not with the voice of the soul,
but with the voice of the body;
only the cry of the heart, of the soul, reaches God.”

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL