Tag Archives: prayer

Our Lenten Study

Lent begins March 1st with Ash Wednesday, and goes six and a half weeks. The Easter Triduum begins on April 13th, Holy Thursday, and lasts through April 16th, Easter Sunday.

The day before Lent is known as “Mardi Gras” (“Fat Tuesday”), because it marked the last night until Easter when richer, fattier foods could be eaten. The traditional Lenten fast was much stricter than what we practice today: eggs, dairy, and meat were not eaten during all of Lent, so they had to be cleared out by the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The Brazilian festival of “Carnival” is named for this same practice of “removing meat” (carne levare) from the household.

During Lent, Catholics are called to abstain from meat on Fridays, and to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (April 14th). Abstaining from meat means consuming no red meat, pork, or poultry; fish has has been a traditional replacement food on Fridays. Fasting means restricting your food to only one meal, keeping any other food consumed that day totaling less than a meal, with allowances made for water and medicine.

Lent is associated with three spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We’ll talk about ways to practice these disciplines over the course of our Lenten study, in addition to our main program, which will be watching and discussing the Catholicism series by Fr. (now Bishop!) Robert Barron of Word on Fire ministries.

We begin on Monday, March 6th, meeting in the Spiritual Reading Room at 7:30 PM. We will meet for ten Mondays during Lent and into the Easter season, taking off on April 17th (Easter Monday) because the church is closed that evening, although we could have a social event elsewhere that evenings.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C): Sirach 35:15b-22b • Luke 18:9-14

For October 20, 2016

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Heavenly Father,
your Son commanded us to love one another as he has loved us,
and he taught us that he loves us as you love him.
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us as we read your word,
so that as we come to understand your love for us
we may better love you, and all you have created, in return.
Amen.

St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.

First Reading – Sirach 35:15b-22b (NAB) (RSV)

📕  The book of Sirach belongs to the “wisdom literature” section of the Old Testament. It was written in Hebrew at the beginning of the 2nd century BC by a man named Joshua, either the son or grandson of Sirach. The book begins with a prologue written by Joshua’s grandson, who translated his grandfather’s Hebrew text into Greek in the late 2nd century BC. The Catholic Church considers this book canonical (inspired) Scripture although it was not part of the accepted Hebrew scriptures.

📖 In the New American Bible (NAB), this reading is verses 12-19a. In the Revised NAB, it’s verses 15b-22b. In the Revised Standard Version (RSV), this reading is verses 12b-18a. This is due to differences in splitting up the sentences of this chapter into verses. If there is any confusion, this passage begins with “For he is a God of justice” (NAB) or “For the Lord is the judge” (RSV), and concludes with the words “will not delay” (NAB and RSV).

📖 This chapter admonishes the reader to keep the commandments, to be kind, to be generous in charity, to avoid bribes; in general, to act with justice. From there it describes the most just one of all, God, which is where our reading begins. The themes in the reading are very similar to Jesus’ parable about the widow and the judge (Luke 18:1-8).

📖 This whole chapter is worth reading, but we’ll stick to what we’ll hear at Mass. For some reason, the reading at Mass skips the verses about the tears of the widow, but we’ll include those too.

Gospel – Luke 18:9-14 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 St. Luke was the author of both a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke reports at the beginning of his gospel that many others had already compiled narratives of the life of Jesus, and that his is “an orderly account” intended to assure you (the reader) of the truth of the things you have heard. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus”, which may have been a person, but it may just be a generic term (because it is Greek for “lover of God”).

📖 This reading picks up immediately after last Sunday’s reading, about perseverance in prayer. The theme of prayer is continued, but the emphasis is now on one’s attitude in prayer.

📖 A parable is usually a brief story that teaches a lesson by way of comparison or allegory. The word comes from the Greek parabole meaning “to throw (bole) alongside (para)”, just like hyperbole (an exaggerative expression) means “to throw (bole) beyond (hyper)”.

👤  Pharisees were a religious sect in Judaism; their name means “separated ones”, and they were so named for two reasons. First, they were so concerned to keep the Jewish faith free from foreign religious practices that they demanded strict separation from Gentiles (non-Jews). Second, they considered themselves set apart from other Jews because of their strict adherence to priestly laws concerning ceremonial purity, despite not being priests! They looked down on other Jews who did not live up to their observances. Jesus considered them to be good teachers of the Law, but not good doers of the Law. He recognized that they were more focused on exterior purity than interior purity, and on adhering to the tiniest parts of the Law while actually overlooking the most important parts. (Read Matthew 23 for his rant against them.) Because of this conflict, the Pharisees considered Jesus an enemy and sought to have him discredited, and they eventually arranged for his arrest, trial, and execution.

👤  Tax collectors (or “publicans”) on the other hand, were notorious among the Jews for being allied with their Roman rulers and for extorting additional money on top of the taxes that were owed. Pharisees despised the tax collectors (and all other sinners, for that matter), and were outraged that Jesus would speak and dine with them. One of the apostles and evangelists, Matthew (also named Levi), was a tax collector (see Matthew 9:9).

Study Questions

🗣  What links can you find between the Old Testament and Gospel readings?

🗣  What does it mean to be “partial” or to “show partiality”?

💪 What does the First Reading teach us about what God thinks of justice?

💪 How should we conduct ourselves in prayer if we wish to be heard by God?

🗣  What does Jesus say about the manner in which the Pharisee prayed (see Luke 18:11)?

🗣  What is the content of the Pharisee’s prayer? To whom does he compare himself?

🕊   What type of person might the Pharisee represent?

🗣  What is the content of the tax collector’s prayer? To whom does he compare himself?

🕊   What type of person might the tax collector represent?

💪 Is righteousness displeasing to God, and sin pleasing to Him?
Do fasting and tithing displease God?

💪 What positive lessons can we learn from both the Pharisee and the tax collector?

💪 How do we exalt ourselves? How do we humble ourselves?

❤️ What are some prayers we know that ask God for forgiveness?

💪 What can some of these prayers teach us about forgiving others?

❤️ Consider what both readings say about prayers reaching God in heaven.
What can they teach us about ourselves reaching heaven?

Commentary

When we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer.

Catechism 2559 on Luke 18:9-14

Consider This

When reading or hearing this parable, do you ever stop and think to yourself, “I’m glad I’m not like the Pharisee”? If so… read the parable again.

When a class takes a test, if the teacher grades on a curve, it usually means the student who scores the highest on the test, no matter what their actual score is, is considered to have scored 100%, and the other students are graded in proportion to that student. Its opposite is grading the students without comparing them to each other, but to a perfectly taken test.

How did the Pharisee believe God “grades” humanity? What did the tax collector believe?

And you?

Reflection

🗣  What have I learned about who God is,
so that I can love Him better?

🕊   What have I learned about Christ,
so that I can recognize his love for me better?

💪  What have I learned about the Christian life,
so that I can show my love for God and neighbor better?

❤️  How can I incorporate into prayer what I have learned,
so that I can express my gratitude for God’s love?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God,
grant us the grace to be humble in your presence,
to confess our sins and strive for righteousness in your sight.
Keep us from becoming proud and setting ourselves apart;
rather, may our witness to your great love for mankind
encourage all to approach you and be welcomed into your kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C): Exodus 17:8-13 • Luke 18:1-8

For October 13, 2016

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Heavenly Father,
your Son commanded us to love one another as he has loved us,
and he taught us that he loves us as you love him.
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us as we read your word,
so that as we come to understand your love for us
we may better love you, and all you have created, in return.
Amen.

St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.

First Reading – Exodus 17:8-13 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 Exodus is the second book of the Bible, and one of the five books of Moses, collectively called the Torah (which means “the law”) and the Pentateuch (which means “the five books”). The book of Genesis ends with the families of Jacob’s twelve sons living in Egypt, and the book of Exodus begins by mentioning that their descendants (Hebrews/Israelites) became so great that the Pharaoh in Egypt enslaved them (c. 1600 BC), and records the events of their rescue by God through Moses and his brother Aaron (c. 1450 BC).

📖 In chapter 14, the Israelites cross the Red Sea; their song of victory is recorded in chapter 15. Their journey in the desert from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai (where they will receive the Ten Commandments) is in chapters 16 through 19. God feeds them miraculously with manna and with water from a rock, and then the encounter with the Amalekites occurs.

🌎 Rephidim is somewhere near the southern end of the Sinai peninsula, to the east of Egypt. It was the Israelites’ last recorded stop before they reached Mount Sinai.

👤  Moses was an Israelite who was raised by the Egyptians during the Israelites’ slavery. He eventually fled Egypt after killing a slave-master, and God chose him to lead His people out of Egypt, along with his brother Aaron.

👤  Joshua was the chief assistant of Moses, and would become the leader of the Israelites after Moses’ death. Joshua was originally named Hoshea, but Moses renamed him; his new name (Yehoshu’a in Hebrew, meaning “Yah[weh] is salvation”) is essentially the same name as Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew, meaning “he saves”, is an abbreviated form of Yehoshu’a).

👤  Aaron was the older brother of Moses; he eventually became the first high priest of the Israelites. Hur was a companion of Moses and Aaron, but there is not much about him in the Bible.

👤  In Genesis we read about Adam and Eve, Noah, and then Abraham. Abraham’s son Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. There was often strife between Esau and Jacob, and between their descendants as well. Amalek was a grandson of Esau; his descendants were a nomadic people called the Amalekites. The Israelites are descendants of Jacob (whom God renamed “Israel”). Amalek himself was dead long before the events of Exodus 17; the use of his name in this passage is an example of metonymy, a figure of speech where a thing or concept is called by the name of something associated with it, such as in the expressions “the White House responded to reports…” or “Boston will be playing New York”.

Gospel – Luke 18:1-8 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 St. Luke was the author of both a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke reports at the beginning of his gospel that many others had already compiled narratives of the life of Jesus, and that his is “an orderly account” intended to assure you (the reader) of the truth of the things you have heard. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus”, which may have been a person, but it may just be a generic term (because it is Greek for “lover of God”).

📖 After his encounter with the ten lepers, Jesus talks about the kingdom of God and the day when the “Son of Man” is revealed (Luke 17:20-37). Luke 18 begins with this Sunday’s reading. This parable concludes with Jesus referring again to the “Son of Man”.

👤  “Son of Man” is an Old Testament expression meaning “mortal human”. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, God calls Ezekiel “Son of man” nearly 100 times. The phrase is often used in the Psalms in conjunction with just the word “man” in a poetic couplet:
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)
In the book of the prophet Daniel, it is used twice; once as in Ezekiel, but once in a vision that Daniel has, where he sees “[coming] with the clouds of heaven … one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days … and to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom” (Daniel 7:13-14). In his final days, Jesus applies that description to himself (see Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62, and Luke 21:27); he speaks of himself as the “Son of man” dozens of times. He is described as “one like a son of man” on two occasions in St. John’s Revelation (1:13; 14:14). This title emphasizes both his true human nature and his divine majesty as God’s Son and anointed one (both “Messiah” and “Christ” mean “anointed”).

Study Questions

🗣  What links can you find between the Old Testament and Gospel readings?

🗣  How, and why, is the Israelites’ victory over Amalek dependent upon Moses?

🕊   What event is foreshadowed by Moses, Aaron, and Hur on the hill?

🕊   Who do the Israelites represent?
Who do the Amalekites represent?

🕊   How do both Moses and Joshua symbolize Christ?

❤️ How can prayer help us in overcoming sin?

💪 What do Moses, Aaron, Hur, and Joshua teach us about the Christian life?

💪 What is the lesson Jesus is teaching by this parable (see Luke 18:1)?

🗣  What sort of picture do you get of the judge, based on his description?

🗣  Why does the judge hear the widow’s case?

🕊   Who do the judge and the widow represent?

🗣  Is the dishonest judge really a good model or example of God?
What is Jesus actually teaching about God here?

❤️ Why do we need to persevere in prayer? Why pray for something more than once?

🗣  What does Jesus’ question mean? Why does he ask it after this parable?
(What does faith have to do with the lesson of the parable?)

Commentary

A sign of Him that was to be crucified was made … in the type of the extending of the hands of Moses, and of Hoshea being renamed Jesus (Joshua). … God enjoined that the incident be recorded, and the name of Jesus laid up in your understandings.

St. Justin Martyr (d. 165), Dialogue with Trypho, 131

See how the type was “given by Moses,” but the “Truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). When the Amalekites warred, the hands of Moses were supported by Aaron and Hur standing on either side of him; but when Christ came, He of Himself stretched forth His Hands upon the Cross.

St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, John 1:16

Amalek shall be conquered, not with arms alone, but with the hostile hand of the righteous forming both prayers and the invincible trophy of the Cross.

St. Gregory Nazianzen (d. 390), Second Oration on Easter, 21

If he then heard her prayer, who hated to be asked, how must He hear who exhorts us to ask? … [But] if faith fail, prayer perishes. For who prays for that which he does not believe?

St. Augustine (d. 430), Sermons, LXV

Consider This

What is the “Amalek” in your life? Who are your Aaron and Hur? To whom can you be an Aaron or a Hur? Who is the Joshua to your Moses: who are you supporting with prayer?

Reflection

🗣  What have I learned about who God is,
so that I can love Him better?

🕊   What have I learned about Christ,
so that I can recognize his love for me better?

💪  What have I learned about the Christian life,
so that I can show my love for God and neighbor better?

❤️  How can I incorporate into prayer what I have learned,
so that I can express my gratitude for God’s love?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God,
teach us to persevere in prayer,
and grant us patience to wait for your word.
Give us eyes that we may see our brothers and sisters in need of prayer,
and strength so that we may support them if they grow weary.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.