Sunday, November 3, 2013

Open Door

   Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time    


On Prayer 
Part III:  Why We Pray

Many of you know Fr. Scott Fobare and Fr. Scott Seymour,
both of whom served here in Malone in years past.
(When they’re out somewhere together,
they like to joke about one being Fr. Scott the Greater
and the other being Fr. Scott the Lesser…
…but there’s always debate about which is which.)
These two priests are just back from leading a pilgrimage to Rome,
and only a few weeks before their departure
did they get word that they would have the opportunity
to concelebrate morning Mass with Pope Francis.
What a treat it was to see them in a video online,
sitting right there in the front row of the chapel
at the guest house where the Holy Father resides.
At first I saw them and thought, “My, they look serious and pious!” 
(That’s not how I’m used to seeing them.)
And then I realized what was really going on:
the Pope was preaching in Italian,
and they had absolutely no idea what he was talking about…

It’s really too bad they couldn’t understand
the Pope’s homily that morning,
because his words that day were particularly powerful:
            And we ourselves, when we don’t pray,
            what we’re doing is closing the door to the Lord.
            And not praying is this:
            closing the door to the Lord,
            so that He can do nothing.
            On the other hand, prayer,
            in the face of a problem,
            a difficult situation, a calamity,
            is opening the door to the Lord
            so that He will come.
            So that He builds things,
            He knows to arrange things, to reorganize things.
            This is what praying is:
            opening the door to the Lord,
            so that he can do something.”  (10/8/13)

This is our third and final Sunday
when Fr. Tom and I are preaching about prayer.
We’ve talked about preparing to pray.
We’ve talked about how to pray.
And now it’s time to talk about why we pray.
It rather simple:
we pray because prayer will change your life.

Let’s take a look at Zacchaeus:
that little man with the big bank account
who’s up in a sycamore tree.
Climbing trees is for young boys, 

not grown men of prominence.
Zacchaeus was willing not only to act foolishly,
but to look foolish in front of others
just to sneak a peek at Jesus.
And what a thrill it must have been for him
to hear Jesus call him by name!
The one about whom Zacchaeus is so curious
takes a very personal interest in him.
And what does Jesus say?
“Today I must stay at your house!”
So Zacchaeus opens the door to Jesus…
…and that changes everything for him.

If you’re driving by Notre Dame rectory at night
and see a warm, red glow
in a few of the third floor windows, don’t worry:it’s not because Fr. Stitt is up there playing with matches again;
it’s because, with Bishop LaValley’s permission,
we’ve taken one of the spare rooms in that big old house
and turned it into a simple little chapel.
It just happens to be directly above my bedroom.
I can now lie in bed, look up at the ceiling,
and think, “Jesus is right there!”

The words of the Mass have taken on
a new and deeper meaning for me:
Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof…

I’m well aware that it’s an extraordinary privilege
to have the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in our home—
and it’s one I won’t take for granted.
But no matter where we live,
we are all able to open the door to the Lord
and invite Jesus in.
He wants to stay with us today—
as he did with Jericho’s chief tax collector—
at home and at school, at work and in the car.
Jesus stands ready to enter in
wherever and whenever we would pray.

Why do we pray?
Sometimes it’s because we have an urgent request to make—
whether for ourselves or on behalf of another—
like the persistent widow in the parable two weeks ago.
Sometimes we pray because we’ve screwed up
and need to repent of our sins—
like the tax collector in the temple last Sunday.
And sometimes we pray because we realize the huge debt
of gratitude, adoration, and praise we owe the Lord
for all the good he’s done for us—
like Zacchaeus, who lays his entire life and livelihood at Jesus’ feet.
Regardless of the particular circumstances,
it really does all come down—as Pope Francis put it so well—
to “opening the door to the Lord, so that he can do something.”

There are as many different ways to pray
as there are different people who do it.
The only way to do it wrong is not to pray at all.
So make a decision to pray.
Speak to the Lord from your heart.
Open the door to welcome God in.
And then watch—watch very carefully—
because your life will change.

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