(14thOrdinary Sunday: Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-20)
There is nothing wrong in taking satisfaction in the successes and joys that come our way. We must, however, learn to acknowledge their source. As Jesus said: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21).
But, we may wonder, “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?” (Psalm 116:12). This is where prayer comes in.
Mary asked the children at La Salette, “Do you say your prayers well?” They admitted they did not.
Prayer takes many forms. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, beginning with number 2626, describes them as: Blessing and Adoration; Petition; Intercession; Thanksgiving; Praise. The Beautiful Lady mentions the Our Father and the Hail Mary, the Mass, and Lent. Spiritual authors distinguish discursive prayer, contemplation, Lectio divina, and so on.
Failure to acknowledge who God is and who we are is poison to the spiritual life. Prayer is by no means the only response to God’s goodness, but it is fundamental. Without it, whatever else we do in his service and the service of others can lead to a warped sense of self-sufficiency.
Yes, St. Paul sometimes boasts of his accomplishments, but even then he acknowledges that God has made them possible. His feeling is best expressed, however, in his heartfelt prayer: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The seventy-two disciples in today’s Gospel are thrilled at the powers Jesus has given them; but he cautions them: “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Isaiah uses the lovely image of a nursing mother to prophesy a time of abundance. At La Salette, our mother Mary spoke of “heaps of wheat.” In both cases, the future event is preceded by a time of hardship and mourning, after which “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.”
Praying well is nothing more nor less than regular personal communication with our all-powerful God. Its importance cannot be exaggerated.