Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday of Ordinary 28

St. Francis de Sales once said that all of us should pray for a half hour each day. Except, of course, when we’re busy- then we need an hour!
I think that most of us smile when we hear St. Francis’ words, because we can see his point: Prayer is indeed essential, especially when our plates get full and things seem a little crazy. When we’re overburdened by life’s demands, we know we need to pray so we can keep everything in perspective and not become too absorbed with the things of this passing world. We also know how important it is to lift up in prayer those stressful situations that threaten to make us anxious or angry.
             You and I understand these things. But do we actually take St. Francis’ advice? For many of us the answer often is “No.” As pastoral psychologist Robert Wicks once said, “You’ve been promising yourself a half hour a day for years- and you still aren’t doing it!” So what does he recommend? Two minutes of silence with the Lord each day. If we can do more, that’s great, but two minutes is a promise and discipline that everyone can keep, regardless of their circumstances. As one popular slogan puts it, we need to “Pray as we can, and not as we can’t.”

            I raise this point because in today’s gospel, Jesus laments that committed religious people- the Pharisees- have been neglecting their interior life- the life of the prayer. Jesus actually calls them fools, because they of all people should know better. But listen to Jesus’ advice: “As to what is within,” he says, “give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.” In other words, Jesus said that they really needed to pray, because prayer is what they really needed.

Like the Pharisees, we too are committed religious people. And what Jesus said to them, Jesus says also to us: We need to pray, every day- be it for sixty minutes, for thirty minutes, or maybe even just for two.

(My book of daily meditations for Lent, to be published by Ave Maria Press in November, is available for pre-order: http://www.amazon.com/Daily-Devotions-Lent-Living-Gospel/dp/1594713634/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335995419&sr=8-1 )

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