28 July 2007

Homily - 28 July 2007

Shamelessy based on Saint Augustine’s Letter 130.14-17

Today I wish to discuss with you two things: first, prayer; and second, the Church.

We approach the Lord with many needs and desires in prayer, but the sum of these requests really amount to one thing: a happy life. Is that not what we mean when we pray for a swift recovery or a successful business meeting? Do we not really want to be happy when, as children (hopefully) we pray for a pony or as adults we pray for a bigger house or a better job? We think – in our foolish minds – that each of these things, together with many others, will somehow bring us happiness. We conveniently forget that we have prayed for other physical things to attain happiness before and although each of them promised happiness, none of them granted it.
Our happiness is to be found in God alone and for this reason the Psalmist prays, and so we should we: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this I seek: To dwell in the LORD’S house all the days of my life, To gaze on the LORD’S beauty” (Psalm 27:4). A day spent in the Lord’s house is not at all like a day spent on earth. Here one day ends and another begins, bringing with it its own worries (cf. Matthew 6:34), but in heaven there is not a series of days, but only one day because Christ Jesus is “the Morning Star which never sets.”[1] In heaven life does not progress toward its ending, towards death, for the life of heaven has no ending. How then do we attain this life? How do we find our way into the House of the Lord? We do so through prayer.

So that we might faithfully follow the Way to heaven, he who is our Life taught us pray. God himself taught us to speak with him. He taught us to pray with few words because our “Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Even so, through his parables Jesus teaches us to pray not so that God will be told our needs, but so that we might be more receptive to what he gives us in our need.

Through the parable of the father and his son, Jesus tells us what will lead us to the happy life that we seek: namely, faith, hope and love. How does he do this, you ask? He does so through the example of the son who asks for bread, fish and an egg.

When he asks for a fish the son asks his father for the gift of faith. Why? The fish symbolizes faith both because it lives in the element of water that is used for baptism, and because the fish traverses the waves of the ocean without harm. In the waters of baptism the gift of faith is given us so that we, too, can traverse the powerful waves of life and weather its storms without harm. Jesus asks, “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?” because with its venomous tongue the serpent tempts us to disbelieve God (Luke 11:11).

When the son asks his father for an egg he is asking for the gift of hope. Why? The bird inside the egg is not yet born but will be, and therefore symbolizes the gift of hope. He who hopes always looks to what is to come. We who hope in the Lord look to his Second Coming in glory. Jesus contrasts the gift of the egg with a scorpion because whoever is near a scorpion is always looking behind, to the scorpion’s tail. The venomous sting of the scorpion causes not hope, but fear.

Lastly, when the son asks for a loaf of bread he asks for the gift of love, of charity, the highest form. Why does bread signify love? Just as love is the greatest of the theological virtues, so is bread the greatest of foods because of its usefulness. Jesus contrasts the gift of bread with a stone because the stone symbolizes hardness of heart caused by pride, which knows only selfishness.

Jesus teaches us to pray for the theological virtues of faith, hope and love that come from God alone given us through the sacraments offered us in his Church. Now we have arrived at the second theme. Talk briefly about the article as already done here and here.

[1] The Exultet.


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