Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
We all like to go see movies because movies highlight and accentuate that which is most common to us all. The earth is back on center-screen; the world is a stage; romance is accentuated; love is highlighted; tragedies, temptations and sin are heightened; redemption is glorified! Movies help remind us that there is nothing “common” about life. I pity those who take for granted their wives, husbands and children. I pity those who take for granted this day, this moment, this month and this year. There should be nothing very special about this or that person’s love, for my neighbor’s love is just as remarkable as that of the person sitting next to them. There is nothing as uncommon as what we hold common! And something that is very common to us all is troubles.
In today’s readings we see a relationship between prayer and troubles. We first witness this in Jonah’s distress. Troubles are brewing for him. His problems began when he could not accept God’s Will or let go of his own will. Is this not the battle of all battles? Will it be my life or “Christ who lives in me?” What will it be? There are so many ways to live life. There are so many ways to solve problems. The Lord invites us to live as he lived and to do what he did; and what he did was to unite heaven with earth. He was able to do it because he took time to pray.
The Gospel passage for today connects well with our first reading. The Lord takes time to teach his disciples how to pray. They will need to learn, for troubles lie ahead; troubles not due to Christ’s infidelity but because of His fidelity. So there are two types of troubles we experience: those that are caused by our sins and those that are caused by our fidelity. In both cases, prayer is an appropriate response, and in the most difficult cases, it could be the only response.
This morning I read an interesting article on a convent that stands a few yards away from the site of the former Tyburn Tree, the three-sided London gallows where 105 Catholics, including 20 canonized saints, were executed during the Protestant Reformation. The convent’s very existence fulfills the prophecy made back in 1585 by Fr. Gregory Gunne when, during his own trial, he rebuked the Elizabethan court for having sentenced St. Edmund Campion to death. “You have slain the greatest man in England,” he said. “I will add that one day there, where you have put him to death, a religious house will arise, thanks to an important offering.”
St. Theresa of Avila wrote, “Souls without prayer are like bodies without hands or feet.” In other words, a crippled soul cripples the body whereas a crippled body does not cripple a prayerful soul. St. Edmund Campion built this convent with his soul, not with his body!
No man became a saint without prayer. No man! We all need to pray. Otherwise, we will be wrestling with our passions, emotions and devils without much success, for some sins – sins that are wrapped tightly around our hearts – can only be conquered by prayer.
Are there any temptations that you are battling right now? Close your eyes and cut the imaginary strings of attachment. Separate yourself from them. Do not allow yourself to be entangled by its snare. Do not become short sighted. When the devil tempts us, it means we have little vision. Christ was tempted by the devil in the desert and it failed. The Lord knew his mission. He had vision!