HOMILY FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF LENT
Readings: Ex. 3:1-8, 13-15/1Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12
Psalm: 103: 1-4, 6-8, 11
Gospel: Lk. 13: 1-9
To be in a dialogue with another is the first step in hospitality. When we are in a hospitable mood, we not only listen to another’s thoughts, opinions and history, but we are also showing them the respect they are to receive as human beings, whether we agree with them or not. It is how we live in God’s creation and live as prescribed in the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If that is the case, then the question that should be asked is “Do we deal with God the same way as we do our neighbor?”
Perhaps a better question should be “Do we deal with our neighbor the same way we deal with God?” While we might believe that how we talk and behave to one person is different than another, when we explore our relationships, we find out that they are not as different than we think. To have a dialogue with another is the start of hospitality; to have a dialogue with God is what we call prayer.
Prayer is the second pillar of stewardship. Prayer is the means by which we speak to God in a way that not only reveals our innermost thoughts and feelings, but it is the best way to know how to speak with respect and dignity not only for the One who listens, but also for the cause of our prayer as well as for our very being. Those who belong to a parish that places its focus on stewardship “strives to nourish the soul through prayer.” When we enter into prayer, we begin our conversation with God; a conversation that we wish to have from the moment we awake in the morning until the time we enter into our rest at night.
Not all prayers are the same. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists five distinct types of prayer where we can enter our dialogue with God. The first one, Adoration and Blessing, is the one in which we engage every time we go to Mass or take part in Adoration and Benediction. Each time with enter into the presence of God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit- we engage in the Prayer of Blessing. In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus, Moses encounters this form of prayer when he climbed Mt. Horeb to look upon the fiery bush. God called to Moses that the ground he was standing on was holy ground and it should be respected as such. Each time we come inside a house of worship, we too are called by God to enter and understand that we are standing on holy ground and should respect it as such. Anything less will turn our blessings into curses and our adoration into blasphemy.
The second form of prayer is Petition. This form of prayer is when we ask God for the things that we need both body and soul. Within those moments of worship, those times we are in adoration of God, we ask Him for what we need while we accept that not our will, but God’s will be done. At the beginning of the Mass, when we pray the Confiteor, we acknowledge that we have sinned, and end with a request from everyone in Heaven and on Earth to pray for us to God for forgiveness. In the Agnus Dei, we ask the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world to have mercy on us and grant us peace. When we take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we make an Act of Contrition before priest gives us absolution by making a resolution to avoid all sin with the grace of God. But no other prayer encapsulates this prayer of petition than the Our Father. We acknowledge that his will be done on earth and in heaven as we ask for our daily portion as we forgive others as we are forgiven and hope we are not put in any situations that may lead us away from God.
While we make petitions to God for our well-being, we make a prayer of intercession so that the needs of others may be fulfilled. After the Creed, we make those petitions to God for the Church, the world, those in ministry, the sick and those who have been gathered unto God. Sometimes when we make those pleas to God, we ask the saints for their intercession in our requests to make the lives of others a little better than they were.
In our desire to seek God’s favor, we sometimes forget to thank God for that favor when it is given. Like making out thank you notes, a prayer of Thanksgiving is appropriate whenever God answers our prayers. One day each year, our country gets together with our families for that specific purpose. And on that day (and during each meal) we say of prayer to God to bless us and the gifts that we are about to receive that come from his bounty. In the mass, just before communion, we ask just for God’s word to come upon us so our souls can be healed. When we give thanks for God for all his blessings, it is as if we keep in touch with our dearest friends and family, especially when we feel we are not worthy for them to enter unto our roof.
The fifth type of prayer is one that synthesizes the other four and becomes the reason for all of these prayers. It is the prayer of praise. We need to acknowledge where the graces that we receive come. In fact, this sort of prayer is so important, there is one book in the Bible dedicated just to praising God. And portions of that book are recited at each Mass, and prayed each day at each hour somewhere in the world. The Book of Psalms is 150 prayers of praise to God in times of joy and in times of sorrow. But no matter what, they are 150 ways to give praise to God. For example, Psalm 103 (the psalm proclaimed today) says the “Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.”
Prayer is to recognize that God is the means by which we have been put on this planet. We cannot do anything without his aid. For prayer is not only for speaking to God, it is also the example we need for us to listen to God. When we speak to God, it is called prayer. When we listen to God, it is called meditation. And believe it or not, God uses the same forms of prayer to us because he loves us as much as we love him. And when we enter into prayer and meditation, it not only helps us on the outside, but more importantly on the inside. St. Teresa of Avila said, “The door by which we can enter the soul-castle is prayer. We are silly if we think we can enter heaven without first entering our own souls-without getting to know ourselves.”
To know ourselves is to love God. And to love God is to be in constant prayer. It is how we engage in spiritual hospitality with God, the angels and the saints. As we continue our examination of the four pillars of stewardship, we find that the road toward salvation is not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of those we are tasked to help. May our actions during this season of Lent enable us to fully appreciate what stewardship truly means to ourselves, each other and to God.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
 Mk. 12: 29-31.
 Pillars, 17.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter referred to as “Catechism”), 2626-2643.