TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR OF LUKE
18th September 2016
It is fifty years since the prayers of intercession were restored to the Roman liturgy after centuries of absence. Known colloquially in Britain as ''bidding prayers'' (from the Old English ''biddan''- to ask) they follow Paul's advice to Timothy in todays second reading that ''there should be prayers offered for everyone, petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving, especially for kings and others in authority. To do so is right, and will please God our saviour.''
First, prayer should be offered for everyone; no-one is excluded. Special reference is made to those in authority, because of the greater responsibilities and influence of such people. Individual personal needs are of course included (in the bidding prayers a time of silence is set apart for this); but when the community is praying together, it is an opportunity to widen and deepen the scope of the prayer. Indeed the recommended guidelines suggest beginning with world and national concerns, and then focussing on more local or particular ones.
Paul distinguishes three aspects of this prayer. Petition (from the Latin ''to seek'') is about seeking the mind of God on any concern or desire we bring to him. It implies our desire to seek God's will in the matter, not our own. Intercession goes deeper, and is well suited to a fervent community prayer which might include fasting and works of mercy. It means literally committing ourselves to working with God to bring about his will, to stand in the breach between the situation we fervently pray for and God. And thanksgiving goes one stage further. Not only are we interceding but now we are thanking God that he has heard and answered our prayer, even if we cannot see the result. It is an act of faith.
God bless you and yours.
TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR OF LUKE
11th September 2016
The three parables of mercy in Luke 15 are about God. Jesus uses three different images to express how his Father rejoices in finding what was lost. Sin is the condition of being lost; grace is being found by God. Being lost is about disconnectedness from where we belong; we have no anchor; we are alienated from ourselves, from others and from God. Being found restores our sense of belonging, of security and of purpose. The first story of the lost sheep is God never giving up on us. The story of the lost coin is God telling us how precious we are to him. And the two lost sons, each lost in different ways, is God sharing our alienation and travelling with us on our way back home, whether from a distant land or out of our own internal isolation, even as the Father bore the cross of his Son. Reconciliation is the feast that celebrates simultaneously finding and being found. We need to experience both Gods rejoicing and ours together fully to realise the grace of reconciliation.
In a world (inhabited by Christians) we have lost a sense of sin in the popular understanding of that word, as describing transgression of Gods law and commandments. While many in the Church bemoan this state of affairs, are we not missing the very real sense of lostness, bewilderment and alienation that stalks the scattered sheep of Christs flock as much as the rest of the world? Have we not here a point of evangelical contact, a walking home with others as Jesus joins us on the road back to the Fathers feast? No, we have not lost a sense of sin but a taste for mercy. Can we rejoice in finding it?
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