Jun 20 (Mt 6:7-15)

In the centre of London stands an iconic building – St Paul’s Cathedral.

This majestic structure is built in the shape of a cross…

… with a large dome crowning the intersection of its arms.

>> At 111.3 metres high, it is one of the largest cathedral domes in the world.

Climbing up 259 steps inside the dome, one reaches the “Whispering Gallery”.

The speciality of this gallery is:

>>When one stands on one side of the circular gallery, and whispers…

… these soft tones of sound can be heard, on the other side – even 30 metres away.

The sound bounces back many times on the smooth walls of the dome…

… and the whisper can be heard even at a far distance.

What is said, even in the lowest of tones, can be heard, on the opposite side of the dome.

In the spiritual realm, the entire space is like this “whispering gallery”…

… even the lowest of tones, are heard by our Loving God.

>> No matter how low we whisper, He hears!

>> No matter how silent be our prayer, He hears!

Are we able to have such a trust and confidence in our prayer life?

The Gospel of the Day is a beautiful initiation by Jesus to help us to know, grow and deepen our understanding of God as being a Loving and Caring Father…

… as the One Who listens to our every prayer – including the ones whispered in the lowest of tones!

Today’s Gospel passage begins with Jesus issuing a warning on the danger of making prayer a mere “lip-service”

>> “In praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do….” (Mt 6:7)

What was Jesus meaning by the clause “heaping up empty phrases as the Gentiles…”?

One of the notable Gentile groups at the time of Jesus, were the Romans, under whose occupation the Jews were living.

It’s noteworthy to see some of the aspects of the ancient pagan Roman prayer:

1. All sacrifices and offerings required an accompanying prayer to be effective.

>> It was declared that “a sacrifice without prayer was thought to be useless and not a proper consultation of the gods.”

2. Prayer – the spoken word was considered the single most potent religious action.

>> And knowledge of the correct verbal formulas were the key to efficacy.

3. An accurate naming was vital for tapping into the desired powers of the deity invoked.

>> Hence public religious ritual had to be enacted by specialists and professionals faultlessly…

… even a small a mistake would require that the action, or even the entire festival, be repeated all over!

(A historian named Livy, reports of an occasion when the presiding magistrate at the Latin festival forgot to include the “Roman people” among the list of beneficiaries in his prayer…

… the festival had to be started all over!)

The Greek word used for “empty phrases” is “battalagesete”.

>> It means to stammer, babble, talk gibberish, or to repeat the same things over and over mindlessly!

With this in background, Jesus emphatically declares that prayer is not about “heaping empty phrases”.

In this context, it also good to provide the Catholic understanding and logic of some of the prayers, which are perhaps considered as repetitive (eg: The Rosary, Novenas, Litanies.. etc)

Are all these standard prayers mere “heaping up of empty phrases…?”

>> No!

The Bible teaches us many examples of repetitive prayers…

>> The angels continually – day and night – sing “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8)

>> Psalm 136 repeats the words “for his steadfast love endures forever” nearly 26 times in 26 verses!

>>Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed in the “same words” three times (Mk 14: 32-39)

>> Jesus, in fact, also commends the fact of continually praying, through the example of the widow and the unjust judge (Lk 18: 1-14)

Thus, it is seen that the Bible has many examples of repetitive prayer.

>> Therefore, the repetitive Catholic Prayers like the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Novenas, Litanies etc… are scripturally well-supported

>> When prayed with honesty and devotion, they become means to allow the heart…

… to praise God and understand His mighty works

… to grow in His love and come to a deeper awareness of His Providence

… and pray with Mother Mary and the Saints and intercede to them for our intentions

>> Prayer is not rattling off a few external words and feel satisfied in having done that…

… It is opening up, in dependence, the interiority of our hearts, to the One Who knows all!

>> Prayer is not going through a series of stipulated and organised system of words…

… It is allowing the heart to “mean what is said”, and to cause the lips express what the heart feels!

It is to this effect that Jesus says “Your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him” (Mt 6:8)…

… and teaches us the beautiful prayer – “The Our Father”!

Jesus presents the beautiful understanding of God being a Loving and Caring Father…

… The Father, in heaven, Whose Name we acknowledge to be most Holy and Worthy

… The Father, Whose Kingdom becomes the target to Which we ought to aspire

… The Father, Whose Will is to become the compass and blueprint of our life

… The Father, Whose providence nourishes us with daily bread for our sustenance and well-being

… The Father, Who extends His Immense Mercy to us, which we receive only if we forgive in turn

… The Father, Who strengthens us in our moments of trials and temptations

… The Father, Who rescues us from all evil by tenderly holding us in the palm of His Hand

Yes, Jesus wants us to understand and experience God as a Loving and Tender Father.

May we realize that in the spiritual realm, the entire space is like a “whispering gallery”…

… and even the lowest of tones, are heard by our Loving God.

>> No matter how low we whisper, He hears!

>> No matter how silent be our prayer, He hears!

Let this be our trust and confidence in our prayer life…

… and thus throw ourselves, into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father!

God Bless! Live Jesus

——————————–

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Do not look forward in fear to the changes and chances of this life….

… rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise.

>> God, to Whom you belong will in His Love enable you to profit by them.

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