“Throwing ourselves into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father!”
(Based on Isa 55:10-11 and Mt 6:7-15 – Tuesday of the 1st Week in Lent)
A devoted and affectionate father came into the room of the hospital, where his eight-year-old son was at the dying phase of his life.
The child was affected by an incurable disease.
The child, sensing that he was not going to get well asked his father: “Daddy, am I going to die?”
“Why, son…” asked the father “… are you afraid to die?”
The child looked up into the eyes of his father and replied: “Not…. if God is like you, Daddy!”
The child had a tremendous confidence and trust in his father…
… and was being initiated to experience God also as a Loving and Caring Father.
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.
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:
- 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.”
- Prayer – the spoken word was considered the single most potent religious action.
And knowledge of the correct verbal formulas were the key to efficacy.
- 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…?”
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.
Let us cast away every fear and every anxiety!
Let us throw ourselves into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father
May all our thoughts and deeds, be aimed to do His Will and give glory to His name!
God Bless! Live Jesus
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HOPE OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH
At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness.
After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul.
The universe itself will be renewed: The Church will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.
Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”
It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.” (CCC # 1042-1043)