Summary: The purpose of prayer is NOT to let God know something He does not know. It is to open us to His free gift.

Thursday of Pentecost Week 2015

Joy of the Gospel

In my opinion, one of the mistakes made in the seventies was the elimination of the Octave of Pentecost, and the changing of the season “after Pentecost” to what is now called “Ordinary Time.” That’s a perfectly awful translation of the Latin, which is per annum–through the year, which is bad enough. Saying “after Pentecost” emphasizes the reality that we are living in the strength and enlightenment of the Third Person of the Trinity. He dwells in our souls, clarifies our minds, and gives energy to our wills for spreading the Gospel. In the Extraordinary Form calendar, we maintain the older language, and it is powerful.

The Word of God from the OT today speaks of the wisdom, omniscience and order of God, how He takes care of His creation. “Who can have enough of beholding His glory.” How incredible it must have been to walk in the presence of the God-made-man as He preached and healed. Imagine yourself watching Jesus as He summoned this blind beggar, Bar-timaeus, who leaps to His feet and gropes toward the Master. Jesus asks him what he would have the Lord do for him. Think about that. Here’s this blind beggar who has to locate Jesus by the sound of His voice. “Duh. Isn’t it obvious what the guy needs?” Yes, but that’s the purpose of all prayer, is it not? Do we think that we are telling God something He doesn’t know when we pray? What the blind beggar–and we blind beggars–must do is acknowledge our need, recognize our weakness and insufficiency, and by prayer open ourselves to divine love and pure gift. God does nothing to force us into the kingdom. He respects our free will. That is one of the joys of prayer.

We have come to chapter 3 of the Holy Father’s encyclical on the Joy of the Gospel: he reminds us ‘that if the Church “is to fulfil its providential destiny, evangelization as the joyful, patient and progressive preaching of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ must be [our] absolute priority.”

‘Evangelization is the task of the Church. The Church, as the agent of evangelization, is more than an organic and hierarchical institution; she is first and foremost a people advancing on its pilgrim way towards God. She is certainly a mystery rooted in the Trinity, yet she exists concretely in history as a people of pilgrims and evangelizers, transcending any institutional expression, however necessary.’ He then writes on this way of ‘understanding the Church, whose ultimate foundation is in the free and gracious initiative of God.

‘The salvation which God offers us is the work of his mercy. No human efforts, however good they may be, can enable us to merit so great a gift. God, by his sheer grace, draws us to himself and makes us one with him.[79] He sends his Spirit into our hearts to make us his children, transforming us and enabling us to respond to his love by our lives. The Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of the salvation offered by God.[80] Through her evangelizing activity, she cooperates as an instrument of that divine grace which works unceasingly and inscrutably. Benedict XVI put it nicely at the beginning of the Synod’s reflections: “It is important always to know that the first word, the true initiative, the true activity comes from God and only by inserting ourselves into the divine initiative, only begging for this divine initiative, shall we too be able to become – with him and in him – evangelizers”.[81] This principle of the primacy of grace must be a beacon which constantly illuminates our reflections on evangelization.’

These words are particularly meaningful in this season after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is the gift of God to us, because God’s spirit is like a force that energizes us to proclaim the Gospel, not just in words, but in deeds. So let’s find ways during this next day and week to show our Catholic identity in loving deeds for others, and in prayer for our own needs and those of our friends, relatives, and evangelization targets.

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