Summary: "intercessory prayer does not divert us from true contemplation, since authentic contemplation always has a place for others."
Thursday of 18th Week in Course 2017
Joy of the Gospel
Our recent journey with the Holy Father through his encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel, has taken us to a place where we learn that our faithfulness to our call is the critical element of our discipleship. Our fruitfulness is assured if we are alert to opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. That’s certain. What is not certain is that we will be able to see the fruit of our labors and prayers. St. Paul today, as he writes to the church in Corinth, affirms that truth. It’s not generally recognized by parishioners that the second letter to that church devotes a huge chunk of text to an appeal for funds for the poor. St. Paul even quotes today’s responsorial psalm as he makes his case. Giving of our surplus, doing without some luxury, is not a suggestion. It’s a requirement of our call. Digging into what we think we might need in the future requires some dying to selfishness. All of this, however, is upheld by our constant prayer, Lord, Thy will be done. If you and I don’t do good for others, God’s will might not be done today on earth at all.
The Holy Father tells us how to nurture that spirit: ‘Keeping our missionary fervour alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly. He can heal whatever causes us to flag in the missionary endeavour. It is true that this trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!
‘One form of prayer moves us particularly to take up the task of evangelization and to seek the good of others: it is the prayer of intercession. Let us peer for a moment into the heart of Saint Paul, to see what his prayer was like. It was full of people: “…I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you… because I hold you in my heart” (Phil 1:4, 7). Here we see that intercessory prayer does not divert us from true contemplation, since authentic contemplation always has a place for others.
‘This attitude becomes a prayer of gratitude to God for others. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you” (Rom 1:8). It is constant thankfulness: “I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:4); “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Phil 1:3). Far from being suspicious, negative and despairing, it is a spiritual gaze born of deep faith which acknowledges what God is doing in the lives of others. At the same time, it is the gratitude which flows from a heart attentive to others. When evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed of self-absorption, they are desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others.
‘The great men and women of God were great intercessors. Intercession is like a “leaven” in the heart of the Trinity. It is a way of penetrating the Father’s heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them. We can say that God’s heart is touched by our intercession, yet in reality he is always there first. What our intercession achieves is that his power, his love and his faithfulness are shown ever more clearly in the midst of the people.’
Today’s saint is a perfect example for us deacons. Lawrence and Sixtus were Spanish Christians of the mid-third century. They went to Rome, where Sixtus was elected Pope in 257. He ordained Lawrence deacon and appointed him archdeacon of the diocese, responsible for the Church’s property. The next year, Emperor Valerian “issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Pope St Sixtus II was captured on 6 August 258, at the cemetery of St Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and executed.” The Roman prefect then ordered Lawrence to bring all the wealth of the Church to him for confiscation. He was granted three days, during which Lawrence distributed all the Church’s property to the poor. On the third day, he brought “the indigent, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church.” He was ordered to be executed, and tradition tells us he was roasted on a gridiron, during which he joked about being turned over, since he was well done on one side. He is, of course, one of the saint patrons of cooks and comedians.