Thursday, May 26, 2016

INSTRUCTION ON PRAYER


Homily for May 27th, 2016: Mark 11:11-16.

          “My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” we heard Jesus saying in the gospel reading. “But you have made it a den of thieves.” He took second phrase  from the prophet Exekiel, (7:11) who uses the uses the words to remind people that worship and prayer can never be a form of barter with God: ‘I’m giving you this, Lord, so you will give me that.’ God is generous with his gifts – far more generous than we are. But we cannot put God under obligation. He gives his gifts in sovereign freedom.      

          Jesus gives this teaching in connection with his cleansing of the Temple at Jerusalem, for Jesus’ people the earthly dwelling place of God. Mark tells us that Jesus “did not permit anyone to carry anything through the Temple area.” The Bible commentators concede that the meaning of this sentence is unclear. They suggest, however, that Jesus may have issued this prohibition to remind people that the Temple area was set apart for God, holy. They must not use it as a shortcut as they went about their daily errands. For us the words are a reminder that church buildings are holy. Our conduct in church must always reflect reverence for the God who dwells here, especially in his consecrated body in the tabernacle.

          Jesus goes on to give an instruction on prayer. If we want the Lord to hear and fulfill our petitions, we must pray with faith. “All that you ask for in prayer,” Jesus says, “believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”  He adds another requirement: “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.” The words are an echo of others which we pray daily, in the one prayer that Jesus has given us: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

          Just days after his election over three years ago Pope Francis reminded us of something he has repeated often since in various forms: God never grows tired of forgiving us. It is we who grow tired of asking for forgiveness.