Prepare Yourself Spiritually

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the servants watching over their master’s house while he is away (Luke 12:32-48). There are two verses that really struck a chord with me and relate to many of my earlier articles and rosary meditations: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” These verses stress the importance of always being prepared. But it raises these interesting questions. For what do we prepare? And how do we prepare?

An etching by Jan Luken illustrating Luke 10:3...
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In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the servants watching over their master’s house while he is away (Luke 12:32-48).  There are two verses that really struck a chord with me and relate to many of my earlier articles and rosary meditations:

Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

These verses stress the importance of always being prepared.  But it raises these interesting questions.  For what do we prepare?  And how do we prepare?  I think the traditional reading of this Gospel is that we prepare for our final judgement once we die.  We are like the servants while Jesus is the master.  One day the master will return and we will have to account for what we have done.  The Second Glorious Mystery reminds us that Jesus ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God to judge the living and the dead.  Since we do not know when our final judgement will come, we better be in a constant state of readiness.  But while preparing for our final judgement is important, there are also other, more immediate reasons why we need to be prepared spiritually.

We should also prepare ourselves for the unexpected obstacles of this life.  Similar to how Jesus said that we do not know the hour of our judgement, we also do not know the time or circumstances of great hardship.  It may be the unexpected loss of a loved one, an illness, economic troubles, relationship issues, or just a sense of depression and despair.  Often we cannot prevent such events from occurring.  Since we cannot avoid hardship and trials in life it almost seems foolish to not prepare for them.  As Jesus implies in the Gospel, only a foolish person would not defend his house if he knows thieves are coming.  It is important to build a “reservoir of faith” so that we have the strength to endure the challenges life throws at us in the way Jesus expects from us.

We also prepare ourselves spiritually, not just to endure hardship, but also so we can do good when the opportunity arises.  Thinking back to the story of The Good Samaritan, living a life of constant prayer enables us to spot those opportunities when we can help those in need.  Personally, I know I sometimes live in my own little world and focus on my immediate needs.  We often live where we look after ourselves first and maybe, if we have a little energy left over, we help our loved ones.  And many of us have no energy or desire to help strangers or our enemies.  But when our hearts and minds are truly prepared and aligned with God’s will we gain the ability to look past our immediate needs and see the needs of others.

There are many ways to prepare for the trials of this life, the judgement in the next, and to help those in need.  I always talk about spiritual fitness in my posts.  That is just another way of explaining how to prepare our souls for life’s challenges.  Much like how push ups build physical muscle, prayer and the sacraments build spiritual muscle.  Meditation, reading the Bible, and (of course) praying the Holy Catholic rosary all help galvanize our defenses against sin and resist the false promises of satan.  Like exercise, the earlier we start praying and the more consistently we do it the stronger we will be in the long run.  We will have that extra energy to go that extra mile and help those who need it the most.  So ask yourself, are you prepared?

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The Lord’s Call to Prayer

This past Sunday’s Gospel was the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a story that I’m sure many of us have heard dozens of times about a man who was beaten and robbed. A priest and a Levite avoided the man while a Samaritan helped him and took care of him (Jews and Samaritans did not get along). And we probably all know the teachings behind that parable. We have heard about how God calls us to help one another. We know that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ from our best friend to our worst enemies. We reflect on how we often make excuses for not helping one another such as we’re too busy or it’s too much of an inconvenience. But sitting in my pew last Sunday listening to the homily made me think about another angle of this parable. I asked myself, “how often does God want us to pray?”

The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Image by Fergal OP via Flickr

I use the parable of the Good Samaritan to discuss how often God calls us to prayer.

This past Sunday’s Gospel was the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It’s a story that I’m sure many of us have heard dozens of times about a man who was beaten and robbed.  A priest and a Levite avoided the man while a Samaritan helped him and took care of him (Jews and Samaritans did not get along).  And we probably all know the teachings behind that parable.  We have heard about how God calls us to help one another.  We know that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ from our best friend to our worst enemies.  We reflect on how we often make excuses for not helping one another such as we’re too busy or it’s too much of an inconvenience.  But sitting in my pew last Sunday listening to the homily made me think about another angle of this parable.  I asked myself, “how often does God want us to pray?”

At first glance the parable of the Good Samaritan does not seem to be about prayer.  But I started to reflect on what exactly is the purpose of prayer.  The basic definition of prayer is the act of communicating with God.  So how often should we communicate with God through prayer?  The Third Commandment says to keep holy the Sabbath which occurs once a week.  As Christians, we reserve Sunday as our holy day of prayer.  But instead of a day, many of us only give an hour by going to Mass and “getting it out of the way.”  I defer to Homer Simpson as an example of how many of us think of Sunday Mass:

So what is a realistic amount of time to pray?  A day, an hour, what?  I arrived at the answer listening to the story of the Good Samaritan.  We are called to prayer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  In other words, God calls us to perpetually be in a state of prayer.  Think about that basic definition of prayer which is communication with God.  By living a life of prayer we live in constant communication with God.  He guides us through life’s obstacles, gives us strength for the rough times, and offers us many blessings.  Another way to put this is that living in prayer leads to living in God’s grace.  But to receive these gifts of guidance, strength, and faith we have to always present our joys, worries, and concerns to God and listen to what He says to us.  Through this communication we prepare ourselves for whatever challenges come our way.

The Good Samaritan was living in prayer when he helped the robbed and beaten man.  Like Mary in the Annunciation or Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Samaritan said through his actions, “thy will be done Lord.”  That is much more than what the priest or the Levite did in that parable when they were too busy to help the poor man.  They represent our tendency to think of prayer as something we separate from our normal lives.  For the priest and the Levite, the man on the side of the road needed help outside of the time they reserved for prayer.  Basically, the poor man needed help when the priest and Levite weren’t in a prayerful mood.  But could you imagine trying to explain to God a good reason not to be in a prayerful mood?  When we are like the Samaritan who integrated prayer into his life, not separated it, we are always ready and willing to do God’s will.  We don’t see helping others as an inconvenience, but as an opportunity to further our relationship with God and live in a deeper form of grace.

So let us not be like the priest or Levite in the parable or Homer Simpson in the video clip.  We are not called to partition our lives into two categories — one where we live in prayer and acknowledge God’s will and one where we do not.  There isn’t a time limit to prayer or an expiration date for acting holy.  Of course there are different forms of prayer.  Prayer means silent meditation, reading the Bible, reciting the rosary, or acting with good will.  For some it might mean religious life as a priest or nun while others it means marriage.  Regardless of who you are and what you do, God calls us to a life of prayer because He greatly desires a dialog with each one of us.  Now ask yourself, do your actions reflect a desire to live in God’s graces?

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