31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 3, 2013
2 Thess 1:11—2: 2
Christian Brothers, Iona College, N.R.
“Brothers and sisters: We always pray for you” (1 Thess 1: 11).
Some of the Fathers of the Church in the earliest centuries of Christianity called Christians the “soul” of the entire world. We are the ones who give life, hope, and love to humanity—and just to humanity but to every aspect of creation, which, as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, is groaning as it hopes for redemption (8:19-22).
|St. Paul - St. Peter's Square|
One of the ways by which we give life to the world is prayer. Prayer, I should mention, is an exercise of our basic Christian priesthood, the common priesthood of all the baptized. That priesthood enables all of us to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice thru the hands of the ordained priest. And within the Eucharist, as well as in other sacramental rite and in our private prayer, we intercede for many people for many concerns—our “general intercessions” at Mass and in our liturgical prayer, our intercessions for our family members and friends, for those who are suffering from natural disasters or war or any of the terrible circumstances of life; or we pray for the needs of the Church like vocations, the missions, and so on.
A little story. I keep in my breviary a list of people who’ve asked me to pray for them—usually for something to do with their health, or just in general, as when someone says, “Father, please pray for me.” At one Catholic Press Assn. affair, I met a certain gentleman who became a good friend and who asked me to pray for his particular ministry. So he’s been on my list for a few years now. So at one CPA convention—I think it was in Pittsburgh 2 or 3 years ago—we happened to be together for lunch, and since I had my breviary with me, I showed him that he was on my little list. Lo and behold, a short while later the lunch speaker got up—some priest whose name I don’t remember—to speak about forgiveness. In the course of his address he said more or less that when we talk about forgiving our enemies and those who’ve hurt us, it’s not enuf just to put their names on some sort of prayer list and think we’re done. Well, Owen and I looked at each other and then about fell out of our chairs laughing.
When we offer prayers for people, we’re doing what Paul and his co-workers did: “We always pray for you.”
Paul isn’t praying for his friends—the local church at Thessalonica that he had converted, established, and guided, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles—in some general sort of way. He prays very particularly that God will make them worthy of the call that he—God—has given them, and that God will bring to fulfillment all the purposes for which he has called them.
There we have powerful indications of what we should really be praying for. Not that we ought not to pray for peace or good weather or improvements in the economy or good judgment from our political leaders or such things—but the bottom line for everyone is that we respond to God’s call. That covers everything for which we were created. Do you remember your Baltimore Catechism? Why did God make you? “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with them forever in the next world.” That’s our calling.
Paul puts that this way: “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you … in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.” So our prayer ultimately is for the glory of God, by the gift of God (which is what “grace” means). Our Collect this evening prayed about God’s gift and asked him to help us “hasten to receive the things [he has] promised”—to respond to his call to share in Christ’s glory.
“The glory of God,” St. Irenaeus said late in the 2d century, “is man fully alive.” God’s glory is that we live to the fullest. Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “I have come so [you] may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). That fullness of life comes from living in and with Jesus in this life: “blessed are the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for justice,” etc., as we just heard in the gospel of All Saints. You know how good you feel when you’ve done something truly good. Your life is fuller! And we pray that everyone will come to such a full life, “bring to fulfillment every good purpose” that God intends for all of us—in this life and in eternal life.