Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Pray 60"

Homily from the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B

It goes without saying that today is a big day for football fans as the Super Bowl is getting ready to kick off.  And what’s just as fun as the game itself are the commercials.  The Super Bowl may be the only television event where the vast majority of viewers wait for the commercials to end before getting up to go to the fridge.

Over the last couple of years the NFL has been airing a commercial campaign on television and radio promoting a program called “Play 60.”  “Play 60” is a public awareness campaign designed to fight child obesity by encouraging kids to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity everyday.

It’s a great idea. I know I’m carrying around more than my fair share of extra weight.  I need to take better care of myself physically and those commercials remind me of it everyday when I hear them on ESPN Radio as I’m getting ready each morning.  I identify well with Blessed Pope John XXIII when he said, “They say the body is a temple. Mine is a major basilica!”

We have to take care of the temple of our bodies.  We also have to take care of the temple of our souls. We need to be just as attentive, if not more so, to our spiritual health as our physical health.  Today’s Gospel talks about how dedicated Jesus himself is to his own spiritual health.  We hear how Jesus rises very early before dawn and goes off to a deserted place, where he prays.  Of course, Jesus set aside time every single day to enter into a good, deep conversation with his Father in prayer.  You’ll often hear in the Gospels that Jesus spends the entire night in prayer with the Father.

I’d like to suggest we follow Jesus’ example.  Now I’m not suggesting spending the entire night in prayer.  However, I’d like to suggest a practice my spiritual director insisted I adopt as a seminarian and a priest: the Holy Hour. 

My spiritual director told me he wanted me to spend an hour each day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  I guess you could call it “Pray 60.”  I was free to pray in any way I wanted during that time.  I might spend it doing Lectio Divina reflecting on a passage from Scripture, praying the Rosary, or simply just being there in the presence of the Lord without necessarily saying a word just sitting with Christ. Most often it was a combination of all these and more.

What do you think of making a Holy Hour?  Now I’m not suggesting you necessarily do it everyday (although some of you might be able to or do so already.)  Not many of you live a vocation that allows for an hour of prayer every day.  Many of you have families and careers that require so much of your time.  So a daily Holy Hour may not be realistic for your spiritual diet.  However, one Holy Hour a week might be exactly what you need.  Or maybe one every two weeks. Or one a month.

The Holy Hour was an integral part of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s spiritual diet.  He said that the only time Jesus ever asked the disciples for something was the night of his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus asked Peter, James and John: “Could you not watch one hour with me?”  Jesus asks not for an hour of activity, but an hour of companionship.

One time, during an exhausting day, Fulton Sheen fell asleep as soon as his Holy Hour began and woke up exactly at the end of one hour.  He looked up to the Lord and asked, “Have I made my Holy Hour?”  And he said he thought he heard God’s angel say, “Well, that’s the way the Apostles made their first Holy Hour in the Garden, but don’t do it again.”

The Holy Hour is of superb value, Sheen says, because it takes some time to catch fire in prayer.  Ever kneel or sit down to pray and you spend about five or ten minutes there and nothing seems to happen?  Perhaps that’s because we need time to shake distractions and collect one’s self.

How should you make your Holy Hour? What should you do during that time?  Well, the possibilities are limitless and what you do is ultimately up to you and the Holy Spirit.  Maybe you’ll want to spend 20 minutes of it reflecting on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday? Wouldn’t that enrich your Sunday worship?  Maybe you’ll want to spend 20 minutes of it praying the Rosary.  Maybe you’ll want to spend 20 minutes of it just resting in silence in the presence of Jesus not worrying about saying anything. Just be there with Christ.

Come. Spend a Holy Hour this week in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. It’s open until 9PM.  Come ‘Pray 60.”

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