Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Ingredient: Pray Daily

Homily from the 1st Sunday of Advent - Year C

Last week our Life Teen youth minister, Sarah Hill, asked me what was my favorite dish for Thanksgiving?  Without skipping a beat I said, “tarhonya.”  Does anyone in this room know what tarhonya is?  If you’ve never had tarhonya, you aren’t living a complete human life.
Jesus eats tarhonya in the Kingdom.

Anyway, this is tarhonya.  This is dried tarhonya.  You have to cook it, kind of like rice or pasta.  It’s a Hungarian dish.  My family is Polish, but my mother grew up in a Hungarian neighborhood in South Bend so we ate a lot of goulash and tarhonya growing up.  Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter simply don’t happen without tarhonya.

So, basically it’s a very tiny bead of pasta.  And there’s a very simple but very important recipe for tarhonya.  First you brown it in some melted butter.  Then, when it’s nice and golden brown, you add boiling chicken stock.  While it absorbs all that chicken stock, you keep stirring it so it doesn’t stick.  Then when it gets tender, you add a jar of chicken gravy.  Like I said, Jesus eats this in the kingdom.

I promise there’s a homily in here somewhere.

The reason I bring this up is because lately I’ve been passing along advice in the confessional and in conversation that I think is a pretty simply but very important recipe for our spiritual preparation.  And like tarhonya that has four ingredients of tarhonya, butter, chicken stock and chicken gravy, my little recipe has four ingredients as well.  These four ingredients are: pray daily, go to Mass weekly, go to confession, seasonally and rejoice always.  And as it turns out, the readings for the next four weeks of Advent focus on each of these four ingredients.

So, the first ingredient is pray daily.  

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to “be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are immanent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

I’m reading a gem of a book called “Prayer for Beginners” by Peter Kreeft.  It’ s easy to read, to the point, and very helpful.  I strongly recommend you read this book this Advent.  As much as I’d like to disagree with Mr. Kreeft, he makes the point that prayer is more important than eating.  When I read that sentence I wanted to burn this book, but I decided to read on.

Click here to buy this book.
Peter Kreeft says,  “Eating keeps your body alive, and prayer keeps your soul alive.  Prayer is more important than eating because your soul is more important than your body.  Your soul is more important than your body because your soul is you, your personality, your self.  You will get a new body after death, in the resurrection at the end of the world.  But you will not get a new soul; you will only purify and sanctify your old one because you are your soul.  Prayer keeps your soul alive because prayer is real contact with God, and God is the life of the soul as the soul is the life of the body.  If you do not pray, your soul will wither and die, just as, if you do not eat, your soul will wither and die.”

There are countless ways to pray.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll suggest just one for you to do this Advent.  A few weeks ago, a number of our teens heard a talk from Mark Hart, the vice president of Life Teen, whose also known as “The Bible Geek.”  And he pointed out that if we want to get to know Jesus, we have to get to know his Word, especially in the Gospels.
Well, beginning today, on this first Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year.  And our Sunday Gospel readings for most of the year will come from the Gospel of Luke.

I would like you to pray through the entire Gospel of Luke this year.  A little bit everyday, from beginning to end.

How do you do this?  Quite simply, you begin at the beginning.  And you read a little passage.  No longer than what you would hear in the Gospel reading at Mass.  You read it slowly and carefully, taking your time, not rushing, listening to what Jesus is saying specifically to you.  You listen to his words, you meditate on them and then you say something back.

This is an ancient prayer practice called “lectio divina” which means sacred reading.
When we pray with Sacred Scripture, we train ourselves to listen to the voice of God in every aspect of our life.  Because unlike petitionary prayer which brings to the Lords our wants and desires, lectio divina brings to us the Lord’s wants and desires.  For when we pray with Sacred Scripture, we let the Lord do the talking first through his Holy Word, to which we listen, understand, respond and make resolutions and are thus, transformed.

So beginning tonight, do this:  Read the first section of the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.  Listen to what the Lord is saying specifically to you.  Meditate on it in silence.  Then say something back to the Lord.  Take 15 minutes everyday to do this.  Depending on how you break up the passages, it could take you anywhere from 6 months to a year to pray through the Gospel of Luke.

Imagine what that would do for your relationship with Jesus Christ.  To prayerfully walk with him through one of the Gospel accounts of His life. 

And the Gospel of Luke is such a beautiful account.  This is the Gospel that shows in a special way Jesus’ love for the outcasts of society.  St. Luke was a doctor, so there’s also special attention to Jesus’ miraculous healings.  Only in the Gospel of Luke do we hear about the Annunciation, the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the finding of Jesus in the temple.  Only in the Gospel of Luke do we have Jesus’ two best known parables: The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan.  The Gospel of Luke also pays special attention to the role of women in Christ’s ministry.  And the Gospel of Luke is filled with lots and lots of meals.  So I’m terribly interested in the Gospel of Luke.  

In fact one year, during one of my summer assignments, we took the youth group on an all-day canoe trip.  And throughout the day, we stopped every so often to read one of the meal stories from Luke and we ate snacks and meals each time.  We called it “Meals With Jesus in the Gospel of Luke While Riding in a Canoe.”  We ate like hobbits!  First breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper.  Start praying the Gospel of Luke and we’ll canoe, pray and eat some day this summer.

Also, at the end of your pews, you'll notice a piece of paper with instructions on how to do lectio divina.  These are your bookmarks as you do lectio.  Stick in your bible at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke tonight and start praying your way through it.

Lastly, share your thoughts and reflections with one another.  After you’ve done your lectio with Luke for the day, if you feel so inclined, tweet your thoughts to one another and add the hashtag: #lukelectio.  Sharing your inspirations with one another will open your hearts, minds and souls more and more to God’s Word.

I look forward to praying the Gospel of Luke with you this year, to hearing your inspirations, to sharing my own with you, and to eating tarhonya on a canoe ride this summer!

The first ingredient of the spiritual life: pray daily.  Next week: confess seasonally.

No comments:

Post a Comment