1st Reading: Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 137, Response: Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.; 2nd Reading: Colossians 2:12-14; Gospel: Luke 11:1-13
There are two themes we can reflect on in this Sunday’s Gospel: forgiveness, and the prayer of petition. Let me propose reflecting on them from the perspective of gratitude.
Many people tell me they struggle to forgive those who have wronged them. What adds to the struggle is the difficulty of accepting that one of the central graces of the Lord’s Prayer is forgiveness.
Other themes come into play. We cannot give what we do not have so if we do not have an experience of being forgiven, we cannot forgive. Or, in the case of Pope Francis, his profound experience of God’s forgiveness and mercy transformed him into an apostle of God’s mercy.
The crux of the matter is our acceptance of God’s forgiveness. Is it possible that we have a natural, somewhat “insidious” block to accepting God’s forgiveness?
I remember what some of our professors told us in the seminary as they prepared us for ordination. When someone confesses a “difficult sin” (such as a sexual sin), we should not probe too much or scold. The fact that the person is able to admit it is a good sign of sincere repentance.
Such cases are great moments of grace, in which the priest can let the person experience the full power of deep consolation coming from God’s mercy and forgiveness. Then the person is able to forgive others.
We cannot give what we do not have. Accepting God’s mercy and forgiveness requires the humility to admit our failures and to acknowledge our need of help that comes to us through God’s grace.
Acceptance and being touched by grace will always lead us to a deeper, more healing and integrating grace: gratitude. At this point, our hearts and soul offer back—in the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, “returning love for love”—the forgiving, merciful love of God.
The second theme, the prayer of petition, is also a prayer of gratitude. I have no logical “essay” on this, but here’s a story. I go to the Padre Pio Chapel near Eastwood in Quezon City once or twice a month. I offer prayers of petition for those who ask for prayers, for my work, and for the graces I personally need.
These visits evolved through the years, and with it, my petitionary prayer metamorphosed from “asking” to “giving.”
At first, I had a long list of people and needs to pray for. Then came a time when I fervently begged for the healing of someone that it seemed I took on the infirmity and was the one in need of healing.
After this, the quality of the petitionary prayer changed into one of greater solidarity with those I pray for. It shifted from a “laundry list” to a confession of surrender reminiscent of the grace of the Agony in the Garden. After Christ expresses what was in his heart and soul (“If it is possible, let this cup pass me by”), he prays his confession of surrender. “Father, not my will, but your will be done.”
Since then, my petitionary prayer was living out this surrender, still presenting the “laundry list” but now dealing with the concrete circumstances of the concern and praying for the graces.
In the past few years, “the graces” simplified into a core grace that God is lovingly, providentially present in all things. Before I knew it, my petitionary prayer evolved into a prayer of thanksgiving.
Even as I bring a petition, a concern to God in prayer, it begins with gratitude, giving thanks for his being there, a faithful presence, a providential presence, and a loving providence.
Now, each visit I make is a prayer of gratitude. Yes, I still bring with me the prayers for the petitions of others, for my work and for the graces I need but now with a grateful heart and spirit that comes from experiencing a God who is always lovingly, providentially present. —CONTRIBUTED