Homily: Pray Always with Joy

December 6, 2015

The following homily was delivered on the Second Sunday of Advent in 2012 and reflects on the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Phil1:4-6, 8-11)

This time of year there is much talk of gift-giving and finding someone that perfect gift. What better gift-giving message could there be than the one we hear in Paul’s letter to the Philippians today? He tells the community, “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you”

Can you imagine a better gift? Think about how awesome this would be – someone not only praying for me, but praying always with joy.

This idea got me thinking of a whole series of “what if’s.” What if we did this? What if all of us prayed always with joy for one another? All of our prayers for others and all of our prayers with joy.

I often have people ask me to pray for them or for their needs. And I do; I add them to my prayer list. However, Paul makes me wonder if I am being too mechanical. Am I just going through the motions when I pray for those people? Do I pray with joy always? What would it be like if I did? What would it be like if we all did?

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I had the honor of attending the installation of Archbishop Tobin last Monday. It was a powerful service, a beautiful Mass with beautiful music. It was almost overwhelming. The best part was the full participation of everyone in attendance, responding to all of the prayers and singing all of the hymns. Everyone participated in full voice. The sound shook the walls of the cathedral.

Our prayer came alive. We were praying with joy.

What if all of us responded like this every time we attended Mass? Do we need to be in the cathedral to do that? Do we need to install an Archbishop to have this type of participation? Was Jesus any more present at that service than He is at our weekend Masses? What would it sound like to shake the walls of St. Pius X with our prayer?

Isn’t that what Paul means when he speaks of praying joyfully?

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I watch the students at school as they process to the altar to receive Holy Communion. I see distracted teens gazing at something else. I hear mumbled responses when I offer the Body or Blood of Christ.

Then a young person will step forward, standing upright and reverent, hands extended, eyes locked on me – and my favorite part -a smile on his or her face.

How can you not smile, knowing that you are receiving Jesus? How could you not be in awe?

I say “Body of Christ” and this young person says, “Amen” with true conviction. An “Amen” that says, “Yes, I believe that this is the Body of Christ…I would stake my life on it.”

What if we all received Holy Communion like this? Joyfully and with conviction, rather than as part of some methodical routine?

Isn’t that what Paul means when he speaks of praying joyfully?

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For the young people here today: When a parent asks you, or tells you, to do something such as clean your room, cut the grass, or clear the dinner dishes – how do you respond?

There are times when you want to say, “No” or “I don’t want to.” But you know it would not be a good idea to say that out loud. You really don’t have time to do it. You don’t want to do it. You are irritated that Mom even asked you to do it. So you do it, but you complain or you’re grumpy or you rush through it just to get it done. The work gets done, but it is certainly not done with joy.

Even though I use children in my example, adults aren’t off the hook. How do we respond when our boss or our spouse asks us to do something? How about when a friend asks a favor of us?

How much joy is in our efforts? How much joy is in our hearts? What if when we helped one another we did it from a place of love?

Isn’t that what Paul means when he speaks of praying joyfully?

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During Advent, maybe we should be thinking about what kind of gift to give to God. What do you get for the Man who has everything?

Maybe our gift to God should be joy. Participating fully at Mass – with joy. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ – with joy. Serving others – with joy. Or as Paul suggests: “Praying always with joy in our every prayer.”

When Paul writes of praying, he doesn’t mean words alone. He is talking about living a prayerful life.

Prayer is reciting the Our Father, but it is also visiting the elderly in nursing homes.

Prayer is an hour of Adoration, but it is also an hour serving at the soup kitchen.

Prayer is saying the rosary, but it is also putting aside your computer to spend with your children.

Prayer is coming to Mass a few minutes early to sit in silence, but it is also taking your spouse’s hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze.

The greatest gift we can give to God is to live our entire lives as one joyful prayer.

Isn’t that what Paul means when he speaks of praying joyfully?

 

 

 

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