Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


1st Sunday of Lent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
February 17th, 2013
Year C

St Jerome lived in the late 300s and was one of the Roman Empire's greatest scholars. He had mastered classical rhetoric and literature, both Greek and Latin. His favorite and most revered author was Cicero, the great Roman writer and politician. Eventually he became papal secretary, founder of a monastery in Bethlehem, translator of the Bible, and the greatest Scripture commentator in the Church's history. But all of that happened only after a special grace led him to discover his hidden sinfulness.  It happened like this. He fell ill during his travels in the Holy Land. During his illness he had a vision. He found himself before God's judgment seat. The Lord asked him his profession; Jerome answered, “I am a Christian.” But the Lord looked at him sadly and said, “You are lying. You are a Ciceronian, because the works of that author possess your heart.” That vision taught him that he hadn't yet put all his trust in God; it woke him up from spiritual mediocrity.

Lent is a period of time in the Church that provides the means for us to awaken from spiritual mediocrity. As a people marred by the stains of sin, we can all have the tendency to “fall off the wagon” with regard to our spiritual lives. During this time period we undertake acts of penance – prayer, fasting and alms giving – as way to recharge our spiritual batteries. Many of us – hopefully all of us – will make a good confession during this time in order to make room for God in our hearts and souls.

Of all the sacrifices we make and of all the spiritual activities in which we engage during this time, prayer is one of the most important. I’m not just talking about vocal prayer – saying extra prayers before bed, adding a rosary to our daily or weekly repertoire, or even coming to Mass during the week – all of these are good things, great things, but I’m talking about prayer that comes from the very depths of our hearts; the type of prayer that is beyond words.

In order to understand this, first we must understand the definition of prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes prayer as the raising of the mind and heart to God. This is important – prayer involves both the mind and the heart. What we think about God and how that effects our interior disposition will determine our prayer. We can know many things about the Gospels, about Jesus, or about prayer and yet remain far from His love, far from His friendship because interiorly, our hearts are distant from Him, there is no desire to want to know Him personally. On the other hand, our hearts may be in the right place – the desire is there – but our minds are running in all different directions. That which we know about God effects how we believe and pray and vice versa. The two must come together and be harmonious if we wish to take our prayer to a deeper level.

The question then is this: how, how do we pray? I think first of all the desire for God must be in us. We have to want to get to know Him. In that case we must have an experience of His mercy. This comes by making a good confession and then receiving Him in Holy Communion. These are the ordinary means in which Jesus reaches out to us with His tenderness, love and mercy. We have to want to let out what is bad, all the vice that is in us, in order to make room for Him. Second, prayer is a conversation with God that implies listening to Him. We cannot be afraid of silence. Our culture is filled with distractions of all kinds – TV, music, iphone apps, texting, email, and so on – we have to be able to just sit before the Lord with an open heart that is ready to listen, not with our ears, but with the ears of our hearts. Third, listening implies that we are willing to be taught and challenged. We have to be willing to get to know God, we have to learn who God is and how to live rightly in this world so as to do Him reverence and service. This means picking up the Bible and our Catechisms and reading. Here is where is matters. As our Lord spoke to St. Augustine: “tolle lege” – “pick up and read.” In order to get to know someone you have to spend time with him or her. It is the same with God. In order to get to know Him we have to read His book and spend time with Him in chapel. By reading Scripture – perhaps beginning with the Mass readings of day – thinking about what is being said and its relevance in our lives, looking up things we do not understand, picturing ourselves in the gospel scene and allowing the sacred words to enter not just the mind but also the heart there do we encounter Him, there do we get to know Him and we find ourselves praying.

St. John Chrysostom, in his homily on prayer, says this: “Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partnership and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light… Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time toward it.”

During this Season of Lent, let us make prayer a great priority in our daily regiment. May the time we devote to converse with God open our hearts more fully to experience the effects of His grace and mercy. Like St. Jerome, may it awaken in us the desire for Him and become more closely united to His heart.









Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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