Prayer and Mission
Today, our Gospel speaks about prayer. And this Sunday is World Mission Sunday. In this mass then, we are invited to reflect on the themes of prayer and mission.
First, on Prayer. A true prayer is one that is done with a PC… What is that? a personal computer? No, its PERSISTENCE and CONFIDENCE, that is, we need to pray with persistence and with confidence.
Prayer essentially is not only storming heaven with our requests and demand, rather prayers is being with God; it is communing and communicating with God. Prayer is primarily Adoring God, Confessing to God, and Thanking God (ACT), and only secondarily is prayer about petitions, requests and “demands” to God. This is the way we pray in the Church, look at the model of all prayers–the our Father–it does not right away say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” first it says solemnly: “Our Father in Heaven, holy be your name…”. But in prayer we also, confess our sins, hence we say, “forgive us our sins.” This is also the way we pray in the Mass, the highest prayer of the Church. We might think that God is very meticulous with our prayer. The truth is, God does not need our prayers; rather we need God that is why we pray.
It is in this context of understanding prayer where we say that we need to have persistence and confidence in prayer.
In prayer we need to be persistent not only because prayers are not immediately heard but also because there is no guarantee, no assurance that they will be granted. Sometimes, people pray only because they are happy, satisfied have so much blessings in life, or simply because they feel good about it. And when life becomes difficult, problems and trouble come in, and finding themselves as if God have abandoned them, they stop praying. I believe, when such desperate moments come into our lives, the more that we have to pray. Personally, many of my intense prayers happened on these desperate situations, such as during exams. Not that I was not prepared and afraid to fail in the exams, but I came to pray more when I study longer and harder. Persistence is to continue praying even if we don’t feel like praying, or even if we are tired of it. We have to imitate and be like the persistent widow in our Gospel today who continuously appealed her cause to the unjust judge until such time that the latter handed a fair decision. We need also to be like Moses in our first reading who endured the physical rigor and difficulty of maintaining an outreach arm as he prayed for victory over their enemies, the Amalekites. This is the way to be persistent in prayer, never giving up.
In prayer, we also need to be confident, to be strong in hoping that what is good and best for us will be provided by God, not necessarily what we specifically ask for but what will truly bring us closer to God. Let us remember what Jesus said, “if you who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who asked him.” (Luke 11:13) Not only that we trust the goodness of God but our experience tells us that patience is a virtue.. in Filipino we say, “Pag may tiyaga, may nilaga.” I believe God is not that cruel to ignore a person’s diligence and industry. Once more, our Filipino genuis rings very true in this regard, “Nasa tao ang gawa nasa Dios ang awa.” Now, I strongly believe, we have all the reason to be confident in our prayers.
My dear brothers and sisters, we need to have PC in prayer, that is, have persistence and confidence in prayer.
Second, on Mission. Doing mission is always identified exclusively with the work and functions of priests and nun–the sisters as if others have nothing to do with it. This very limited if not wrong understanding of mission is set to be corrected by the Church as she dedicates every third Sunday of October to be the World Mission Sunday, to constantly remind the whole and universal Church that she is and needs to be missionary, that all is a missionary by virtue of his/her baptism. Pope Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation, Evangeli Nuntiandi, beautifully said,
“Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” Proclaiming Christ to others then is our corporate identity, as Christians we are and must proclaim Christ to others. This is what we are supposed to be as Christians, to proclaim Christ to others.
But there are those who prepared and studied to be missionaries. For instance, the SVDs are one of those religious-missionary priests and brothers who prepare their members for missionary work here in the Philippines and abroad. In fact, many of those who have been ordained in the last two years were already been sent to work outside of the country as missionaries. Fr Nonoi and Dicz who were here in SHP until July are already in Congo, Africa working there as missionaries. On my part, also as an SVD, I will be working also in Africa together with one my classmates who will be sent to Ghana in Africa. Fr. Nonoi, Dicz, me and my classmates and other SVDs are going to work in the missions. But I believe, my going to the foreign mission is not a private and personal affair. Yes, I choose and applied to work in Africa but I believe I am not going on my own. I am going to the missions as a Filipino missionary sent by the Philippine Church. I will be bringing with me the Faith I received and that was nurtured within our faith community.
The life of missionaries in the foreign countries is not heaven like. Most SVDs I knew who returned to the country after years of working in other countries would come back sick and looked old, telling us that the life of a missionary is not easy, and that they need our support. If we are all missionaries as baptized Christians, then we need to help our missionaries. They need our prayers, encouragements and material means of support to sustain them in their work.
All of us might not have the chance of working as missionaries in other countries or in far away places, but by our baptism, we are truly missionaries whose grace and vocation is to evangelize, to proclaim Christ to others, which we can do as effectively as other missionaries in our given situations. In our homes we can be missionaries by becoming loving and provident parents to our children, or by being responsible and dependable sons or daughters. In our work places, we are proclaimers of Christ to others by our honesty and efficiency in work. In our respective local communities, we can also become evangelizers through the kindness and respect we extend to others. But above all, as Christian communities, by practicing our faith, by making alive our act of worship, we easily make others feel the active presence of God. By these and some other ways we become missionaries in our particular life situation.
My sisters and brothers, today, God is telling us to be persistent and confident in our prayers and to participate in the mission of the Church. May we be generous with our time and resources as God is will certainly be generous to listen and to answer our prayers. Amen.