Gospel Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pray Anyway (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)

The disciples were filled with fear as they experienced the stormy sea. They even mistook Jesus for a ghost. But when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, it is I,” they realized it was the Lord. Upon recognizing Him, Peter jumped off the boat and walked on the water to go to Jesus. When he felt the turbulent waves, he was gripped with fear and began to sink. He cried to the Lord for rescue and Jesus pulled him out of the water. And the Lord said: “Man of little faith.”
Why did Peter, as well as the other disciples, falter in faith? What was it they lacked? What was it that could have deepened their faith? If we go back to the gospel, we will notice something that Jesus did amidst the events that occurred in this gospel narrative. The evangelist tells us: “After sending the crowds away, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23)

Jesus always found time to commune with His Father in prayer. For Him, prayer was non-negotiable even though there were growing demands in His ministry. Prayer was a priority for Him. Perhaps, his deep communion with His Father in prayer was His strength. From His prayer flowed everything His Father wanted Him to accomplish. More specifically, His prayer gave Him the confidence and faith to calm rough seas, expel demons and make miracles happen. In fact, when Jesus healed a boy possessed by an unclean spirit and the disciples asked why they could not cast it out themselves, He told them that this could be done only through prayer (cf. Mark 9:14-29).

In my life as a bishop, I have found my daily hour of prayer as a powerful key that has deepened my faith in God and fortified my service to the Church. During my silent moments of communion with Jesus before the Blessed Sacrament, I have discovered that the more I pray, the more I feel empowered to do what God wants me to accomplish in my ministry. I know that every moment of prayer recharges me in my life of service to God and His people. I also know that whenever I pray, I give Jesus, and not myself, to the people entrusted to my care.

Whenever I give recollections and retreats, I share this poetic text I got from a friend to encourage those who attend to pray. I hope this encourages you, too.

“When you don‘t know how to pray, pray anyway! Ignorance is no excuse.

When you don‘t feel like praying, pray anyway! Depression is no excuse.

When dullness sits on you like a vulture, and you can‘t muster enough enthusiasm to change channels, much less to pray, pray anyway! Boredom is no excuse.

When you see no need to pray and no reason to intercede for those about you, recognize this as a sign of impending danger, and pray anyway. Blindness is no excuse.

When you‘ve grown spiritually lazy and feel that you‘ll never be able to pick up your Bible and read it the way you once did, especially pray anyway. Laziness is no excuse.

When you don‘t understand what the big deal is about prayer, and you think it‘s overrated because it never did you much good, pray anyway. Immaturity is no excuse.

When you‘re too tired to remember your own name, and you know God will understand if you don‘t pray, pray anyway. Fatigue is no excuse.

When you‘re embarrassed to be back before God, confessing the same sins and admitting the same failures, come on and pray anyway. Shame is no excuse.

When you‘ve been unfaithful and you know it and you feel that burden of guilt that makes you want to run and hide under the porch, pray anyway. Sin is no excuse.

When the nagging voice of the enemy keeps telling you there is no God and even if there were, He‘d never have anything to do with a nothing like you, pray anyway. Unbelief is no excuse.

We can bless ourselves immeasurably by rescuing our prayer life from bondage to our emotions and circumstances. There is no time and there are no conditions in which prayer is not necessary, not helpful, and not the right thing to do.”

Let us pray…

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