Setting our priorities for prayer

By: Father Dominic Garramone, OSB

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 7

Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8; Psalm 138:1-2,2-3,4-5,7-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

One of my favorite jokes is about the man who was fearful of being late for an important meeting, and as he circled the building looking for a parking space, he prayed, “Lord, I’ll go to church every Sunday and never miss a holy day of obligation, if you’ll just get me a parking . . .” And before he could even finish his prayer, a car pulled away from a space right in front of the building. The man said quickly, “Lord, never mind, I found one myself.”

We sometimes have strange attitudes about prayer. Some pray only on Sundays at Mass, ignoring God the rest of the week. Others, like the man in the story, only pray when they need something from God, and then forget to offer thanks. Uzziah in the first reading and Peter in the Gospel offer another example: their initial reaction to God’s miraculous presence and action in their lives is to wish God would keep away!

The responsorial psalm presents a healthier attitude toward prayer. “I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,” the psalmist sings, “for you have heard the words of my mouth. . . . When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.”

The psalm demonstrates a profound awareness of God’s holy presence, paired with a humble acknowledgement of God’s generosity and kindness. All of this gratitude is crowned by a confident hope that “the Lord will complete what he has done for me.”

From fear to hope
How can we move from indifference to enthusiasm in prayer, from fear to hope in our relationship with God? Paul tells us what is of first importance:

that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.

All of our confidence in God’s mercy, all of our zeal in pursuing virtue, every impulse of prayer that goes beyond mere begging ? all these attitudes can only be grounded in our belief in the paschal mystery. Or more accurately, in our belief and participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Through our baptism into Jesus’ saving death and life-giving resurrection, through the power of the sacraments that take their efficacy from the fountain of grace that poured out from his wounded side, we can experience the transforming love that made fishermen into apostles, and has impelled the faithful in every age to answer God’s call: “Here I am ? send me!”

Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy. Contact him at FRDOM@st-bede.com

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