Liturgical Readings for: Monday, 9th January, 2012
First reading: 1 Sam. 1: 1-8
There was a man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the highlands of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one called Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Every year this man used to go up from his town to worship and to sacrifice to Yahweh Sabaoth in Shiloh. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there as priests of Yahweh.
One day Elkanah offered sacrifice. He used to give portions to Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; to Hannah, however, he would give only one portion, although he loved her more, since Yahweh had made her barren. Her rival would taunt her to annoy her, because Yahweh had made her barren. And this went on year after year; every time they went up to the temple of Yahweh she used to taunt her. And so Hannah wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, 'Hannah, why are you crying and why are you not eating? Why so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?'
Responsorial Psalm Ps 115
1. How can I repay the Lord
for his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the Lord's name.
2. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people.
a precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful.
3. Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
I will call on the Lord's name.
4. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, a Jerusalem.
Gospel Acclamation Acts 16: 14
Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.
Gospel: Mark 1: 14-20
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. 'The time has come' he said 'and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.'
As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake - for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men'. And at once they left their nets and followed him. Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
The readings today are the beginning of two narratives, therefore their brevity should not prevent us from seeing that the story of Hannah and the disciples are just the beginning.
The prayer of Hannah, like so many desperate couples today (one in six), is for a child. It is when nothing seems to be happening in our lives that God is truly about to act in a very dramatic fashion. With God we are never bored for very long. We are constantly petitioning God for ourselves and others. Prayer to Him is a battle and a long struggle, evan a 'battle' (Catechism of the Catholic Church -see below*** ), but victory is certain as Hannah will find out and as the Psalmist sings in praise and thanksgiving for a favour(s) received. Before we launch into our next big request or petition let us take time to praise God in gratitude for all the favours we have already received. Let us count our blessings today.
The call of the disciples at Galilee is amidst their daily tasks. It is when things are quiet the Lord catches us unawares. It is interesting that there are 2 types of activity here – fishing and mending. Both are crucial – one does not make sense without the other – the mending is for a purpose, but the act of fishing has limitations due to wear and tear. These two aspects of fishermen’s lives correspond to ours – work and repair: activity and time out. Even sellers of goods must close for stock-taking. Why should our spiritual life be any different? We must be active in the apostolate, in works of charity, our daily duty, and we also must withdraw for re-charging before re-launching. But crucial to this is the encounter with Christ in prayer – we are re-called as it were, time and again.
In prayer we return in our minds and in our hearts to that first beginning – the initial encounter with Christ maybe years ago, of that first attraction, not knowing where it would lead us. Like a man and woman who remember when, where, and how they fell in love with each other and on an anniversary recall that first meeting, as well as all the events that followed, so we too are re-charged by the remembrance of our first real encounter with Him, our first joyful experience of love of Him in prayer. We see too that we have progressed or deepened that friendship – beyond prayer-as-petition to reflection, to renewed desire, and to contemplation in love. Prayer therefore is not so much what we do, but describes a state of being, of relationship. It is then with renewed purpose that we can return to our tasks and vocations in life this January with a reminder of WHAT SHOULD BE our basic central motivation and meaning behind what we do – which is love. And love is never boring, because a lover is never bored!
THE BATTLE OF PRAYER
2725 Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.
I. OBJECTIONS TO PRAYER
2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.
2727 We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of "this present world" can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the "love of beauty" (philokalia), is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life.
2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have "great possessions,"15 we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.