Thursday, January 11, 2018

Esther's Prayer: Surrender

“O my Lord, You only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but You...” Esther surrenders herself completely to God. She knows that she can do nothing without His help. 

If she were to enter the presence of the king under her own power, she would likely fail in her mission to save her people. How would she know what to say? Would she even have the courage to step before the throne, knowing that a rejection from the king would mean instant death?

So she doesn't go alone. God accompanies her. He gives her the boldness she needs. He puts words in her mouth to convince the king. The plan to save the Jewish people is God's alone; Esther is merely His instrument.

And she accepts that role willingly. She trustingly places herself in God's hands and lets Him take control, for she knows that only then will she have a chance to save her people.

Do we imitate Esther? When faced with a trial, with something we cannot handle on our own, do we surrender to God? Do we trustingly rely on His help? Do we allow ourselves to be His instruments that He may act and speak through us? 

Or do we try to carry on under our own power? 

If we choose the latter, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Only surrender to God will bring success, perhaps not in everything we think we want, but ultimately according to His will. God knows what we need far better than we do, so our job is to place ourselves in His loving hands and let Him run the show. 

Lord, give me the grace of surrender and guide me always. Amen.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Esther's Prayer: Remembrance

As the end of another year approaches, we ought to step back and take some time for remembrance. 

Esther did this in her prayer when she spoke to God about the wonders He had accomplished for her people in the past. She'd heard the tales since she was born about how God had separated the Israelites from their neighbors and made them His own special people, bound to Him by covenant. But she also recalled how God's people sinned against Him, giving themselves to other “gods,” and how God justly punished them by handing them over to their enemies.

Esther remembers the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows, the blessings and the sins. It's all part of her past, and it all contributes to her future as she places her trust in the faithful God Who has carried her people through everything. 

God has carried us through everything, too, over this past year...and always. Now let us recall what God has done for us and how we have responded to Him by reflecting on the following questions.

* Where has God been active in my life this year?
* What miracles have I witnessed?
* In what ways has God corrected or disciplined me?
* How have I responded to God's work?
* How has my relationship with God changed over the past year?
* How has my relationship with other people changed?
* Where have I succeeded in Christian living?
* Where have I failed in Christian living?
* What have I learned about God and myself this year?

Lord, may we remember the past that we may see Your love for us more clearly. Give us the grace to know ourselves better that we may grow ever closer to You in the coming year. Amen.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Esther's Prayer: Preparation

Esther had received a nearly impossible mission, at least in her eyes. Her people, the Jews, were in grave danger; the king had already signed the order for their extermination. Esther wasn't sure what she could do to change that, if anything, but at the request of Mordecai, her foster father, she resolved to try. She would push the boundaries of her queenship to their very edges and approach the king uninvited even if it meant her death.

But even after she had made her decision, Esther did not act immediately. Instead, she took some time to prepare. Esther, “seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord.” She dissolved into penance, removing her royal robes and donning mourning garments, covering her tangled hair with ashes and dung, refusing to touch food or drink, and praying long and hard for God's favor.

Esther called on God for help, realizing that she was all alone. She remembered the Lord's past aid and prayed for a new deliverance for her people. She acknowledged their sinfulness and her own abhorred position in the king's household, and she declared her total dependence on God. 

The queen's preparation paid off. She refused to jump into anything without first humbling herself before God and speaking to Him intimately in prayer. Only then, when she had completely placed herself and her mission in God's hands, did she dare to approach the king, dressed in her highest finery but also with the confidence that she had done everything she could to prepare for her dangerous, and ultimately successful, task.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

St. Andrew

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew the apostle, and that's very good thing since poor St. Andrew often gets overlooked. 

Andrew, St. John's Gospel tells us, was a disciple of John the Baptist and met Jesus through him. Then he introduced his younger brother Simon to this wonderful Rabbi, Whom John had identified as the Lamb of God and Whom Andrew believed was the Messiah they had so long awaited. 

Simon and Andrew both left their nets by the shore and followed Jesus when He called them to become fishers of men. Imagine that; Andrew put aside his whole life, his whole livelihood, and set out on a new adventure. He took a risk; he jumped into the unknown. He trusted Jesus even though he could see nothing of the future. 

Later, when the hungry crowds gathered and Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat,” Andrew spoke up. “There is boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish,” he told Jesus, but he couldn't help adding, “But what are they among so many people?” It's a very practical question really. Andrew couldn't see how such a little bit could help, but he was at least willing to go to Jesus with that little bit and place it in His hands. Then, of course, he witnessed a miracle.

A while later, some Greeks approached Philip wanting to meet Jesus. Philip went to Andrew with the request, and they both told Jesus, Who proceeded to teach them how they could keep their lives only by losing them. Did Andrew understand what He meant? Perhaps not right then, but he soon would.

We hear nothing else specifically about Andrew in the Gospels. He was not with Peter, James, and John during the Transfiguration or in the garden, but he certainly was a witness to Jesus' teachings and miracles, and he would have been present at the first Eucharist and at Jesus' post-Resurrection visit in the Upper Room. However, Andrew tends to fade into the background, and we tend to forget about him. 

Tradition tells us that after the Resurrection Andrew traveled through Greece and Turkey and around the Black Sea, preaching the Gospel as he went, and that he was martyred on an X-shaped cross at Patras in Greece. His relics remain there today.

Did Andrew perhaps get a little annoyed when Jesus called his younger brother Peter to be one of His inner circle? Did he feel left out and envious when he wasn't invited to go up the mountain of the Transfiguration or when he had to stay behind in the garden when Peter, James, and John went on with Jesus? Perhaps. But Andrew soon learned that he had his own role to play in spreading the Gospel message. It wasn't the same as Peter's position, or that of the other apostles, but it was important just the same, and he embraced it. In fact, he died for it.

There's a lesson for us here. We, too, may sometimes feel left out and envious as we watch others do important work for Jesus. We may wish we could do the same. But like Andrew, we each have a role that Jesus has designed especially for us. Through prayer, we must identify and embrace that position, that job, whatever it is, and then throw ourselves into it wholeheartedly, just like Andrew did. Even when we feel overlooked and under-appreciated, we must always remember, as Andrew learned, that Jesus has chosen each of us, loves us more than we can know, and sets us on just the right path that will guide us to eternal life with Him.

For more about St. Andrew, visit http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=109.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Esther's Prayer: Fear

“And save me from my fear!” 

Esther had good reasons to be afraid. Even though she was King Ahasuerus' queen, she was in grave danger. Not realizing that his queen was actually Jewish, the king had agreed to Haman's plan to exterminate the Jews. Now Esther's foster father, Mordecai, has given her a task only she can perform. She is to go before the king and plead for her people. 

But there's a catch. No one can come into the king's presence without having first been summoned. To do so is to risk death unless the king extends his royal scepter to the visitor. Esther has no way of knowing if the king will welcome her, but she agrees to try, even if it means losing her life.

Even so, she's still terrified, and at the end of her long prayer, she exclaims, “And save me from my fear!” She turns her fear over to God and asks Him to deliver her from it. The Greek word here is rÅ«sai, which carries overtones of healing, freedom, protection, and rescue. Esther recognizes that her fear is as much of an enemy as those trying to kill her people (she uses the same verb when she asks for deliverance from them!), but she also understands that she can't overcome it on her own. Only God can save her from her fear.

The same is true for us. Like Esther, we fear many things, and sometimes we let our fears overcome us so they begin to control our minds and hearts. But no good can come of this. This kind of crippling fear will hold us back and perhaps even harm us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

So we must follow Esther's lead and cry out to God for help. Every time our fears threaten to overwhelm us, we should pray, “And save me from my fear!” We should give over our fears to God and put our trust in Him, knowing that He will deliver us if we let him. And then we let go and we carry on, for God will take care of us in His great love.

Lord, save me from my fear.

(Greek definitions come from Perseus-Tufts.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Opportunities for Intercession

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone... (1 Timothy 2:1)

It's easy to get caught up in our lives and needs and forget to pray for others, but God calls us to intercede for everyone, to lift them up to Him and to ask that His will be done in their lives. This doesn't have to take a long time. We don't have to recite elaborate prayers or list dozens of requests. All we need to do is lovingly present those around us to God, and this is something we can easily incorporate into our daily lives. 

Here are a few opportunities for intercession:

1. Pick out the saddest looking person in the room, and ask God to wrap him or her in joy.

2. Pray for the check-out clerk at the store.

3. Pray for other drivers, especially when they aren't driving very well.

4. When you read or listen to a news story, pray for the people involved.

5. Smile at the person next to you in line, and say a quick prayer for him or her.

6. Read the obituary section of the newspaper, and pray for the deceased and their families.

7. Say a prayer for the person who makes you upset or angry.

8. Pray for the person sitting next to you (or in front of you or behind you) at church.

9. Lift up a prayer for the parent whose child is screaming in a public place.

10. Pray for your co-workers, students, teachers, etc.

11. Lift up your priests and pastors to God.

12. Pray for the sick and for the souls in Purgatory.

The possibilities for intercessory prayer are endless if only you look for them, recognize them, and take advantage of them. The people around us need prayer. All of us need prayer. That's why St. Paul urges “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.”

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Litany of Gratitude

“...give thanks in all circumstances...” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, hear us.
Jesus, graciously hear us.
God the Father, have mercy on us.
God the Son, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
For the gift of life, we thank You, Lord.
For the gift of salvation, we thank You, Lord.
For Your great mercy and forgiveness, we thank You, Lord.
For every grace, we thank You, Lord.
For the supernatural life in our souls, we thank You, Lord.
For Your divine indwelling, we thank You, Lord.
For eternal life with You, we thank You, Lord.
For all virtues, we thank You, Lord.
For our Baptism, we thank You, Lord.
For our Confirmation, we thank You, Lord.
For the Holy Eucharist, we thank You, Lord.
For the sacrament of Confession, we thank You, Lord.
For every sacrament, we thank You, Lord.
For all our prayers, we thank You, Lord.
For Sacred Scripture, we thank You, Lord.
For Sacred Tradition, we thank You, Lord.
For the Magisterium, we thank You, Lord.
For the Holy Church, we thank You, Lord.
For Mary, our Mother, we thank You, Lord.
For all the saints and angels, we thank You, Lord.
For our Holy Father, the Pope, we thank You, Lord.
For our bishops, priests, and deacons, we thank You, Lord.
For our family and friends, we thank You, Lord.
For our talents and skills, we thank You, Lord.
For our joys and delights, we thank You, Lord.
For every blessing, we thank You, Lord.
For our trials and sorrows, we thank You, Lord.
For the challenges we face, we thank You, Lord.
For the opportunities to grow, we thank You, Lord.
For everything we learn, we thank You, Lord.
For all the beauty around us, we thank You, Lord.
For everything You do for us and give us, we thank You, Lord.
For Your infinite love, we thank You, Lord.

Let us pray.

Dear Lord, increase our gratitude. Give us hearts of thankfulness and praise. Fill us with Your love that we may pass it on to all those we meet. Amen.