Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Zechariah's Prayer: Darkness to Light

Zechariah understood well the darkness that lay over Israel. The nation that once boasted twelve flourishing tribes plus the Levites had long been scattered. Ten of those tribes had mostly disappeared or were heavily intermixed with Gentiles. Only Judah and Benjamin remained. Even the Levites had diminished in importance, for the new priestly class was now more political than anything else, appointed by the Roman rulers and skeptical of many (if not most) traditional Jewish beliefs.

What's more, sin lay heavily upon Israel, just as it always had. Heaven was still closed. Death still appeared much more like a frightening void than a door to new life. God's people had broken covenant after covenant, and redemption had not yet arrived.

While God remained with His people, while He continued to prepare them for the coming of a new covenant, while He never stopped guiding them and loving them, He may have seemed rather distant sometimes as the Jews struggled under the rule of foreigners and wondered when (if?) the Messiah would ever come. Would the darkness ever lift? Would light ever descend upon Israel?

But Zechariah caught a glimpse of that light. His own son was a forerunner to it, the one who would prepare the people's hearts for the dawn from on high that was coming. This dawn, this new light, would break over Israel and illuminate those sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death. And this light would open the way to peace, the peace Israel had been seeking for so long, peace with God, peace in and among themselves, wholeness, safety, happiness. Zechariah saw it, saw Him, coming and bringing the mercy of God, the forgiveness of sins, the salvation of God's people. Light in Person would soon shine upon the people of Israel and the whole world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lost Prayers #12

A Universal Prayer for All Things Necessary to Salvation

O my God, I believe in Thee; do Thou strengthen my faith. All my hopes are in Thee; do Thou secure them. I love Thee with my whole heart; teach me to love Thee daily more and more. I am sorry that I have offended Thee; do Thou increase my sorrow.

I adore Thee as my first beginning. I aspire after Thee as my last end. I give Thee thanks as my constant benefactor. I call upon Thee as my sovereign protector. Vouchsafe, O my God, to conduct me by Thy wisdom, to restrain me by Thy justice, to comfort me by Thy mercy, and to defend me by Thy power.

To Thee I desire to consecrate all my thoughts, words, actions, and sufferings; that henceforward I may think of Thee, speak of Thee, willingly refer all my actions to Thy greater glory, and suffer willingly whatever Thou shalt appoint.

Lord, I desire that in all things Thy will may be done, because it is Thy will, and in the manner that Thou willest.

I beg of Thee to enlighten my understanding, to inflame my will, to purify my body, and to sanctify my soul.

Give me strength, O my God, to expiate my offenses, to overcome temptations, to subdue my passions, and to acquire the virtues proper for my state.

Fill my heart with tender affection for Thy goodness, hatred for my faults, love for my neighbor, and contempt of the world.

Let me always remember to be submissive to my superiors, condescending to my inferiors, faithful to my friends, and charitable to my enemies.

Assist me to overcome sensuality by mortification, avarice by alms-deeds, anger by meekness, and tepidity by devotion.

O my God, make me prudent in my undertakings, courageous in dangers, patient in afflictions, and humble in prosperity. Grant that I may be ever attentive at my prayers, temperate at my meals, diligent in my employments, and constant in my resolutions.

Let my conscience be ever upright and pure, my exterior modest, my conversation edifying, and my comportment regular.

Assist me, that I may continually labor to overcome nature, to correspond with Thy grace, to keep Thy commandments, and to work out my salvation.

Discover to me, O my God, the nothingness of this world, the greatness of heaven, the shortness of time, and the length of eternity.

Grant that I may prepare for death, that I may fear Thy judgments, that I may escape hell, and, in the end, obtain heaven: through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

From The Treasury of the Sacred Heart, 1877

Monday, January 7, 2019

Zechariah's Prayer: Freedom

The modern, secular world promotes a rather odd notion of freedom. Many people believe that freedom means doing whatever we want whenever we want regardless of what other people may think, sometimes with the condition that we don't hurt anyone else (usually without much thought to what actually hurts others and ourselves).

Zechariah's prayer provides a different idea of freedom...God's idea of freedom. God, says Zechariah, remembers His covenant, shows mercy, and frees His people from their enemies, but He doesn't free them so that they may simply do whatever they feel like. He frees them that they may serve Him and worship Him in holiness and righteousness.

So God frees us from something, namely, our enemies, whatever brings sin and death into our lives. But He also frees us for something, namely, to serve and worship Him in holiness and righteousness.

Freedom, then, in God's eyes is the ability to pursue Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. It is the power to worship without fear. It is the opportunity to discover what is right and to do it, to learn the truth and to embrace it, without the restraints of sin and error. It is the privilege to appreciate the beauty around and within us with wonder and joy. It is the delightful capacity to know and love God, to receive His plan for our lives with peace, to be set apart for Him as His beloved children, and to one day join Him in eternal bliss.

Now that is true freedom.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year's Resolutions

As the new year begins, many people take a little time to reflect on what they would like to change about themselves and their lives. Some may decide to adjust their eating habits or exercise more; others may resolve to work on getting rid of a bad habit.

But the most important New Year's resolutions we can make are those that focus on our spiritual lives, those that will help us grow closer to God throughout the new year.

#1 – Pray more. We can always pray more. Even if we only add a heartfelt, loving Our Father to our prayers every day, we will grow closer to God. Resolve, perhaps, to greet God first thing in the morning and offer yourself to Him. Then stop a few times during the day (no matter how busy you get) to say a quick prayer and remember the One Who is with you always. Take a few moments at night as you're going to bed to examine your conscience, ask for forgiveness for your failures, and commend yourself into God's hands for the night.

#2 – Read Scripture. Select a Gospel or one of Paul's letters to read slowly and meditatively each week or even each month. A few verses a day will do to start if you allow God's words sink into your heart. Or you might decide to study the daily Mass readings, which are available on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

#3 – Learn more about your Catholic faith. Read selections from the Catechism. Challenge yourself to a theology book, perhaps something by Scott Hahn or Brant Pitre. Watch a few videos at the Institute of Catholic Culture library. Participate in an online study from the St. Paul Center. The deeper you delve, the more your faith will come alive and the more you'll understand exactly what God has done for His children.

#4 – Get to know the saints. Has your saint chosen you yet in this new year? Use the Saint's Name Generator to find your saint and then take some time to learn about him or her. You might even study some of your saints writings (if any). Then make a habit to ask that saint to intercede for you.

#5 – Immerse yourself in the sacraments. Go to Mass more often if you can, and whenever you go to Mass, strive to be fully present and fully involved. Greet Jesus with great love when He comes to you in Holy Communion. Prepare your heart for Him by going to Confession more often and receiving the great graces He offers you. If you must, receive the Anointing of the Sick for physical and spiritual healing according to God's will. Pray for those who will be baptized, confirmed, married, or ordained this year.

Yes, all of this certainly takes effort, but if we resolve to improve other areas of our lives, we must certainly strive to grow in our spiritual lives. After all, that effort, combined with the grace of God, will last into eternity.

Happy New Year!