Today the Filipino people come in pilgrimage once again to this shrine of Our Lady; and once again you venerate and honor the Mother of God as she is honored and venerated in your homeland, Our Lady of Antipolo, our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Today, we gather to pray to God in and through her Son Jesus Christ as we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And in faith we know that Mary, the Virgin of Antipolo, prays with and for us. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Today’s readings speak to us about prayer; but not just about any type of prayer – for people of all faiths pray. The readings speak to us of a prayer that finds its inspiration and models in the Sacred Scriptures of our Christian faith, a prayer that should always be modeled on the Lord’s prayer.
Here in Luke’s gospel we find a shorter version than that found in Matthew’s gospel. In the liturgy and in our devotional life we use the version found in Matthew. But in both versions, Jesus invites those who would be his disciples to enter with him into communion with the Father, the Father who because in baptism we have become brothers and sisters of Jesus we can dare to address as Our Father. To know God as our Father is a great privilege but it also gives us great responsibility: for if God is our Father then all his sons and daughters are our brothers and sisters. This is such a great responsibility that Jesus reminds us that if when bringing our offerings before the altar we remember that a brother or a sister has something against us we must leave the offering and first be reconciled with him. Otherwise, we risk praying with just our lips and not our hearts for in the Lord’s prayer, we say: “Forgive us our trepasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
I think this is one reason why we need Mary to help us pray – and to pray for us. This is one reason why the rosary is such a beautiful and powerful prayer – a prayer that can keep families united and that can melt hard hearts so that peace may bloom in them. It is hard for us to say that Lord’s prayer with the sincerity of heart that the Lord demands of us. And so, in the rosary, for every time we say an “Our Father”, we say ten times, “Hail Mary”. Before we dare say: “Forgive us as we forgive others”, we pray ten times: “Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” And Mary does pray for us, interceding for us before the throne of God, as Abraham interceded before God for Sodom and Gomorrah, with a prayer that is humble and insistent.
Mary knows what Abraham and the great figures of the Old Testament knew and what Jesus taught his disciples when he said: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you”. God, our Father is no tyrant who wishes to unleash his wrath against us; nor is God asleep unconcerned about our problems. Jesus tells us: “he is ready to his Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” But, he does not throw his gifts at those who have no desire for them or to those who only ask half-heartedly. For this reason, we need the faith of Abraham, the faith of Mary, a faith that trusts in God’s providential care for each one of us, a faith that learns to say “Yes” to him and to his will for us.
As a healthy Marian devotion has always reminded us, God has granted those in covenant with him power over his heart. For this reason, Mary’s intercession is so powerful. With her “fiat” – let it be done to me according to your will – she was overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, do pray for us – pray that we will forgive our trespassers, pray that we will accept God’s will in our lives. Pray that we will make our own the prayer of Jesus who said: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And what is God’s will for us? His will for us is that we have life – and life abundantly.
No rocks or scorpions here! As Jesus said, “If you then who are evil know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give…..?”
Teach us to pray, Lord. Teach to ask – not that I get my way but that God gets his way. “Father, thy will be done.” In other words God, do it your way – for your way is the best way. Your way is the way that leads to everlasting life, to true happiness and joy. Your way is the way of love. This why even Jesus in his Agony, in the garden of Gethsemane, prays: Father, not my will but your will be done.
We pray, “Hallowed be thy name”. His name is holy – but we pray for the faith that allows us to recognize his name, the faith to become friends with him – for in that faith which is friendship with God his name is hallowed in our lives. We pray, “Thy kingdom come”. If God’s kingdom comes, that means that God rules. Too often today, we see war and death, we see conflict and hatred – all this comes from sin, not from God’s promise. “Thy kingdom come” is a prayer of hope, a prayer of trust. God will keep his promises.
Prayer is like trying to bring a boat to dock. When a boat gets close to the dock or pier, someone throws out a rope – a line, for those of you who know the proper boating language. The line is thrown out to the dock and tied to a piling. Then, you pull the line – and in pulling the line, the boat comes up along side the dock. Pulling the line does not move the dock, it moves the boat. God’s will is for us to have life, life abundantly. God’s will is for us to know his love. Now who needs to change that? Prayer is not about changing God, or his mind. It’s about changing our minds, our hearts, our wills.
And helping us pull that line, the line that brings us closer to God and his will is Mary, the Virgen of Antipolo. The Catechism observes that “Mary is the perfect Orans (prayer), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends His Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple, we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope” [CCC 2679]
And so, before this beautiful image of Mary, we make our own the prayer of St. Bernard:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions,
but, in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen