Dear Brothers and Sisters,
An American theologian once said, “For many prayer is like a foreign land. When we go there, we go as tourists. Like most tourists we feel uncomfortable and out of place and because of that we move on before long and go somewhere else."
Today my dear brothers and sisters you come in prayer to thank God for your married life. You are surrounded by family members, who owe to you the gift of life and who are joyfully accompanying you, grateful for the gifts that you have shown. For family life to remain united, God and prayer are essential and that is why I will speak about prayer today. With this great prayer of the Mass we will thank God for all that you and your families have experienced; your faithfulness, your commitment, the gift of children and of each other, which has brought you further along the journey. Today we reach out from our human finiteness to the wonder of God, to know that it is he alone who can fill the void of our uncertainty, the struggles that we have, and who will not desert us particularly in time of need.
Prayer defines our relationship with God and as we become more aware of him it is truly the life of the new heart, strengthening us at every moment. But we do tend to forget him. Saint Gregory said, “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.” But we cannot pray at all times if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it.
The Church gives us the morning and evening prayer, grace before and after meals, the Eucharist, the Rosary, other forms of prayer. In our tradition there are three major expressions of prayer; vocal prayer, meditation and contemplative prayer.
Vocal prayer is essential to our Christian life. Jesus in today’s Gospel teaches us to pray the Our Father and he not only prayed the prayers of the synagogue, but also he raised his voice to express his personal petitions. Vocal prayer joins our voice and our body, sometimes with others, as we gradually become aware of the one to whom we speak and adore, love, thank, ask and make reparation. It is a conversation to which God readily listens.
Meditation on what we read, a text of Scripture, brings us to confront face to face ourselves and the Lord’s words and deeds. Christian prayer tries above all, the Catechism tells us, to meditate on the mysteries of Christ as in continuous reading or the Rosary, which is tremendously valuable. Christian prayer should, however, go forward to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.
It was Saint Teresa who said that “Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him whom we know loves us. We gather up the heart and recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit and stay dwelling with the Lord. It is a gift that can only be accepted in realisation of our poverty, with a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, listening to him in silence. We become one with Christ’s own prayer sharing in his mystery.”
Various others have gathered all kinds of prayer together and described it as, ‘the humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of being alive’, or in times of crisis, ‘like the strap we grab hold of when tottering on a rushing tram or train that seems on the verge of turning over’, or again, ‘do not forget prayer – every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be a new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage and you will understand that prayer is an education’.
Today we come with a real appreciation of each other and of the example of parents and grandparents. Their life of faith, their faithfulness to each other and their love of God are a light for our lives too, because we need examples which we can understand and which will carry us forward along life’s journey. My prayer, as I congratulate each of those celebrating jubilees, is that you will never forget how much God loves you and how much you love each other and how much that support, surrounded by families and friends will draw you faithfully and joyfully along your journey.
The Dutch author, Henri Nouwen, says, because we pray “We can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war, all hunger, loneliness and misery, not because of some great capacity on our part, but because God’s heart has become one with ours.” So we pray, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come …’
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.