In a video I watched last week, a Bible scholar I admire, Brant Pitre,
pointed out that the words Jesus cited
as the first and greatest commandment
were also recited as a prayer by faithful Jews.
To this day, they pray these words three times a day:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
And Dr. Pitre also explains that “when you recite words like this
three times a day, they are going to shape how you see reality;
the way you live each day.” It’s hard to live apart from God,
while you are saying these words over and over.
That’s good advice, and it’s a reason why each of us
does well to have a routine habit of prayer for each day.
That daily habit of prayer could include the following:
First thing in the morning, say the Morning Offering.
Try to give yourself a few minutes of quiet time in the morning,
and use that time to talk to God about your day;
maybe read a short passage of Scripture,
a psalm or some other spiritual reflection.
At noon, maybe take time to pray the Angelus.
If you stop by the parish office at that time,
you can join parish employees and me in praying the Angelus.
Sometime during the day, pray the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet.
These are great to pray when you are driving or walking.
This is a good time to include all the people you are praying for.
Always pray grace before a meal, no matter where you are.
No one will be offended, and you will set a good example.
In the evening, take a few minutes to look back on your day.
Examine your conscience; admit faults to God and ask for help;
and give thanks for the good things that happened.
No matter what your situation, what time you get up,
whether you are at school all day, or at a factory or on the farm,
everyone can do most, if not all, these things.
And as Dr. Pitre said, this helps orient our lives.
This is a good time to talk about
our annual 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration
which will take place next weekend.
Beginning with the Friday morning Mass at 8:15 am,
our Lord Jesus will be on the altar for everyone to come and adore.
The church will be open all night Friday night and all day Saturday.
Why do we do this? For the same reason,
to orient ourselves and our parish as a community,
on keeping God first, and at the center of our lives.
So much can distract us and become false gods for us.
I know from my own life how easily I can neglect prayer.
I’m a priest! This is my business!
If it happens to me, of course it can happen to the rest of us.
We have about 1,600 people of all ages registered in our parish.
I’d like to suggest something ambitious.
What if every parishioner tried to make a visit,
even a short one, during 40 Hours? If you can, sign up for an hour.
You could share it with others, each taking a half hour or 15 minutes.
Allowing for the fact that some are home-bound,
some are away at college, and some are very young,
if all the rest were to plan to come for 40 Hours,
we’d have an average of 30 people here for every hour!
How awesome would that be? How powerful!
Someone might say, but why come to church? “Nothing’s happening.”
But I would counter that something IS happening.
You are face-to-face with Jesus.
What do you want to say?
What frustrations and sins do you want to bring to him?
Bring the prayers and needs of others at that time.
It really comes down to whether you believe the Eucharist IS Jesus.
Because if you truly believe that,
then how can anyone not realize this time of being with him
is powerful? Life-changing? Peace-giving?
Now, I haven’t missed that Jesus gave two commandments.
When you and I spend time with Jesus,
it is impossible to forget the second commandment.
Jesus will remind us; he will challenge us;
and he will send us to care for our neighbor.
Also, the order of the commandments is important.
When you and I put God first,
we are better able to be truly loving to our neighbor.
Part of it is remembering that our neighbor is made in God’s image;
and it doesn’t matter if our neighbor is young or old, male or female.
No matter what color, what language, what kind of clothes or lifestyle;
No matter what someone’s past is, or how rough around the edges:
That person is my brother or my sister, a fellow child of God.
Again: from this Friday to Sunday, we will have our annual 40 Hours.
This year, I sent out a flyer to everyone in the community,
whether they are Catholic or not, inviting them to our church to pray.
So I’d like to encourage every parishioner to sign up if you can –
the sign up sheets are in the back of church –
but in any case, to make a visit.
Let’s make some extra effort to enthrone Jesus
in the center of our lives.