March 31, 2011
Friday, Third Week of Lent, Day Twenty-one
Morning - Psalm 95, Psalm 79, Genesis 42:1-26, 29, 35-38, 1 Corinthians 11:17
Evening - Psalm 86, Jeremiah 9:17-24, Mark12:1-12
Our Lord was no passive victim. He rode into Jerusalem as a King to His Throne, and He took the battle to His enemies. The parable of the vineyard is a direct confrontation and condemnation of the empty religion of the priests and Pharisees. They are the husbandmen and groundskeepers who tend the vineyard of the Lord, which is Israel. But they have assumed ownership of the vineyard. So when the Owner, which is God, sends servants, the prophets, to them to collect His due, they beat them and kill them. Finally the Owner sends His Son, Jesus. But rather than reverencing the Son, they kill Him and cast Him out of the vineyard. Christ also spoke of the stone rejected by the builders, which becomes the chief cornerstone. The religious leaders were building a building that was not of God. When the Son came to them they rejected Him, but He became the chief cornerstone of the new Temple, the Church. These parables refer to the crucifixion of Christ and show the determination and faith with which He embraced the cross, that we might be saved.
Lent is a time of prayer. And prayer is so essential to following Christ in holy living that we can say with certainty that to be a Christian is to be a person of prayer. Yet many do not understand prayer, and it is to our shame that most Christians see prayer as a time to ask God for blessings, and as a way to manipulate God. Actually prayer is much deeper than this. Prayer is nothing less than acknowledging the presence of God. It is, as The Homilies remind us, quoting St. Augustine, “a lifting up of the mind to God … a humble and lowly pouring out of the heart to God.” The same sermon, quoting Isidorus, calls prayer, “an affection of the heart and not a labor of the lips,” It is, “the inward groaning and crying of the heart to God” (The Homilies, p. 234). Real prayer is not so much seeking things from God, as it is seeking God Himself.
This understanding of prayer moves beyond the mechanical, I ask-God gives, view of prayer. It also answers the ancient question, “why pray?” Why pray? We might as well ask why talk to a loved one? How can we say we love someone, yet not want to converse with him? What kind of relationship is conducted without communication, without communion? Those who love God will long for Him, will enjoy pouring out their hearts to Him in prayer, will earnestly desire to acknowledge His presence. Indeed, if prayer were only asking for things, it would be an exercise in futility. God knows all things. He knows our needs better than we know them ourselves. But if prayer is anything like the descriptions above, we know why we pray.