20 June 2007. Thursday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
2 Cor 9, 6-11 and Matthew 6, 1-6, 16-18
Both the first reading and the Gospel today tell us about prayer. The first reading gives us the underlying prayer disposition. It tells us that God loves the cheerful giver. It means that the person praying — the pray-er— comes to prayer with a cheerful and joyful heart. It means that those who come to prayer come willingly and happily. They are not coerced or forced. They are not under fear — fear that God will punish them if they do not come to mass; fear that people will have an unfavorable impression about them. They are not doing it under obligation. They just enjoy praying. They eagerly come to mass. They like what they do. They seek God with all their heart, confident that they will find God. This assurance that God actually listens to our hearts is enough reason to be cheerful and happy in prayer.
You see, at the very core of the Christian faith is joy. It is the acknowledgement that Christ, who is alive, is Lord! At the center of our celebration is the spirit of the Resurrection: the reason for the Sunday masses. Without the Resurrection, there will be no Christianity. Our faith is centered on the reality that Christ alive. Thus the central disposition is joy.
There is a type of Christianity that is dark, sad and gloomy. A Christianity that takes joy out of our faith. A Christianity that believes that when we approach God in prayer, we have to rigid, stiff, and serious. They think that the center of faith is the suffering, trials, and pain. Proof? Look around you when you come to mass. Who among them look like Good Friday all the time?
Second, the Gospel tells us about the external environment. When Jesus said that we pray in secret, it means that we do not put premium on the externalities. The act of praying, fueled by the cheerful desire to pray, does not seek ‘the right environment’ for praying. The pray-er can pray under the mango tree, while riding the IKOT jeepney in UP, in the middle of a rubbish dump, on top of a building, etc. Wherever.
Moreover, prayer is not determined by the people who may ‘watch you’. You don’t pray so that people will think that you are credible and good — like many people in media and in government who liked being photographed. These are the stuff of hypocrites!
When we pray we open our hearts to God. We expose to Him our vulnerability. We tell Him everything even our negative feelings. Even our tampo to Him. Because, there is no reason to pretend. He knows everything!
Praying is primarily feeling God accompanying us in our life. It is not just a person babbling thoughts, but presupposes that the one who babbles also spends as much time listening. It is a palpable feeling of presence.
So, did you come to mass of your own free will?