November 9, 2019

Leading a Prayerful Life

God calls us to celebrate World Mission Sunday within the context of prayer. Here are some challenging conclusions to be drawn from this statement. In giving the definition of herself at the 2nd Vatican Council, the Church wrote that she is by her very nature missionary

By its very nature, fish swim in water; by our very nature, we, Church, are to be missionary “immersed in prayer.” If we cease being and acting as missionaries who rely on the lifeline of prayer, we go against our nature.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to “pray unceasingly.” There is a connection between prayer and our nature as being missionaries. 

He (Jesus) said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so pray the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

Heathens and those who have yet to live by the Gospel, pray at certain times or whenever in trouble. We might call it foxhole prayer, prayer of convenience in dire want when a deity is invoked to get badly needed help. 

In the Book of Exodus (17:8-13), we begin to address our missionary nature within the context of prayer as uninterrupted flow of grace from God to us. As long as Moses is in a praying mode Israel has the upper hand. However, as soon as Moses gets tired of staying in a praying posture, the opposite happens.

From this event, as mission-oriented believers, we learn that our prayer has to be hooked up to a divine lifeline. Lifeline prayer is only very seldom foxhole begging for deliverance; as a rule, it is mostly living in the presence of our loving God, conscious of His unfailing love for us and that our very existence depends on Him alone. It is similar to water for a fish, to soil, sunlight and rain for a tree.

The Second Letter to Timothy (3:14-4:2) indicates the main component of prayer lived out in view of expressing our missionary nature; it is the Word of God. From infancy, Timothy felt immersed into God’s Word. 

  • In it, he found all he needed to be a missionary: nourishment, guidance, comfort, light and spiritual stamina.
  • In it, he could rest and dwell secure with the reassuring knowledge of God’s infinite power and mercy displayed throughout salvation history.
  • In it, his preaching found passion and effectiveness especially when sustained by his prayerful response to God’s entreaties.
  • In it, he was assured light and inspiration to make his bearing witness more persuasive.

As with Timothy, we see how revealing and stirring is what the Word of God can contribute to our prayer as missionaries!  

Yet, in the Gospel of Luke (18:1-8), we find the unexpected dimension of prayer that is necessary for fruitful Gospel proclamation. At first, we assume that widow to be the epitome of frailty, helplessness and weakness. Indeed, the walls around the unjust judge were seemingly impenetrable. He did not care about God, people, justice or his reputation. He was totally indifferent to compassion, integrity, religiosity and fear of God. She must have wondered how to get justice done under those conditions.

The biblical scholar, John J. Pilch, informs us that in those days legal cases were heard in the public square, in the shade of a tree, with the whole village entertained by the spectacle of the litigants. In such a setting, the astute and resourceful widow found two weak spots in the judge’s defense system: the village community and the judge’s selfish nature. Eventually, the judge caved in to public opinion. He could not take the wear and tear of having his brazen corruption exposed day in and day out. And, something equally important, he could not take the constant nagging. He wanted some peace and quiet and, besides, he was afraid that this peppery, feisty widow would throw him a punch or a low blow.

Hence, from John J. Pilch’s exposition, here are the some points that Jesus wishes to drive home: 

  • Awareness of our noticeable limits is no excuse. Our inaction as missionaries cannot be justified by claiming to be too busy or much worried about the uncertainty of the future.
  • Nor can we use as an excuse for our disengagement that the world voices disdain for the Gospel message and shows no interest in God.
  • And we cannot even point to the enormity of the task on hand (several billion people who never heard of Jesus and His Gospel) to quit before our first genuine attempt at acting as our missionary nature requires.
  • We are not alone in our task of spreading the Gospel; we have the whole Church on our side, praying and begging the harvest master with us. 
  • If a corrupt judge caved in, can you imagine our Lord and Savior who has so much invested in His harvest?
  • Lastly, we do not have weakness facing the tenacity of a wicked judge but weakness facing weakness: our weakness facing God’s “weakness,” God’s vulnerability.  

No one is weaker and more vulnerable than Someone in love. Just look at the Crucifix. That is the guarantee that our entreaties will be heard! At the end, what is crucial is true faith. Are we convinced that our life unfolds under the watchful eyes of our loving Father? Are we securely immersed in prayer for our very existence? Do we walk trustingly in the light of God’s Word? If it is so, then, we have no choice but to be and to act as missionaries!

Perhaps you thought that the only missionaries are those belonging to missionary societies and orders.  

Well, it is not so. Especially in our western world, people can take or leave the preaching of conventional missionaries; but they ought to listen to you, lay people, because you can be so much more effective.  

Mission Sunday is much more than a day in which Catholics say a few prayers for the missions and drop a few dollars in the second collection basket.

If you lead a prayerful life enlightened and shaped by God’s Word, your preaching is truly what our confused and restless western world so badly needs.    

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by
Fr Dino Vanin

REVEREND DINO VANIN, PIME was born in Cendon di Silea, Province of Treviso, Italy in 1946. He entered the PIME Seminary at Treviso at the tender age of eleven. He came to the U.S. in 1968, studying Theology at Darlington Major Seminary in New Jersey. He has an MA in Secondary School Administration from Seton Hall University. Ordained in 1972, he served as an administrator, teacher, rector and principal at the PIME High School Seminary in Newark, Ohio before being sent to the missions of Thailand, where he served for six years. He is currently the Treasurer of the U.S. Region of PIME in Detroit. On December 16, 2018 he was installed as Pastor of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. Every week he takes some time off from his parish ministry to do some administrative work at PIME headquarters in Detroit. Due to his increased workload at the parish while continuing as Treasurer of the U. S. Region of PIME and as counselor and spiritual director, he spends any time left doing a little woodworking.

View all articles
Written by Fr Dino Vanin
Click to access the login or register cheese