Saturday, July 16, 2011

Prayer, discernment, and the Spirit's groanings

This Sunday, the sixteenth of Ordinary Time, marks the third of four Sundays during cycle A that we read from the eighth chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. Next week I am preaching. So, I will post a complete homily (he wrote anticipating much groaning). In the context of the readings for this Sunday, especially the Gospel, not knowing how to pray as we ought keeps us from being able to discern things clearly. We should not despair about our inability. Rather, we should rejoice not only to recognize what great need we have, but that, as Paul assures us, "The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness," interceding on our behalf "with inexpressible groanings."

St. Dominic at the Cross, by Fra Angelico

Only in this way (i.e., the Spirit's intercession) can we really pray the prayer that falls too easily from our lips: "not as I will, but as you will" (Matt. 26:39b).Only in this way, too, can we act in a discerning manner, as Jesus indicates in today's Gospel, because from the realization of our dependence arises our realization of our limited perspective. Since I tried all week to post something concerning Balthasar's writing about the rejection on the part of many Catholics, both so-called conservatives and so-called liberals (using such terms within the ekklesia is for me like running fingernails on a blackboard) of the papacy, I am glad that this ties in with what I posted earlier today, this Sunday's Gospel, as well as with something I posted last month: "In the field they will be with you."

Scandal reaches the Church not only from the outside but also from the inside. 'Structure', which, because of its impersonality, seems immune to scandal, can become the prime seat of infection. Only discernment of spirits can help us here, received in answer to fervent prayer, such as the saints have achieved for themselves and for us all. It is not the structure, not the form, not the skeleton of the body or of the community that is dead and needs to be surgically removed, it is the spirit enlivening the body that is good or bad (The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, pgs. 19-20)

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