17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Praying like a pirate.
Would you like to hear how pirates pray before meals?
Years ago I had the opportunity to learn – hears how it goes.
(To the tune of Gilligans Island)
Bless us Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive (Pound the Ambo 3 Times)
From thy bounty through Christ our Lord Amen amen amen. (Amen Amen Amen).
If you really want to wake up people, try praying that with your family the next time you go out to a restaurant for dinner
The reason that I bring up praying like a pirate is for three reasons – first, everyone prays to God. We have different ways, and different motivations, but everyone prays at some point in their life. Second, today’s scripture readings center on the subject of prayer, and third, the common pirate expression ARRRG (That’s A with 3 R’s and a G) is a nice mnemonic for the process of all authentic Christian Prayer.
You might be thinking to your self – how does that go me matey deacon? ARRRG
ARRRG Stands for Acknowledge, Relate, Receive and Respond to God.
In order for prayer to be authentic it needs to begin with an acknowledgment of all of the stuff that is stirred up within ourselves, and is going on. To pretend that Prayer is simply a serene, and peaceful experience is not to understand what true prayer is. God created us for intimacy with him, he desires to love our souls in their totality, he desires relationship with us. When you meet a friend, you always ask how’s it going? To which typically the response is an automatic – really good. This is not true acknowledgment. Abraham gives us a glimpse of answering God’s “How’s it Going” question in today’s reading. He is walking with his dear friend God on the way to Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is struggling with the balance of God’s Mercy and God’s Justice. Abraham has known God long enough at this point to be able to understand these two find qualities of his friend, but he is struggling to see how God puts them together. And so, this understanding bubbles up out of him as he goes down the road to Sodom with God
Acknowledge means that we allow ourselves the time to allow the stuff of our life to bubble up and out as we spend time with our friend.
Relate (Honestly and Consistently) (The first R of ARRRG).
Next, after seeing what is going on within us, we need talk about what is going on in our heart with God. This is not because God needs to know what is going on in our heart, but rather, that it is part of our own design that we enter into relationship by speaking about the things that are going on within us. Relate is at the heart of Relationship. If you are not relating then you are not in a relationship.
The key to this relation is that we are honest (don’t beat around the bush, reflect on the outside what is going on on the inside. This is sometimes hard to do – especially if we have false images of God in our mind. God wouldn’t want me to be angry, mad, sad, unforgiving, hurt, joyful or what-ever. If we are not relating honestly, then we are not relating. God knows that we have human emotions and foibles. He loves us regardless, and so he desires us to be honest with Him.
A good way to reflect on this from the Scriptures is to look at the psalms. There are psalms of Joy, of Praise, of Thanksgiving, of Lament, of Anger, of every human emotion. Honest relating to God about what is going on inside is crucial.
Honestly and Consistently
The consistent part is harder for us to manage. This requires of us the discipline to keep at our relationship with God each and every day – even when we don’t want to. St. Francis De Sales asked a friend of his – when you pray – do you fly like a chicken or an eagle? He went on to explain that most Christians who flew like chickens flew that way because they only related to God in time of need, where as those who soared like eagles had made the time in their life to consistently acknowledge and relate to God.
One practical way to do this is to turn off the radio in your car on the way too or from work, and spend some time just mulling over your day, and relating it to God. Begin your time with a short prayer to the Holy Spirit, and then acknowledge and Relate.
All of us here who are baptized enter into our relationship with God, with the Holy Trinity through Christ. It is because we sacramentally share in His death and resurrection that we have the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within us. Christ is the God-Man. He is fully God, Fully divine, and yet equally and at the same time fully human. So Christ is the gateway for men into the life of the Holy Trinity. Now we need to ask the question, how does Christ enter into the relationship of the Holy Trinity? Christ says Everything I have I have received from my Father. – So receiving is the natural way for us to be fed by God.
Also, note that if I acknowledge what is going on within me, and honestly and consistently relate that experience to God, I am naturally disposed to receive. 99% of the spiritual life is receiving from God.
Practically, how do I receive? With a grateful heart. A spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving for the wonderful gifts that God has given us. Secondly, through a sacramental life – we receive the Eucharist, Absolution in our sacramental life. Today we all have the opportunity, and the invitation from Christ to receive Him.
The Last R – Respond.
After we have received (internalized) the grace / gift / love / truth / beauty of God, He convicts us to act, to respond. This is the easiest part of prayer. If you get the first three steps down this flows easily
The Mass is a excellent expression of the ARRRG principle of prayer. We enter into the Mass acknowledging our Sins, we relate to God throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, and then we receive Jesus, in communion, and have a time to listen to him, converse with him and love him in a very intimate and physical way.
Today at this liturgy we have the opportunity to enter into intimate prayer with God. When the end of mass comes today, what will your response be?