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Turning our No into Yes; Grace and Prayer.

This past weekend, a number of brothers were involved in Night Fever, this is a worldwide street outreach by young people to people as they pass by a local church. This street evangelization initiative began World Youth Day 2005 in Bonn on the 29th of October 2005 and has spread to other cities across Europe. It is based on a very simple method. Night Fever aims to welcome and invite people off the street into the church principally to meet Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and confession. Volunteers stand outside the church with candles and invite people to come into the church to light a candle. Priests are available for confession, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and music is played in the background. Often, like in this Sunday’s Gospel, there are people on the street who at first say ‘no’ but then ‘something happens’ in their hearts and their initial  “No” becomes “a Yes”, they turn back around and they come into the Church.

What is this ‘something’ that happens in their hearts? This openness is the result of prayer, not their prayer but the prayer of those in the church praying for those on the streets. The ceaseless prayer of “the prayer teams” praying in the Church last Saturday resulted in over 800 people accepting the invitation to come into the church and light a candle. Those who went on to the street were amazed at how people seem to have a change of heart in coming into the church. What is even more striking is that some people were seen leaving the Church in tears. No doubt their tears were the fruits of prayer and grace and their “Yes” to the Lord.

Similarly, in the Gospel we can infer this to be the case. While there is no explicit mention of people praying for the tax collectors and prostitutes in the Gospel, their conversion is only possible because of Christ’s own prayer to the Father. We can imagine that Jesus in his many conversations with the Father in solitude, prayed for them to open their hearts to his grace. 

Another wonderful example of the power of prayerful intercession is St. Augustine. In the life of St. Augustine, we see Augustine’s rejection of Christ eventually become a “Yes” through the unwavering prayer of faith of his mother St. Monica. The fruit of Monica’s prayer bore not only in Augustine’s dramatic conversion but also in his intense mission in serving the Lord. 

The lesson then for us from the Gospel, Night Fever and St. Augustine’s life is to believe in grace and the power of prayer. Prayer truly can change hearts only because it invites God’s grace to be at work 

Gospel Reflection for the 26th  Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (Matt 21: 28-32)

” Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New”

Personal testimony is a powerful way to speak of the way God’s love can transform people’s lives. “Every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like ….” (Matthew 13:52). In this personal testimony, Matthew is giving an insight into his own faith journey with the Lord. Just a few chapters prior to this he told of how he was sitting at the Customs House and at Jesus’ inivitation, he got up and followed Him (Matthew 9:9). Having become a disciple of the kingdom and having had time to reflect upon it from that early conversion experience at the Customs House, Matthew is now ideally placed in this morning’s Gospel to plumb the depths of what this discipleship means in practice.

He speaks determinedly about the need for a disciple to “bring out from his storeroom things both new and old” (Matthew 13:52). Those who have made a conscious decision to follow Christ usually speak from the heart with an authority borne out of experience. For example, I remember listening to a self-confessed gangster named John Pridmore from London’s East End telling the story of his life both before and after Christ’s transforming love changed his life. He spoke so passionately about his journey from gangland to promised land. While giving his testimony, he readily drew from the broken-ness of his former ways in the hope of deterring other impressionable young people from making the same mistakes he did.

Along with other high profile converts like St. Paul and St. Augustine before him, Pridmore is but one of the countless people in every generation who have become disciples, wounded though they are. It is because they know what it is to be wounded that they make such effective disciples. Their former ways proved incapable of bringing them to the happiness they so craved and thus they sought out Christ, the Way, who proclaims: “now I am making the whole of creation new” (Revelation 21:5).

Matthew’s testimony ensures that there is a value for disciples of the kingdom of Heaven to draw out from the storeroom of their heart all that can be learned from the old self, perhaps especially the broken self, so as to appreciate to the fullest extent the newness of Christ. Reflecting on the old in light of the new is a beautiful way to pray. It inspires thanksgiving in the person who realises more and more everyday the gift of a relationship with God, that pearl of supreme value.

 

Gospel Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 13:44-52)