Truths embedded in an opening prayer

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

As we enter the church to take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice or Mass, and as we begin to listen to the Word of God proclaimed in our midst through the Scripture readings, do we ask: "What does God want to say to my heart today? What does He want me to listen to and to learn today?" These are really the right questions to ask. Why? Because at every Mass, during the Liturgy of the Word, God is speaking from His Heart to each of ours!

Primarily, God speaks to us through His Living Word in the sacred Scriptures. This is why the homily should take a lesson from God's Word and seek to apply it to the actual experiences and conditions of our daily life.

However, God can choose to speak to our hearts in any way He chooses. Sometimes, I find that He chooses to do so through the revised wording of the Opening Prayer assigned to an individual Mass. I propose that today's Opening Prayer is one way by which God is speaking to our hearts.

What, then, is God asking us to listen to and to learn? Today's Opening Prayer puts before us three truths: (1) Who we are as His adopted sons and daughters: our identity; (2) What can sidetrack us as we seek to remain faithful to our identity; (3) Our need for His transforming grace to be faithful.

Today's Opening Prayer began: "O God, Who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light …" So, who are we as God's adopted sons and daughters? We are to be the people of light, chosen at our Baptism to reflect the Lord Jesus into Whom we were inserted, as it were, and Who lives in us. Christ Jesus said He is the Light of the World, and told us as His disciples to be lights as well: allowing the Light of His Truth to shine out through us and the Light of His love to embrace others through us. The more we understand what the Lord Jesus is teaching is through God's Word in Scripture, through the Living Tradition of the Church, and through the official teachings of the Church, the more we can reflect the Light of Truth. The more we open our hearts - our very selves - to the transforming love of the Heart of Christ, the more does that love flow out from us to console, support and assist everyone we meet, especially those in most need.

But - and this is the second truth contained in today's Opening Prayer - we can become sidetracked, that is, "wrapped in the darkness of error." In today's culture, various messages and attractions vie for our attention and acceptance. So many of these are not in harmony with what the Lord Jesus tells us is for our good and the good of the human family. Nonetheless, because we are so bombarded by these false and erroneous messages and attractions, and because we are prone to not listen to the Lord - a result of original sin, we can become "wrapped in the darkness of error."

And so, thirdly, today's Opening Prayer urges us to pray that we may "always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth" We are urged to pray for the transforming grace to be faithful witnesses to the Light of Truth, so we can live as "children of the light".

Now, to be honest, saying all this is relatively easy; it is the doing that becomes difficult. We live in a society where the objectivity of truth is widely denied or rejected. Many claim: "There are no absolutes; everything is relative. The measure of what is good or evil, what is right or wrong, is myself and what I feel at the moment." Once we deny our radical dependence on God, Who is real, Who is the Source of truth, love, and life; once we sever this relational dependence on Him, then relativism, secularism and other systems of being, thinking and acting take over. Eventually, disorder and chaos result.

In the face of the strong currents from our culture and society, we can find it uncomfortable and, in fact, difficult to "be seen to stand in the bright life of truth," to witness to the Truth in the real world in which we live and work and interact with others. We can actually fear to witness.

But, the Lord comes to our aid, does He not? Today's gospel passage places before us two individuals: Jairus, the father of the 12-year old daughter, who was at the point of death, and then died while Jairus was with Jesus; and the unnamed woman, "afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years." Each of them experienced much fear: the fear of losing a beloved daughter; the fear of approaching death as the body grew weaker and weaker; and the fear or anxiety: would the Lord Jesus grant the request each was making. What did Jesus do? He urged them to not be afraid. To the woman, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction." To Jairus, "Do not be afraid, just have faith," or as another translation puts it, "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust," and later, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"

Each of us must go to the Lord Jesus for the transforming grace to overcome any fear in our witness to the Light of Truth and in our witness to the Love from Christ's Heart. Touching the Lord through prayer, seeking His assistance each day in intentional ways, we can be who we have been chosen to be: "children of light," refusing to become "wrapped in darkness of error," and thereby remaining witnesses, "seen to stand in the bright light of truth."

All of what I have proposed to us became so focused for me - and for all of us, I hope, last Friday as we learned the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.

There is the truth about the reality of marriage. This truth transcends any religion or nation. As Pope Francis stated in his recent encyclical on ecology, the meaning of marriage is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. So, no court, no legislature, can overturn this truth.

To uphold the reality of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not to discriminate. Unjust discrimination is always wrong. We value and respect the person and the dignity of our brothers and sisters who have a same-sex attraction. Marriage is a unique reality grounded in the nature of who we are as male and female. I realize the anxiety and concern parents must experience when a son or daughter having a same-sex attraction desires to marry. Relatives and friends likewise experience this anxiety and concern. Within the Church, there are two support groups, which enable those in these situations to understand, to develop life-giving relationships, and to support one another to live the truth faithfully. One support group called Courage is for those with same-sex attraction; the other is called EnCourage for family members. I know persons in each group who have been so supported through these groups.

This decision has grave implications for the exercise of religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment; it has grave implications as well in other arenas, as today's news is pointing out.

We must continue to proclaim and to teach the truth; we are children of light and we shall witness, in love, to the Light of Truth. As I have said before, it is amazing what God may say to us through the Opening Prayer!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015