This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Fourteenth Friday in Ordinary Time, July 8, 2022. The audio is available here.
They say that actions speak louder than words.
But when Hosea calls Israel to repentance, he says, “Take with you words, and return to the Lord.”
The words we use are important.
A husband might send his wife flowers, but if he doesn’t apologize and admit he was wrong, the pretty bouquet is going straight to the compost heap!
The Lord calls us to return to him often with our words in prayer.
And as in any relationship, our prayer begins with the formulas of love.
“Good morning. Hello. How are you? I love you.”
With God, the formulas are “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” “Glory Be…”
Formulas allow us to make a connection with people.
If you can’t do anything else, you can always repeat the formulas.
But prayer is meant to progress beyond these formulas into conversation.
You and God begin to speak together in your own words, face to face.
Then there is the realm of sighs, tears, and groans, where conversation give way to the deep things of the heart that words cannot express.
And after many years, there’s not a lot left to say.
It’s enough just to be in the presence of the beloved.
So at last, even sighs and tears give way to silence, and prayer becomes constant communion, a partnership of peace and love.
Now, let us each return to the Lord with the words of our hearts.
If you don’t know what to say, ask the Holy Spirit, who “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for speech,” to “give you what you are to say.”
Come, Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, and teach us how to pray.