This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 16, 2022. The audio is available here.
Two seminarians were working out in the gym, when one of them noticed his brother was struggling to lift some particularly heavy weights.
He rushed over to help him.
As they finally racked the weights, he laughed and teased him, “Bro, do you even lift?”
His friend fired back, “Bro, I lift my mind and my heart to the living God!”
That’s not a bad definition of prayer: we lift our mind and our heart to God.
We lift up our mind to God as we think about Him in prayer, read His Word in the Scriptures, meditate on His life in the Holy Rosary…
And we lift up our hearts to God as we talk to Him, pour out our feelings to Him in prayer, expose our memories, our fears, our desires to Him … and listen for His response.
But like the seminarian in the gym, to lift anything up, we need a certain amount of strength.
And we know from experience that our strength is not consistent.
The more we lift, yeah, the stronger we get, but we also get tired.
Even Moses’ hands grew tired!
And so it seems that the Lord asks something virtually impossible of his disciples.
“Pray always without becoming weary” sounds a lot like “lift always, hold your hands up always, without taking a break.”
If we’re thinking of prayer this way, we run the risk of falling into despair, as we try again and again to live up to this impossible demand and continually fail to hit the mark.
But Jesus does not ask the impossible.
When it seems like He does, we need to check our assumptions.
One mistaken assumption we might have is that prayer is a solo activity.
Like the seminarians in the gym, we never lift alone.
When Moses’ hands grew tired, his friends Aaron and Hur were there with him, at his right and his left, to support him and hold them up.
Likewise, our prayer is never just “me and Jesus.”
Even when we’re praying in the privacy of our own rooms or somewhere else completely secluded, we are praying in community.
We are praying with friends.
This community of friends is called the Church, which includes all of us here on earth who are disciples of Jesus, all the saints in heaven who were disciples before us, and even those souls in purgatory who have died and are being purified before their final entrance into heaven.
And it’s not just us human beings, either.
The Church also includes the angels: our guardian angels, who are always present with us, watching over us and defending us, and all the choirs of angels in Heaven, continually praising, adoring, and glorifying God.
Therefore, when Jesus says, “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also in the midst of them…”
He means whenever we go to pray, there we are, right in the middle of this invisible communion of the Holy Catholic Church, and there He is, the King enthroned in the midst of His court.
Friends, there will be times when we get tired of prayer.
When I was ordained a deacon, I promised to pray 5 times a day, every day.
There are days I don’t want to, days when I’m tired, when my strength is weak, when my mind and heart feel really heavy and hard to lift.
And that’s not only natural—it’s good, because it’s a reminder that none of us is self-sufficient.
We need each other, we need the Church, to live the Christian life, to make it to heaven.
Holy Spirit, I ask you to bring to the mind of each one of us here one friend, one person we can rely on to hold our hands up when they get tired, to support us in prayer when we really need the help … a friend on earth, maybe a saint in heaven.
If nobody comes to mind, ask Jesus to introduce you to one of His friends.
As we receive Holy Communion today, offer your communion for that one friend, giving thanks to God for them, praying for their intentions.
And this week, invite that friend to make a commitment with you to pray for each other … and to reach out to each other when you need the help.
This can be especially hard for us men, but trust me, brothers, we need it, just as much as you need a spotter in the gym.
Your commitment could be as simple as offering a weekly rosary for each other’s intentions, getting together once a week at a coffee shop to read Scripture and pray, or even remembering them, like today, at Holy Mass when you receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
If you want to have good friends, be a good friend.
Pray for your friends when they’re on the Cross, when their arms are aching, and allow their prayer to support you when you are tired and weak.
And Christ, our true friend, who is in our midst, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, will hear and answer our prayers, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.