Ash Wednesday at Collegeville

[Scripture Readings: 1 Jn 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18]

Today we hear about almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. They all share a common warning: if our motivation is to be seen and praised by men then we have received the our reward. But if we pray in order to be in the presence of God, then God who sees the secrets of our heart will be our reward. “Pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” These words promise that prayer in the presence of our Father, is always worth while. “He will reward you,” especially, but not only, with Himself, and with a fuller sharing in his divine life.

Jesus’ words in another part of the Sermon on the Mount reinforce this teaching about the value of prayer:

Ask, and you will receive.
Seek, and you will find.
Knock, and it will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds
and to him who knocks it will be opened.

This is Christ’s teaching about the infallibility of prayer, the infallible value of every prayer. Prayer to the Father from the secret room of our hearts is always heard. Everyone who asks receives!

But there are two problems. First, what if the thing I ask for would not be good for me or others, what if it would be a serpent or a scorpion? The Father will give a good gift instead. For the Father always gives good things to those who pray. With God it is always “Yes.”

Second, what if there is no answer? Jesus teaches us to persevere in praying. For twenty-five years I prayed for my brother’s conversion. Today he has returned to the faith, the Church and the sacraments. Did it require twenty-five years of prayers to convert him? I don’t know, but I prefer to believe that all those prayers were answered by our Father in heaven with many blessings, perhaps the conversion of many other people along with my brother.

What a treasure we have in the field of today’s Gospel! If we come to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, our prayer is always valuable. When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, our prayer is never time wasted. All of our thanksgivings, adoration, worship and petitions are pleasing to the Father and blessed by him.

As we celebrate this Eucharist let us give thanks to Christ whose gift of the Spirit makes all our prayers so precious in the presence of our Father who loves us, and gives us something of Himself every time we pray.