In the very first sentence of the first reading for mass today, Saint Paul addresses our moments of human weakness. “Brothers and Sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones, according to God’s will.” What awesome words these are! Haven’t you ever experienced times in your life when you were grieving the loss of a loved one, or upset, under a lot of stress, depressed or feel far from God and just can’t seem to pray? Only a few words come out. But, according to Saint Paul, the Holy Spirit sees the attempt we make to pray and he prays for us! Even the simple word “Jesus” can be a prayer in difficult moments and God knows the intent of our heart.
If you have ever tried to quit smoking, withdraw from a prescription drug, battled alcoholism, or overcame any form of addictions, then you probably know the value of a single word, exclaimed in prayer. Many people have given up drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other addictions just by praying the Hail Mary each time a craving hit. Mary can help with the cravings one at a time, and strengthen her children to be strong enough to handle the next one. Mary is our mother and she takes care of us. We do not have to handle everything alone. She will also intercede with her son Jesus, on our behalf for extra graces to strengthen us when we go through any severe trial in our lives.
The same is true with our sinful inclinations. There are many men (and women too) who are struggling to overcome an addiction to pornography. Our infinitely merciful God and savior, Jesus Christ, can be the source of their strength in winning the battle against Satan’s hold on their lives. There are online support groups for Catholics who struggle with addictions to pornography , for both men and women.
There is nothing to be ashamed of in reaching out for help and support in overcoming any kind of addictive behavior. Other good Catholics have fallen prey to Satan’s influence too, but learned how to overcome their own weakness, not through their own power, but by relying on a “higher power”. Jesus Christ is strong enough to handle anything we can not handle on our own. Frequently receiving the sacraments of communion and reconciliation increases grace within us and makes us much stronger than we could ever be on our own.
Christ talks about this in today’s gospel. Someone in the crowd asked him if only a few people would be saved, and he answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (Remember when Jesus said he was the gatekeeper of the sheep?) The sacraments of communion and reconciliation is the way that Jesus strengthens us, by means of his grace.
Jesus also said that many people would knock on the door (of heaven) and Christ would respond, “I do not know where you are from.” The people would say that they ate and drank in his company and listened to him teach. Jesus responded again, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” This is a bit of a warning to us that it doesn’t mean we are necessarily in God’s grace simply by going to mass each week. We should also frequent confession and have a regular prayer life and perhaps be involved in parish life too. When we die, we do not want Jesus to say that he doesn’t recognize us, we were just onlookers and never really knew him personally.
That’s pretty much the challenge from today’s readings at mass. Hopefully, we are all working to overcome our sinful inclinations and addictions, are going to confession on a regular basis, receiving communion at mass on Sunday and are personally involved in the life of the parish. It’s all about relationships, not rules. We are striving for holiness. to become better Christians and to love the Lord and one another, in a personal way and not just as an onlooker.
Daily Mass Readings:
Rom 8: 26-30 / Ps 13: 4-5, 6 / Lk 13:22-30