As you may have guessed from this blog, one of the delights of creation that I enjoy is music. I’m very much looking forward to singing with the angels & saints (God willing!) – and maybe learning how to play a few instruments. Or all of them – what’s eternity for after all?!
One genre of music that I especially enjoy is country music. The old canard is that every country song is about losing your wife, your car and your dog. True to form, a song came out a couple years ago that talked about a young man whose girlfriend spurns him. He goes to church, where the preacher talks about forgiveness and praying for those who have done wrong to us.
This is the prayer the young man comes up with:
I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill
I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray you’re flyin’ high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know where ever you are honey, I pray for you
Somehow I don’t think this is what the preacher had in mind.
I am reminded of this song during Lent when folks – adult and children alike – come up and jokingly let me know how they’re fasting….from school, broccoli, fast and exercise. Not exactly what the Church hopes for us! Obviously, these aren’t examples of genuine prayer and fasting.
Truth be told, we still smile at these things. I admit that I have privately sung along with Jaron in the song above (and enthusiastically! ). And why not? There’s something honest and refreshing about the song. Whether its because of hurt, anger, tiredness or whatever, sometimes we simply don’t want to pray for others – we want to focus on our needs.
So why don’t we?
There is a Latin phrase “nemo dat quod non habet“, meaning roughly “No one can give what he doesn’t have”. And how often do we try to do just that? There is this sense that praying for ourselves is somehow selfish or a lack of generosity. Yet before Jesus cured His first sick person, transformed scarcity into abundance or forgave sin, He took forty days to pray and fast.
I imagine that one of the temptations Christ faced was the devil telling Him “you could be out there curing people, preaching, performing miracles – what are you doing wasting time here?”. But He needed to spend that time in prayer and fasting – and not just for us, but for Himself also!
We are entering the second week of Lent – the first full week of the season. We have an invitation to follow Christ into the desert, to pray and fast not only for others but for ourselves. Let us be sure that we do, so that at the end of these forty days we can follow Christ from the desert and – filled with the graces we’ve received – we can share what we have received with the world.
- Fr. Maurer
For those interested, here is the song “Pray for you” by Jaron and the Long Road to Love (2009)- purely for reference purposes, of course!
(This was last Sunday’s homily, thus the reference to beginning the second week of Lent)