Ordinary of the Mass
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Mass Text - English
Propitiation, and Petition”
These four things take place
whenever Holy Mass is offered. And, ideally, they are part of all of our
own personal prayers.
“Adoration” is the acknowledgement of God’s goodness and
“Thanksgiving” is the expression of gratitude for all of the
good things that God has given us—acknowledging that without Him we would
not have anything at all, not even our selves.
“Propitiation” is the offering of our prayers and sacrifices
to God, asking that He turn away His righteous anger for our sins, for the
sins of family and friends, for the sins of our nation and of our world.
“Petition” is asking God for the things we need (and others
need) for our physical and spiritual wellbeing.
As I said, all four of these
elements ought to make up our prayers. Perhaps we will have the opportunity
to say more about “Adoration,” “Thanksgiving,” and “Propitiation” at a later
time, but the Gospel today suggests that we might spend a few minutes
considering the fourth element, “Petition.”
But before we go on, we ought to
give a little thought to "Petition" as it relates to today's Epistle.
Saint James is quite clear about the matter:
Religion clean and undefiled
before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless, and
widows in their tribulation, and to keep one's self unspotted from
If we are to consider ourselves
religious—if we are to consider ourselves Catholics—we must concern
ourselves with those around us who are in need. In the Lord's Prayer,
we ask God to "forgive us ... as we forgive those who trespass against us."
We might consider that if we ask God to "grant us His favor," it is
likely that we will get it only insofar as "we favor those around us in
need." But, let us get back to the general subject of "Petition."
I say to you, if you ask the Father, anything
in my name, he will give it you…. Ask, and you shall receive, that
your joy may be full.
Actually our Lord is repeating
something from just a few minutes earlier, after the Last Supper. Saint
Augustine points out that the earlier passage helps to put our Lord’s
promise in better perspective:
Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the
Father in me? Otherwise believe for the very works' sake. Amen,
amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he
also shall do; and greater than these shall he do. Because I go to
the Father: and whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that
will I do: that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall
ask me any thing in my name, that I will do. If you love me, keep
Saint Augustine’s point was that
when we “ask something in Jesus’ name.” we must be asking for something that
is in accord with the Commandments, and in accord with the will of the
Father. If we were to ask for something that went against God’s will, we
would just be making sounds that would have no meaning..
The Lord’s Prayer has all four of
the elements of complete prayer, and in it we clearly see this submission to
the Divine Will: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It should
be clear that we must not pray for something sinful—something that would
work against our salvation, or against the salvation of another. Indeed, it
seems that such an evil use of prayer would work positively against
us, and not in our favor. In His justice, God might view a
prayer for someone else’s death or damnation as a plea for our own death or
damnation—it might be a self-inflicted curse.
Many people pray for what they
want, at least as often as they pray for spiritual needs.
The child that asks God for a red wagon, or the adult that sings “O Lord
won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,” is doing nothing wrong on the surface of
it. In fact, such prayers of petition do acknowledge our dependence on
Almighty God, and acknowledge our relationship with him. But, certainly,
that kind of prayer is going to be highly contingent—God knows what is good
for us, far better than we do ourselves. If God knows that the car or the
wagon would get us into trouble, the answer to that prayer must be “No!”
Even the prayer that seems unselfish
may be perceived by God as harmful if it works against the higher good of
the person. For example, God might deny a prayer for someone’s health, if
He knows that the person is now ready to meet death, and that an extension
of life would increase his chance of Purgatory or Hell.
It makes the greatest sense, then,
to make our petitions in terms that request final perseverance, eternal
salvation, and holy joy. Petition should be part of our
prayers. But the most enlightened petition might be just to ask God to do
whatever He knows best. The salvation of souls is always
God’s will, so it is always appropriate to pray for that for ourselves and
for everyone else for whom we should pray. Likewise to pray for the
delivery of souls from Purgatory.
Since I was a little boy, I’ve been
told that involving the Blessed Virgin in our prayers is an effective way to
gain what we need. But if you remember the Gospel about the wedding feast
at Cana, you know that Mary discovered the bridal couple’s problem without
being asked by anyone: “They have no wine.” And she was able to overcome
even the objection of her divine Son. “She turned to the waiters and said:
‘Just do whatever He tells you to do.’”
of reciting the prayer Memorare to our Lady each morning,
purposefully asking for nothing other than that she request God to do
whatever would be most beneficial in her sight. I still pray for others,
but it seems to work best to leave my own needs in her hands.
Above all, I would urge you to pray
often, even if your petitions are a little selfish. As I said, they
acknowledge your relationship with God. Prayer should be a regular
acknowledgement—we must not be strangers to God!
There is a joke about an
atheist who called out to God in desperation to start his car, despite a
dead battery, so that he could escape from an onrushing avalanche in the
mountains of Colorado. After what seemed like forever, the car started, and
the man went on to become a good Catholic. But when he got to heaven, he
just had to ask Saint Peter about God’s response to that one critical
prayer: “Why did it take so long to start the car—why would a miracle
take so long?” Peter thought for a moment, and said “Oh, yes! Now I
remember who you are. We had never heard from you before, and had no
idea where you might be. God started two cars in Montana, a snow mobile
in Wyoming, and a truck in Nebraska, before we could trace the prayer back
to you in Colorado!”
That is a joke, of course! But
don’t be a stranger to God in your prayers. “Adoration, Thanksgiving,
Propitiation, and Petition” Ideally, your prayers will contain all four,
but even if they don’t, be sure that God know where you are—that He knows
that you want to do His will, and to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in