Waiting in Prayer for the Holy Spirit - Intercessory Prayer

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

by Fr. Tommy Lane

You go on holidays every year and I do also. We need time away to recharge our batteries and replenish our energy. Many of you tell me where you go on vacation and you go to all sorts of interesting places. As well as going on holidays every year priests and religious also go on holidays with the Lord; it is called a retreat. Priests and Sisters take this holiday with the Lord every year but an increasing number of lay people also take this holiday with the Lord, a retreat, every year. Why? The pace of life is such now that we need a quiet time to spend with the Lord, loving him and soaking up his love and reflecting on our lives and where we’re going. We all need our private space and time apart, our time with the Lord.

After Jesus’ Ascension his disciples returned to the upper room where they had celebrated the Last Supper and gathered in prayer with Mary, the women, the apostles and many disciples. They needed time apart after Jesus’ Ascension. It was like a time of retreat for them. Jesus had said to them to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). Jesus had promised that he would send them a Comforter or Advocate, the Holy Spirit. So they spent these days on retreat praying for the Holy Spirit. Although Jesus would no longer be with them as he had been, he would continue to be with them as they celebrated the Eucharist and would be with them through his Spirit whom they would receive at Pentecost after this time of prayer together.

Remembering Mary, the women, apostles and disciples gathered in prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit reminds us of the importance of praying for what we need. While prayer is principally to make us more open to God, to help us respond better to God’s grace in our lives, we also believe that God’s love leads him to hear and answer our prayers of petition. We greatly admire the faith of people who pray to God every day for a request and a long time afterwards have their prayer answered. Each one of us knows people whose prayers seem to be always answered, and then they are asked to pray for others also. People often ask priests and sisters to pray for their intentions and ask priests to offer Mass for their intentions; that is good, but it is also good that each of us prays for ourselves. Don’t you all leave it to me to pray for your intentions; you should all pray for your intentions. Jesus himself taught the importance of asking God for what we need, “Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him” (Luke 11:9-10). Once Jesus also told a parable about someone visiting his friend in the middle of the night looking for bread because he had a surprise visitor. Although the friend did not want to get up, Jesus said persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants (Luke 11:5-8). In this parable Jesus wanted to teach us to keep asking God for what we want. So please pray.

Is prayer wasting time instead of doing something good? We need both work and prayer in our lives. Remember what Jesus said to Martha who was busy serving Jesus while Mary sat listening at his feet, “Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42). If we do not pray every day there is a huge void in our lives and we cannot hope to be happy.

Not all prayers are answered, or I should say, not answered in the way we wanted. Even though not all prayers are answered in they way we desired, hopefully we can see that we have received graces we probably would not have received had those prayers been answered as we wished. We have plans and sometimes our plans are not fulfilled. Our lives can sometimes revolve around ‘me’ or ‘I’ or ‘myself. But God has still more wonderful plans for us if we will allow them to be fulfilled. It is only in the next life that we will fully understand God’s plans. Even after Jesus’ resurrection some of Jesus’ disciples asked him when he would restore the kingdom to Israel as we heard in the first reading for the Ascension (Acts 1:6). They still believed he was a Messiah to drive out the Romans from Israel and did not yet fully understand that he was a Messiah to save us from our sins. They would understand Jesus only when they would receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They needed the grace of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to fully understand Jesus. Like them when we wait in prayer like Mary, the women and apostles and disciples before Pentecost we will receive graces from prayer that otherwise we would not receive.

During this week before Pentecost I ask you to please pray like Mary, the women, the apostles and disciples for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church and on all of us that we may respond to God better. Please believe that your prayer will be answered. Pray that our celebration of Pentecost will lead to the Church being renewed and strengthened by God’s Spirit. Also as well as going on holidays every year why not give some thought to taking a holiday with the Lord by going on a retreat?

Lord God, you promised not to leave us orphaned but to remain with us always. Be with us in our confusion and disappointment when we do not know what to do. Grant that we may hear your call to silence and prayer and withdraw to our “upstairs room.” There we ask you to pour out on us afresh your Holy Spirit that we may be better witnesses to you in our families, parishes and places of work.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.