Praying for Families

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Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church


Matthew 11:47-54

The Lord said: “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed.

Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.


Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to hear what you want to say to me in the Scriptures today. If my behavior warrants a “woe to you,” allow me to be open and docile to your loving correction.


Encountering Christ:


  1. Woe to You: The Lord is very clear in these lines from Scripture that there are consequences for sin. When we sin, the ripple effect of our evil choice can extend beyond our own soul to those we love, to others around us, and to the whole church. Conversely, a good confession can benefit not only us but the entire community. “Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the church which suffered from the sin of one of her members” (CCC 1469). Woe to us if our sin goes unconfessed, but blessed are we (and those we love) if we make good and holy use of the sacrament of reconciliation.
  2. Our Ancestors: We know from experience that sinful patterns of behavior can corrupt whole families well beyond the present generation down to children and grandchildren and beyond. For example, we see the effects of pornography, material greed, sexual sin, and overindulgence on our current generation of children. Sadly, the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households, according to the Pew Research Center. We counteract this tsunami of evil affecting family life by our dedication to prayer, the sacraments, and works of mercy. The God who invited Peter to walk on water will make use of our small offerings to reinvigorate family life for the good of all mankind. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God” (Philippians 4:6-7). “God alone is sufficient,” says St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast we celebrate today.
  3. Plotting: The scribes and Pharisees plotted energetically to do away with Jesus. They wasted time and effort fighting the wrong battle by investing themselves in exacting an outcome they foresaw would serve the Jewish leadership. To them, Jesus was just another false prophet, and a dangerous one. They weren’t innocently misled, however. Jesus made it clear that they were culpable for their hatred and revenge-seeking (see Matthew 23). How faithful we must be to prayer and the sacraments! Only by uniting ourselves to Christ can we hope to avoid the fate of the Pharisees. Prayer is literally a matter of spiritual life or death.


Conversing with Christ: Lord, by these lines of Scripture you speak to me of the seriousness of the battle in which we are engaged for our souls and the souls of those we love. Sin is a great evil with serious consequences, and we can too easily shrug our shoulders and move on without stopping to contemplate this truth. May I be an apostle of light, bringing joy and healing to a suffering world. May I serve individuals and families in need of nourishment of every kind on your behalf. May you guard and protect our country, our families, our children, and our grandchildren for generations to come.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray for my immediate family and offer a small sacrifice for their spiritual well-being. 


For Further Reflection: Pew Research Center: Americans are most likely to mention family when asked what makes life meaningful in an open-ended question, and they are most likely to report that they find “a great deal” of meaning in spending time with family in a closed-ended question about where they find the most meaning and fulfillment:


Written by Maribeth Harper.

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