Saint John XXIII, Pope (Optional Memorial)
The house of your God is deprived. . . . Cry to the Lord!
In the year 2000, at the start of the new millennium, Pope St. John Paul II celebrated a special Mass for Pardon, in which he led the congregation in prayers of repentance for the sins of God’s people over the past two thousand years.
That gesture of repentance—made on behalf of the whole Church—is similar to the summons God made through the prophet Joel to the priests and ministers of the Temple. Joel called them to gather in the house of the Lord to hold a liturgy of lamentation for the people’s sins—sins that had brought a terrible plague upon them (Joel 1:14). He compared the ravaged land to the state of the people’s hearts and called them to repent. The priests had neglected their duties and so were depriving God of the honor he deserves. Even worse, they were depriving the people of the benefit of their prayers and sacrifices on their behalf.
Notice that God assembled the priests and ministers to offer prayers of repentance on behalf of Israel. It’s amazing, isn’t it? God knew that the prayers of a small group of priests had the potential to turn the tide of a huge plague—and turn the hearts of the people back to him.
That’s the beauty and the power of intercessory prayer, and it’s not limited just to priests! Each one of us can imitate these ministers of the Temple and bridge the gap for people who might not be able or willing to come to the Lord themselves. We offer prayers of repentance, thanksgiving, or worship on behalf of a son or daughter, teacher or student, coworker or cousin who needs help or has wandered far from the Lord.
What would this look like? Well, in addition to praying for a person’s needs, tell God that you want to pray in that person’s place. Maybe that means imagining yourself offering prayers of repentance for them. It might mean thanking God for an act of grace he has given them. Or it could mean just picturing that person standing before Jesus and imagining what Jesus would want to say to them.
However you pray, remember that your cries will never go unheeded.
“Lord, pour out your Spirit as we cry to you for help.”
Psalm 9:2-3, 6, 8-9, 16
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