Keys to the Kingdom

KEYS TO THE KINGDOM – WEEK I

Our In – Parish Fall Retreat we learn about and experience the Keys to the Kingdom in homilies, song, bulletins and website reflections. The keys joined to the heart in the illustration above represent the Keys to the Kingdom which are promised to St. Peter and to the community of the church when Jesus says, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom.” Matthew 16:19. The Keys to the Kingdom are many. Some Keys that we have explored in the past are: Scripture, Sacraments, Spirituality, Social and Service Ministry, and the experience of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

Our current theme focuses on the ways that Prayer is the Key that turns in Faith, with Hope and for Love to set us free.
Prayer in Faith turns us away from anxiety and distress toward the freedom of trust in God’s Providence in all things.
Prayer with Hope turns us away from fear and frees us to experience courage and God’s enduring power at work in our lives.
Prayer for Love turns us toward peaceful relationships with God, self and others by freeing us from the need to judge and control others. Prayer for Love transforms us to live our Mission of Charity, which is Opus Christi, Christ’s Work.

Weekend Scripture Reflection (Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B)

  • The Prophet Isaiah trusts that even in distressing circumstances God hears and is near, “See, the Lord God is my help. “
  • St. James challenges us to pray in faith and to be instruments of hope through loving works.
  • Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” In the midst of suffering, trials and crosses that are part of discipleship, Jesus desires to be the one who saves us and sets us free to experience trust in God, courage, love and inner peace.

Reflection Story – Floating Free

Few sights are as lovely as hot-air balloons floating colorfully in a deep, blue sky. Before gracefully lifting from the earth the balloons need to be set free. Sandbags and lines are released so that the balloons can ascend. We often wish to experience the type of freedom symbolized by a peaceful, gliding balloon. Yet anxiety, distress, fear, disharmony in our relationships with ourselves, others and God hold us down. We sometimes feel shackled and as we say, “all tied up in knots.“

God desires to set us free. Even when circumstances remain the same God’s mission is to free us. Prayer is the Key that God uses to free us. Prayer is the Key that releases our shackles and enables us to ascend through God’s grace. Prayer frees us to trust in God in Faith. Prayer frees us with Hope and courage and empowers us with God’s strength to endure. Prayer frees us to release others to God’s care through prayer for them. Prayer frees us to be transformed in love and for Love to do Christ’s work. Prayer is the key that sets us free.

Reflection Questions

What do I worry about? What stresses me? Talk to God in prayer about these things. How is God inviting you to trust?

Prayer Key

If you do not already have a colorful Blessed Prayer Key, you may take one as you leave Church along with a Blue Prayer Booklet. Attach the key to your own set of keys as a reminder that
“Prayer is the key that sets us free.”

Activity

Pray the Blue Prayer Booklet or read the prayer below while turning your Blessed Prayer Key.

Lord, I turn the key of prayer in Faith.
I am set free to trust in your Providence.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer with Hope.
I am set free from fear;
knowing that you desire to do for me
what I cannot do for myself.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer for Love.
I pray that you may bless others (name) and
transform me to set me free.


KEYS TO THE KINGDOM – WEEK II

Weekend Scripture Reflection (Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B)

  • The Book of Wisdom records God’s Key promise to take care of all who turn to God in truth.
  • The Letter of St. James describes the Key of wisdom and the gifts discovered in prayer: purity, peace, gentleness, mercy, sincerity of heart, righteous actions that cultivate peace.
  • Jesus teaches that the Key move to discipleship is service. Prayer enables us to be open to the needs of others and gives us welcoming hearts for every individual. Greatness is measured by love.

Reflection: “Put Your Oxygen Mask On First”

Every airplane flight begins with the same safety instructions. The one directive that makes perfect sense but that does not feel right is, “Put on your oxygen mask first before you attempt to assist another passenger.”

Our, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” tradition of, “others first,” struggles with the idea of tending to yourself first. The key to understanding the wisdom in this practice is the truth that only when we are alert, healthy and composed are we best able to help others.

Making a healthy decision for ourselves first is not only wise on a plane but also in the spiritual dimension of our lives. Prayer is like putting on your oxygen mask first. Prayer is the key to survival for ourselves and helps us to turn to others and respond to their needs. Prayer turns our attention to God so that we can breathe deeply and calmly within God’s provident, eternal care.

Prayer fills us with wisdom so that we can experience God’s abundant gifts and awaken to our full potential. Prayer motivates us to share what we are given for the good of others.

Prayer empowers us to make the Key moves that are needed for service. Prayer turns us from reacting in fear and anger toward responding with trust, wisdom, compassion, sacrifice and, at times, heroic acts of selfless love.

Prayer is putting on your oxygen mask first.

Reflection Question

In what situations and/or relationships do I feel as if, I cannot even breathe? These situations and people are opportunities for you to see God’s power at work in your life. Talk to God in prayer about them and be honest.

Putting on Your Mask – Breathing as Prayer

When you see the warning lights of fear and anger turn red, stop and put on the oxygen mask of prayer first before doing or saying anything else.

How? Just breathe. Be aware that God is closer to you then you are to your next breath. Breathe out – fear, anxiety, frustration, resentment. Breathe in – God’s gifts of gentleness, mercy, light and peace. Take a few deep, prayerful breathes. In prayer, God can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Prayer is the key that sets us free to act with wisdom and love. Put on your oxygen mask of prayer first. Breathe deeply of our God who is the very breath of life.

Prayer Key

If you do not already have a colorful Blessed Prayer Key, you may take one as you leave Church along with a Blue Prayer Booklet. Attach the key to your own set of keys as a reminder that
“Prayer is the key that sets us free.”

Activity

Pray the Blue Prayer Booklet or read the prayer below while turning your Blessed Prayer Key.

Lord, I turn the key of prayer in Faith.
I am set free to trust in your Providence.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer with Hope.
I am set free from fear;
knowing that you desire to do for me
what I cannot do for myself.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer for Love.
I pray that you may bless others (name) and
transform me to set me free.


KEYS TO THE KINGDOM – WEEK III

Weekend Scripture Reflection (Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B)

  • Moses witnesses the power of God’s spirit working among the people. He prays in faith, “Would that the Lord might bestow the Spirit on all.” The prayer of Moses is now fulfilled in our baptismal gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • James reminds us that earthly treasure is fleeting. We are encouraged to place our faith and our efforts in spiritual pursuits that have an eternal effect.
  • Jesus promises that even a cup of water given in his name will be remembered by God forever. We can trust God to delight in our smallest efforts and to bless us with deeper faith whenever we reach out in service to others.

Reflection: “I’ve Got You.”

While exploring a cave in India the crew discovers a narrow chasm that seems to open to another cave below. All of the men are too large to be lowered by rope through the slender crevice.
Spotting a young Porter boy, the foreman asks him if he would be willing to be let down by rope into the dark space. The boy shakes his head slowly from left to right. Undaunted, the foreman points to the 12 large men who will be holding the rope securely.
Again, he answers, “No.”
The boy’s eyes, however, suddenly light up and pointing to a rather frail looking old man he says,
“I will only go if he holds the rope.” Shocked the foreman says, “Him?” “Yes,” the boy replies,
“He is my father.”
As the boy is lowered, his father says the words that inspire faith and trust when spoken by someone who loves you, “I’ve got you.”
God is always whispering to us, “I’ve got you.”
God is like a parent whom we can trust.
Prayer is the Key that turns our eyes toward our God in faith and enables us to freely rely on God’s provident care regardless of our thoughts, feelings or circumstances. Even when all seems lost, at the moment of death, our faith promises that God holds us securely, looks into our eyes, gathers us into Divine arms and speaks the words of love that we can trust for ever and ever, “I’ve got you.”

Reflection Questions
  1. In the dark cave moments of your life, who held the rope of faith, trust and prayer for you? How did God provide for you, even if it was in simple ways such as the offering of a cup of water?
  2. Who are you holding and supporting by your prayer? Trusting in God’s Providence remember that God loves those whom you love even more than you do. Reflect on that statement while turning the key of prayer that sets you free.
  3. How is God saying, “I’ve got you,” to you?

Prayer Key

If you do not already have a colorful Blessed Prayer Key, you may take one as you leave Church along with a Blue Prayer Booklet. Attach the key to your own set of keys as a reminder that
“Prayer is the key that sets us free.”

Activity

Pray the Blue Prayer Booklet or read the prayer below while turning your Blessed Prayer Key.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer in Faith.
I am set free to trust in your Providence.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer with Hope.
I am set free from fear;
knowing that you desire to do for me
what I cannot do for myself.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer for Love.
I pray that you may bless others (name) and
transform me to set me free.


KEYS TO THE KINGDOM – WEEK IV

Weekend Scripture Reflection (Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B)

  • The book of Genesis teaches that each one of us is created by God for the life we are called to live. Because Jesus shared our humanity our Hope is founded on God’s profound empathy for us. Christ knows us – bone for bone, flesh of our flesh, heart to heart.
  • The letter to the Hebrews affirms that Christ is united to us in our joy, sufferings, through death and into the glory of new life. Our Hope is in Christ our true companion on the journey.
  • Our Gospel contrasts two ways of seeing life legalistically and with Hope for change. The Pharisees see life legalistically enforcing harsh, unfair rules concerning marriage that cut others off from living life to the fullest. Jesus promotes Hope-filled thinking that is open for change when he uses the example of children. Children are often more free from fear and more open to new ways of thinking and alternative possibilities than adults. OurHope is in Christ who is the key for our discovery of all that God can accomplish in us and through us.

Reflection: S.O.S. – Hope Saves

Fierce wind and driving rain pommel the tiny fishing village in Holland as the S.O.S. alarm screams for the villagers to come to the town docks. 14 year old Hans is the first to arrive and he sees the flashing emergency signal of a grounded vessel beyond the breakwater. As he and the other rescue volunteers’ drop into the violently rocking lifeboat, Hans hears his mother scream above the wind, “No, Hans, do not go. I have already lost your father and your brother!” Hans cries out, “Mama, we are their only Hope.”

For two hours the villagers pray with that very honest mix of fear and Hope. Prayer is the key that sets them free to be open to God doing more than they can even imagine. Finally, the limping lifeboat is spotted. A cheer rings out. Yet above the joy one voice is heard. Loud and clear Hans exclaims, “Mama, I’ve got my brother.”

Hans’ mother prayed with Hope that her son would return, little did she know that her entire perspective on what was possible would change when both sons returned to her.

Praying with Hope helps us to act with courage and to answer the daily S.O.S. alarms that sound from the people whom God has entrusted to our care. We are created and empowered by God to do our daily work. God understands our struggle and our reluctance at times to rush forward to the aid of others. Praying with Hope gives us access to God’s power at work in us in cooperation with our efforts. Praying with Hope gives us a childlike spontaneity to act with confidence in everyday situations. Each one of us is a Hope for someone else because we are often the answer to another person’s S.O.S.

When we rush forward in prayer with Hope and for Love we return with deeper faith and blessings beyond anything we could Hope for or imagine.

ACTIVITY: Praying With HOPE

Christian Hope is a gift from God that we can experience in prayer. The anagram of H O P E will be used to illustrate four steps in prayer that help us to experience God’s gift of Hope in our daily lives.

Honesty
Openness
Perspective
Endurance

Prayer Steps to Hope

Honesty – Being completely candid with God about our thoughts, feelings and situation.
Openness – Consciously affirming God’s ability to do more for us than we are able to do for ourselves, through the transformation of our mind, heart and spirit.
Perspective – Asking God to reveal in prayer new ways of seeing ourselves, others and circumstances with eyes of faith and love.
Endurance – Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit for courage, self-control, strength and inner peace.

Prayer Key

If you do not already have a colorful Blessed Prayer Key, you may take one as you leave Church along with a Blue Prayer Booklet. Attach the key to your own set of keys as a reminder that
“Prayer is the key that sets us free.”

Activity

Pray the Blue Prayer Booklet or read the prayer below while turning your Blessed Prayer Key.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer in Faith.
I am set free to trust in your Providence.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer with Hope.
I am set free from fear;
knowing that you desire to do for me
what I cannot do for myself.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer for Love.
I pray that you may bless others (name) and
transform me to set me free.


KEYS TO THE KINGDOM – WEEK V

Weekend Scripture Reflection (Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B)

  • Our first reading extols the spirit of wisdom that comes from prayer. Above all gifts wisdom is prized.
  • The letter to the Hebrews clearly states that God’s Word is like a sword that reveals truth and gifts us with discerning hearts.
  • Jesus announces in the Gospel that what is impossible for humans is possible for God. We are given God’s Word that nothing is impossible for God in Faith, with Hope and for Love.

Reflection: “Fire”

Jo Walker tells the following story,
“I was not thrilled with the idea of letting my clueless 13-year-old son babysit his younger sisters, even though he begged me to. “What about a fire?” I asked, referring to my number one concern. “Mom,” he said, rolling his eyes, “I am a Boy Scout. I know how to start a fire.”

When it comes to our relationships we are all good at starting fires. We easily add “fuel to the fire” when we are annoyed or hurt by others. Turning the Key of Prayer can set us free from resentments and the damaging negative thoughts that can plague us in relationship.

God wishes for Love to be the fire that consumes our hearts but this often seems impossible for us. God promises to do the impossible especially in the areas of our perceptions, judgements and attitudes.

The Word of God teaches us to bless those who curse us and to pray for our enemies. When our relationships are troubled those closest to us can feel like our enemies. Prayer is the Key to heal and set us free for Love. Prayer and Faith gives us Hope and fill us with God’s love when our own love is in short supply.

Pray this simple prayer,

“I pray that you may bless others (name) and transform me to set me free”

This prayer is liberating when said over time. Even if we have to pray with our teeth clenched. The prayer shifts the focus to God and away from our cycle of worry and fire stoking. God desires to transform us and to shift our attention toward the strength and healing which is at the heart of all prayer. God is able to help us to stop adding fuel to the fire.
We may discover that our tendency to try to control or to judge others is interfering with our being free. God can help us to change our attitudes. God can teach us how to see and feel in new ways.

Remember that the beneficial effects of prayer may not be immediately evident but God is faithful. At the very least, it is comforting to know that we are doing something about our difficulties by releasing our problems to God while trusting in God’s Providence.

God can re-create our hearts and transform us into people who are free to love in word and in deed.

What to Do

Pray the blessing prayer highlighted above which is also listed below under activity. However impossible it may seem, every time we pray in Faith and with Hope a small spark of divine love grows in our hearts until we are set ablaze with the fire of God’s love.

Prayer Key

If you do not already have a colorful Blessed Prayer Key, you may take one as you leave Church along with a Blue Prayer Booklet. Attach the key to your own set of keys as a reminder that

“Prayer is the key that sets us free.”

Activity

Pray the Blue Prayer Booklet or read the prayer below while turning your Blessed Prayer Key.

Lord, I turn the key of prayer in Faith.
I am set free to trust in your Providence.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer with Hope.
I am set free from fear;
knowing that you desire to do for me
what I cannot do for myself.
Lord, I turn the key of prayer for Love.
I pray that you may bless others (name) and
transform me to set me free.