28 July 201917 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 11, 1-13

A prayer-master advised his listeners to adopt the APU program when they pray. When predictably they asked what the acronym meant, he said with a smile, "Be aggressive. Be persistent. Be unreasonable."

His disciples balked at such an approach to the Almighty. But the guru directed their attention to Genesis 18. There Abraham is in conversation (or is it prayer?) with God. Abraham the text shows is aggressive, persistent, and unreasonable.

On the evidence, God should have destroyed the immoral and infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. They deserved whatever they got and then some. But Abraham proves to be an able negotiator. By clever maneuvering over some time, He causes God to back down on His original plan. Perhaps even at surprise to Himself, Yahweh allows Abraham to win the day. The cities are spared. Chalk a big victory up for Father Abraham. More importantly, do take a page out of his how-to-pray manual. If Abraham could get the gold ring in his prayer, why cannot you and I? Abraham has convincingly shown us that God is a soft touch. And His own Son happily confirms that point in today's Gospel.

Also we have a big edge over Abraham. Jesus instructs us today to address God as "Father." That translates as you know into "Daddy" or "Pop." If we think the APU plan is off the wall, Abraham would think calling Jehovah "Daddy" or, worse, "Pop" completely ludicrous. As proof, note that in Genesis 18 Father Abraham addressed God most solemnly as "Lord" four times in the framework of a few seconds. Imagine what Abraham might have accomplished with his APU approach if he felt able to call his exalted Lord "Daddy!" Unfortunately for him, as he would be the first to tell us, he was born centuries too soon.

So, in our prayer we must employ not merely a strong second effort but rather Abraham's third and even fourth effort. Abraham was a moose and obviously he was not designed to take "no" for an answer. Had God asked him what part of "no" he had difficulty in understanding, he would answer immediately "the whole word, Lord." If he could respond that way to God, then why not we? So, don't be afraid to nag.

After all, as someone has noted, God does have millions of people calling Him. There are times He must put you on hold. But, when He does come back to you and says, "Thank you for holding," you are in the driver's seat. At that point, Father Abraham would quickly advise you, "Go for the gold."

I was traveling through the majestic state of Arizona. I made a visit to an attractive chapel in a small town. I found the following in a pew. It ties in nicely with today's Gospel.

"I cannot say 'our' if I live only for myself. I cannot say 'Father' if I do not approach God like a child. I cannot say 'who art in heaven' if I am not laying up some treasure there right now. I cannot say 'Hallowed be thy name' if I am careless with that name. I cannot say 'Thy kingdom come' if I am not working to actualize it in the here and now. I cannot say 'Thy will be done' if I am resentful of that will for me at this moment. I cannot say 'on earth as it is in heaven' if I don't look on heaven as my future home. I cannot say 'Give us our daily bread' if I am overanxious about tomorrow. I cannot say 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us' if I am waiting to settle a score with someone. I cannot say 'Lead us not into temptation' if I deliberately put myself in a place to be tempted. (A sage teaches it is a smart person who flees temptation and does not leave a forwarding address.) I cannot say 'Deliver us from evil' if I am not prepared to pray as though everything depends on God and work as though as everything depends on me." Dag Hammerskjold wrote, "Hallowed be thy name, not mine. Thy Kingdom come, not mine. Thy will be done, not mine."

A final word! From today's Gospel, God does appear to enjoy brevity. The prayer He teaches us today has but 44 words. His Ten Commandments has a modest 297 words. The famous Twenty-third Psalm a mere 118 words. Should we not follow suit? Perhaps God is telling us He is not appreciative of long winded prayers. Furthermore, He is not hard of hearing.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday: "Teach Us How to Pray"

"Teach us how to pray," the disciples asked Jesus. This is the longing of our souls. We want to pray. We want to be with God. In his book Beginning to Pray Anthony Bloom tells the story of an elderly woman who wanted to pray but had no sense of God's presence. She spoke with her pastor about her frustration. The pastor told her to just go to her room, put off any noise or distractions, and knit for fifteen minutes. He told her not to try to say any particular prayers, just knit and enjoy the quiet of her room. She did that and began to embrace the silence of her room. She realized that this silence wasn't just the absence of something, the absence of noise, it was the presence of something. Eventually she realized that at the heart of silence there is God, who is stillness and peace.

Prayer is not just a formula of words and rituals. Prayer is the awareness of God as the source of all that is good and the ultimate fulfillment of life's journey. Prayer is not the scope and breadth of the words we utter, but the sense of gratitude that compels us to give voice to those prayers.

Prayer is what we are about, not just here in Church but as people committed to the Kingdom of God. We need to nurture our dialogue with the One who became one of us, Jesus Christ. We always need to strengthen our prayer Life. We call out to the Lord throughout our day saying, "Lord, help me here, in this task you have given me. Lord watch over my loved one, my spouse, my son, my daughter, my parents. Help me to fulfill my vocation well. Many times we say particular prayers such as grace before meals, or the three meditations I foster, God loves me unconditionally, God forgives me and God is with me, or devotional prayers like the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy or night prayer. Our days are meant to be united to God in prayer. Prayer expresses who we are, the People of God. We come to Mass to pray the Lord's Supper as a community and to reverence the Lord within us in communion.

We need each other for our prayer life to grow. We need each other so we can celebrate God's presence. We need to call upon Him to become present on the altar through the actions of our priests and bishops. Mass is not just important for us. It is fundamental to our prayer life. Perhaps you have come upon people who say that they don't attend Church, but they pray on their own. They are depriving themselves of the greatest prayer, the prayer of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, on the Cross and at Easter. By refusing to join the community they are depriving themselves of the Eucharist.

We always need to reflect on the mystery of the Eucharist. We go to communion so often that it is easy for us to forget what we are doing and whom we are receiving. When we receive communion, we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We are united to Him as He offers Himself up to the Father for us. When we receive communion, Jesus is closer to us than our skin. When we receive communion, we worship Him within us with our whole being. When we receive communion we enter into the silence of the presence of God within us.

Here at St. Ignatius we have been blessed with the great charism of loving Eucharistic Adoration. We have Eucharistic adoration here every Thursday after the 9:00 am Mass and all day on First Fridays, as well as 40 hours during Lent. Our young people love Eucharistic Adoration. It is always the highlight of their retreats, conferences and camps. All of us love reverencing the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Eucharistic adoration must be seen in the context of the Mass and reception of communion. Every time we receive communion we take Jesus within ourselves. He is there at the Last Supper, looking at each person here and saying "Take and eat. Take and drink." When we receive communion Jesus is present on the cross saying, "My body is given up for you. My blood is yours. Even if you were the only person to ever live, I would still accept the cross for you. I want you to have my body and blood." When we receive communion, Jesus is present within us at the Resurrection. This is the food of the new life of the Kingdom, the food of eternity, the Bread of Angels.

Jesus once told the story about a jewel merchant who came upon a valuable pearl. When he found it, he sold everything he had so he could possess it. We have

the Pearl of Great Price offered for us and to us every day. Jesus comes to us whenever we receive communion. Nothing should stand in the way of our reception of the Eucharist. We need to keep our priorities straight.

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." We seek happiness. We seek peace. We seek union with God. The door to our spiritual fulfillment is opened for us when we receive communion.

"Teach us to pray, Lord," the apostles asked. We ask this too. He taught us the Lord's Prayer, and He gave us the Eucharist. He calls us into the silence of His Presence.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
17 Ordinary Time
Why Should We Stay?
(July 28, 2019)

Bottom line: God allows temptations and trials to combat pride, to bring us to humility. The devil on the other hand wants to lead to despair - to throw away the greatest treasure God gives.

This summer we received a nice gift: a small book titled Letter to a Suffering Church. In it Bishop Robert Barron addresses the clergy abuse scandal from a spiritual viewpoint. He begins by describing the scandal as a "diabolical masterpiece". When you consider the level of devastation it's hard not to see that the devil orchestrated these hideous sins.

What's the devil's game? Peter Blatty addresses that question in The Exorcist. You might know Blatty is a faithful Catholic. He did a lot of research before writing the Exorcist. He based his book on an actual case of of demonic possession. In his book someone asks the exorcist, "Why this girl? It makes no sense." Fr. Merrin replies, "I think the point is to make us despair - to see ourselves as animal and ugly - to reject our humanity - to reject the possibility God could ever love us".

Something similar applies to the clergy abuse scandal. The whole thing is so foul it has made people despair and reject the Church.

When tempted to despair a person needs to turn to God's Word, the Bible. Bishop Barron does that by devoting a chapter to "Light from Scripture".

Besides Scripture we need something else: a sense of history. When I was in the seminary many men were leaving the priesthood. Our seminary rector said something that has stuck with me. "The priests who leave," he said, "lack a sense of history. At first this seemed puzzling, but it makes more and more sense to me. Bishop Barron has a chapter on Church history titled "We have been here before".

He then ask the crucial question: Why should we stay? Well, as Bishop Barron argues, to leave the Church means to discard a treasure. It's like throwing away diamonds because the bag holding them has become smelly. No, wash the bag. It's the only one God has given us hold that incalculable treasure: his teaching, his sacraments, the very Communion of Saints.

In the final chapter Bishop Barron outlines the way forward. We don't need to discard God's gift even though he uses weak, sinful humans to transmit that treasure.

The way forward above all involves prayer. Today Jesus teaches us to practice bold, unrelenting prayer - persistence, even to the point of shamelessness. Filial trust - we dare to call God our Father. If we ask for a fish or egg, he will not give us something harmful. Everything that happens until fits his plan and purpose.

Parents - despite their faults - give good gifts to their children. How much more will the Father give better gifts? Even the Holy Spirit.

To move forward we need the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit we cannot find the way. We cannot even pray; the Holy Spirit prays in us.

In confession the absolution prayer says that the Father sends the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. The only condition, Jesus says, is that we forgive those in debt to us.

Sometimes people will say, "I am a forgiving person but what he did is unforgivable." No. For sure we may have to separate from some person, especially to protect children - as we do by removing from ministry a priest who has abused a child or youth. Even so, we cannot ignore Jesus crystal clear words connecting God's forgiveness with our forgiving those who trespass against us.

And we say, lead us not into temptation - preserve us from an unendurable trial. At Priest Days Archbishop Sartain spoke about how sometimes the ridicule seems relentless.* The he said, "People ridicule us. So what? They did that to Jesus."

The final petition says, "deliver us from evil". Yes, we have seen the power of the evil one. He has brought us low. All the more reason to turn to the Father. Next week we will see powerful reasons to turn to God.

For today remember this. God allows temptations and trials to combat pride, to bring us to humility. The devil on the other hand wants to lead to despair - to throw away the greatest treasure God gives. For that reason we pray, "deliver us from evil." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
17 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We have a text from the Gospel of Luke today in which Jesus talks about prayer. First of all, he tells his disciples to address God as Father and gives them the prayer we know today as the Lord's Prayer. The version of this prayer we are given in Luke is slightly shorter than the one given in Matthew where he includes the additional line 'Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Almost universally throughout the Church, whether it be Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, the slightly fuller version given by Matthew is used in the liturgy and in personal prayer. In some Protestant and Byzantine Churches, however, a doxology is added: 'For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.' We tend not to add this to the Our Father in the Catholic Tradition because it is not included in the actual text of the Gospel, although since 1970 it has been included as a separate item in the liturgy directly after the Our Father.

The Our Father is, of course, the archetypal prayer of Christians; it was given to us directly by Jesus and it forms the basis on which all other Christian prayer is modelled.

A little bit of controversy has been introduced lately concerning the words 'Lead us not into temptation.' Some people suggest that it is not possible that God could actually lead us into temptation and so have sought to amend the text. The English-speaking world has resisted this innovation but a slight change in wording has recently been introduced to the Italian translation of the mass.

The Italians now say, 'do not abandon us to temptation.' According to me there is little difference between these two texts and I believe the controversy is just a storm in a teacup. Actually, though, I think that innovations like this should generally be resisted because the text has been handed down to us in its present form for many centuries and I don't think we should change texts that we learnt off by heart in childhood with the intention that they remain with us for the rest of their lives.

For example take the Confiteor in the Latin Mass, which for centuries was the unchanging liturgy of the Church, there it is rendered 'I confess to almighty God, to Blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul and to you brethren that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed.' This was changed in 1962 to 'I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.'

Fifty years later I was still hearing old people in the Confessional using the old form of the Confiteor and continuing to invoke blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist and the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. It was something that those people had learned by heart in childhood and it had become such an ingrained part of their daily prayers that they simply couldn't change it. This is why in the Our Father we still use the word 'thy' even though it is completely archaic and fell out of use in the English language as long ago as the Seventeenth Century.

Nevertheless, the Our Father is a prayer treasured by all Christians and all the more so since it was given to us by Jesus with the deliberate intention of drawing us into an ever-closer intimacy with God the Father. The ancient tradition in the Church is that it should be recited by every Christian three times a day: morning, noon and night.

The second half of the Gospel text given to us today is about how Jesus told us not to be hesitant in asking for things from God. This highlights the importance of intercessory prayer. He gives us a parable about the man who in the middle of the night asks his friend if he can borrow a few loaves because a visitor has arrived unexpectedly. He says that if the friend won't get out of bed straight away he will eventually do so because of the first man's persistence.

He implies that if God doesn't give us what we want immediately we should still go on asking for it and eventually it will be granted to us. I'm not sure the best parallel for God is a sleepy neighbour but the point is made that we should not be afraid to be persistent in our prayer.

The lovely lines 'Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you' simply underline the point. Of course, sometimes when we persistently ask God for some favour, over a period of time the request gets modified. If, for example, we are praying for healing for a person we know we might start out by asking God for a complete cure, but then with time we might modify this to ask for them to be relieved of unnecessary suffering. Then as more time passes our request might be modified once again asking God to grant them a happy and peaceful death.

One of the reasons we might modify our request is because we understand that in death they will surely find salvation and that this is actually healing at the most profound level, at the level of the soul. Again, we should realise that prayer changes us. The more we pray, the more we deepen our relationship with God and the more we begin to understand the mysteriousness of his ways.

Of course, there is more to prayer than intercession. Christ tells us to ask God for the things that we need but we realise that there are other aspects to a healthy prayer-life. We realise that there needs to be room in prayer for other things like penitence, self-offering, thanksgiving and praise. As we celebrate the mass, we realise that as it unfolds it takes us through many of these types of prayer.

And we also understand that in our life of prayer there needs to be room for silence, for listening. Yes, we listen to God through reflecting on his words in scripture when we realise that his words are not just addressed to the Apostles but also to us today, in our particular circumstances. But more than this, because a person who has deepened their prayer life also realises that God speaks through silences. And we need to learn to treasure those silent moments of prayer and as we go through life we ought to extend them where possible.

If in the first half of our lives we find that in prayer we do most of the talking, then in the second part of our lives we might find that we do most of the listening.
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