20 October 201929 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
29 Ordinary Time
29 Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 18:1-8

A priest was at a boxing match. The man next to him watched a boxer make the Sign of the Cross. He asked the priest, "Will that help him?" "Yes." replied the cleric, "if he can box."

Jesus is teaching us today about prayer in this famous story. The judge taking bribes is browbeaten by a widow into giving justice without benefit of his usual baksheesh. So, Jesus is asking, will not the indulgent Father, who has no need of bribes, give us all the tender loving care we need?

Does this mean that all we have to do is send a fax and God will send our request by same day Federal Express? Negative. Like everything else, prayer has certain ground-rules.

Firstly, we need faith. There is hardly much point in praying if we are at the same time programming what to do when our prayers are denied. It is not, says James Tahaney, our prayers that God hears but our confidence. Say you pray for a sunny day for your holiday. Well, be sure that you take sun glasses and sun lotion when you exit your house.

Secondly, we have got to give God a helping hand. When we are praying to move that memorable mountain spoken of in Mt. 17,20, says Sr Ruth Fox, we have got to remember also to bring a shovel. She say there are two kinds of faith - a blue denim variety and a rocking chair one. With the former, we say we are willing to use the shovel to help get the job done. The latter says we expect God to do all the heavy lifting. The ideal then is to pray as though everything depends on God and work as though everything depends on us. The boxer opening our homily can hardly expect God's help if he has not gotten into good physical shape.

Thirdly, it is hardly cricket of me to expect that I will get everything I pray for. Nothing in life works that way. Furthermore, if I can turn down another person's request, why cannot God do the same to me? God always answers my prayer, but sometimes He is going to say no.

But the good news we are told is that delay is not necessarily denial. So, keep praying. Babe Ruth tells us it's hard to beat a person who never gives up.

But the record shows too that oftentimes I have been lucky when God turned me down flat. I prayed for a particular job. God gave me a thumbs down. Subsequently, I realized that had I gotten the job, it would have not been a happy fit. It would have been the pits. In my case, Oscar Wilde was on target. "The worst thing in the world is to get nothing you want, but the next to worst thing is to get everything you want."

And it was Truman Capote, the enfant terrible of American letters, who reminded us of the advice of St Therese in his controversial work Answered Prayers. "More tears are shed over answered prayers than over unanswered ones."

My experience teaches me also that when God slams the door shut, He oftentimes very cutely leaves a window of opportunity open. So He writes straight, as we like to say, with crooked lines. He proves to me that though His response is negative, His reasoning can be quite affirmative.

Fourthly, prayer has to be on the level. It is not recommended to attempt to pull God's leg. After all, it's His territory we're working, not ours. So, when you pray, do not use qualifying clauses. Leave the "ifs, ands, buts" at home.

It is very possible to pray for something and not really want it. Think of St Augustine, "Make me chaste but not quite yet." Or Prince Hamlet praying but still determined to get his revenge: "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go." The boy that is Huckleberry Finn reminds all of us, "You cannot pray a lie."

Finally, we must learn to turn our backs on, what William Barclay calls, the world's most common prayer, "My will be done." and learn to say, "Thy will be done." The object of prayer, says John Castelot, is not to force God to change His mind but to bring ours into line with His own.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
29 Ordinary Time
Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Perseverance in Prayer

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Exodus and the Gospel reading from Luke both speak about perseverance in prayer. Perseverance in prayer means not giving up, but continuing to pray. In the battle against Amalek, the forces of Israel were winning as long as Moses held his hands up. This was not magic. This was prayer. The ancient way of praying, and the way many of us pray at times is to lift our hands up to the Lord. When Moses’ let his arms fall, Amalek prevailed. When Moses stopped praying, Amalek prevailed. He needed the help and support of Aaron and Hur to keep his arms up. He needed the support of others to persevere in prayer.

The Lord tells a humorous story of an unjust judge and a persistent widow. "If I don't give her what she wants, she’s going to finish me off," the judge says. This is a sentiment experienced by every parish priest as he sees that five of his ten voice messages come from the same lady. The Lord is having a bit of fun with us while reminding us that our loving Father will respond to our continual prayers.

We have to keep praying. We can't give up, even when, especially when, it seems that our prayers are not being heard. The problem is that we are used to getting immediate results. We have a question, we Google it, and immediately an answer appears. This is fine for the physical life, but prayer is not physical. It is spiritual. When we pray, we are calling upon God to fulfill our needs, not Google to give us an answer. And our needs will be met, often not in the way we expect, but better than our expectations. For example, we pray night and day for a loved one who is dying. The person passes away, but dies peacefully ready to embrace the next life. We are grief struck, but at the same time, our prayers have drawn us closer to God. Our prayers were answered, just not in the way we expected.

Since I have been pastor here four of our children, at least that I am aware of, have come down with cancer. We stormed heaven with prayers for each of them every day. Three of the four are now cancer free, and one had her own child and is pregnant with number two. The fourth child, Bailee Dunnigan, passed away from complications. Bailee’s life on earth, though, was a blessing. Her determination to receive her First Holy Communion led us to a deeper reflection of the importance of Holy Communion. She remains one of our parish saints. In all four children, our prayers were answered, not necessarily in the ways we expected and certainly not as quickly as we had hoped.

There are many times that most of us have been seriously sick or injured. We have prayed, and others have prayed for us. Time passes, perhaps years, and we realize that we are better off than before our sickness or injury.

We can't give up on prayer, be it for our personal needs, or the needs of others. Every single one of us is a member of the Body of Christ. Sometimes we priests present this in a negative way, explaining how our sins affect others. Today's readings present the positive view. Our prayer strengthens all the members of the Body of Christ.

A number of years ago I was chatting with one of the men who goes regularly to the Brothers in Christ. This group as you know meets at 6 am on Wednesdays. (Guys, if you can get yourself up to join them before work, do so.) This is a great group. I feel bad that I’m not there, but as I explained to the fellow I was talking with, I'm up at that time, but I have got to keep my morning prayer schedule. He responded that I was doing exactly what the parish needed me to do. To that I would now respond, "and you men are also doing what the rest of us need you to do." And that is the point. We need each other's support. We have a prayer responsibility towards each other, and all others, for that matter.

We need to pray for our Church. We need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We need priests. We need sisters and brothers. We need our bishops, including our pope, to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis has been turning the ship of the Church to a greater commitment to the poor and the pastoral needs of the people. Some people are having a problem with this. Big ships do not turn easily. We have a responsibility to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the acceptance of this guidance. We all need to pray for the Church.

We need to pray for our country. All of us need to pray that our country truly be one nation under God. Granted there is money to be made by selling nose clips at the entrances to the voting booths, but our problems are deeper than our candidates. The antipathy and outright hatred that we see expressed every day in many areas of American life is frightening. Have we Americans lost our Christian soul? I and you want our children to live in a country where people are united in caring for each other, not divided into various groups of bigotry and hatred. I and you want our children to live in a country where there is respect, respect for life and respect for each other. Right now we are going through grim times. This does not give us the right to give up on our country. We need to pray for our country, continually asking God to soften hard hearts.

We need to pray for our young people. They are both the present and the future of the Church. The next battle for the Kingdom of God will be waged by the young. One of the greatest blessings I have received is witnessing how so many of our high school, college age and young married have taken their responsibility to the Kingdom so seriously. They want to live for God. They want to care for others. They want to marry someone with whom they can pray. They want to raise children for God. The young always have ideals. We had ideals when we were young. But there is something wonderfully better about the ideals of our present young people. They are determined to be heroes for Christ. To do all this, they have to withstand the horrible pressure they experience every day to give up and give in. We have a responsibility to pray for the young. And they have a responsibility to pray for us. And if they fall, we need to lift them up with our prayers. And if we fall, they need to lift us up.

We cannot give up on prayer. We cannot give up on God. I want to remind you of the three great lies of the devil. The first is: You are not good enough. The second great lie is: You are alone and the third great lie is: That God has lied to us. We counter that first lie by affirming that God has made us good enough. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins. We cannot fall for the lie that our human failings prevent us from being effective members of the Kingdom of God. The devil’s second lie, that we are alone, is proved wrong by our personal experiences of God’s presence as well as the Words of Scripture. When St. Matthew concluded his Gospel he closed with the words all of us need to remember every day. Jesus said, "Know that I am with you always." The third great deception of the devil is the blasphemy that God has lied to us. No, God does not lie. He has said that He is a Loving Father and He has proven this to us in many, many ways, the most important of which was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. "God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son," John 3:16 teaches. Our God is wonderfully in love with each one of us.

Today's readings tell us to persevere in prayer we cannot give up on God. Today’s readings remind us that God will never give up on us.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
29 Ordinary Time
Thank Then Ask

(October 20, 2019)
Bottom line: Today we see the first steps of prayer: thank, then ask.

Last week we talked about gratitude. We heard about a man Jesus cured - one in ten - who returned to thank him. Jesus says to the man, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." Gratitude is the most basic prayer - simply to say, "thank you, Lord".

Before going to the second step of prayer, I'd like to share something that makes me grateful. You may have read the same news: A meta analyis of various medical studies indicates that dog owners live longer! I was ready to share this with some priest friends who unfortunately are cat owners. Well, another study showed that cat owners are smarter than dog owners. I can't imagine why. Still, there is a silver lining. Although cat owners tend to be smarter, dog owners are happier.

Why are dog owners happier? Probably for many reasons, but I think it comes down to gratitude. Dogs are grateful even for small things. Cats on the other hand are entitled.* I may be projecting but cats seem to take things for granted. Like someone we'll hear about next Sunday, they look down on the rest of us. Dogs look up and receive their blessings with gratitude. Gratitude brings happiness.

Whether you prefer cats or dogs, whether you have a pet or not, start with gratitude. I know gratitude can be hard, especially when trials come. Whatever is happening in your life, do you not have something to be thankful for? Jesus, knowing he would face terrible torture and humiliation, still lifted the chalice of thanksgiving.

It's enough just to spend time thanking God, but today Jesus invites us to take a second step. Ask God for what you need. Today Jesus teaches persistent prayer - like the aggrieved widow who keeps pestering the judge - until she finally gets a hearing. I know you've prayed a long time for your son or daughter. Don't stop. Even if the person you are praying for dies, keep praying. Looking toward November we have a vase where you can place the name of your deceased loved one. There are even prayers for those who have committed suicide.

Never stop praying - day or night. Periodically I wake up in the middle of the night. Just reaching for my rosary beads and holding them seems like a good prayer. If I don't fall back to sleep, I will think, "best to get up, wrap a blanket around me and pray in my chapel". Jesus speaks about calling out to God "day and night".

In launching the campaign for elderly priests and sisters, we immersed ourselves in prayer. Now, during these weeks of the formal campaign we have a special prayer to conclude the General Intercessions. We can accomplish a lot by persistent prayer.

Today we have seen the first steps of prayer: thank, then ask. Next week's Gospel contains the third step. I won't keep you in suspense. It is "repent" followed by "praise". To remember the steps use this acronym: TARP - Thank, Ask, Repent and Praise. Like a tarp, prayer protects and give a space for encounter.

This week keep in mind what Jesus says about the necessity "to pray always without becoming weary." Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
29 Ordinary Time
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is clear that the main theme of our readings is perseverance in prayer. In the first reading we heard how Moses stretched out his arms in the desert and the Israelites gained the upper hand in the battle. When his arms eventually drooped through tiredness the Israelites began to lose the battle. So, Aaron & Hur had to prop his arms up on a rock so that they would not droop. In this way their enemies were conquered and the victory was won. What a wonderful symbolic way for expressing something that we have all experienced. We go to mass and often enthusiastically take part, at other times however, we droop. We lose interest and sometimes begin to feel despondent about our faith.

We still go to mass but we find that we can't pray, we may sit there feeling completely depressed but in fact prayer is going on all around us. It is as if all the other people in the Church are holding our tired arms up. The tide of prayer which goes on around us carries us along with it. Maybe it takes us a very long time to regain our energy but eventually we get there carried along by the others.

One of the questions associated with today’s readings is that, if we take the Gospel story as a straight analogy of how God deals with us, we find ourselves asking why does God not answer our prayers straight away? Why does he so often let things drag on, why does he let horrible and cruel situations continue when we know he has the power to intervene?

Why does God allow suffering to go on for so long even when the poor are crying out to him for justice? Is he as heartless as the judge in the story who only cares for his own comfort and dispenses justice only when his own peace is being disturbed? This is one of the most difficult problems that faces us Christians, and often we do not have any ready answer.

In my view the best way to tackle this problem is to look at it from another angle. If God is with us all the time then surely he knows our needs better than we do ourselves. We know that he is constantly pouring out his blessings on his beloved even while they sleep. If this is the case, then God already knows all our needs without being told them by us. So what is it that we are doing when we are praying?

Are we asking God to change his mind, to do something that he wouldn't do anyway? I don't think so. So then what is our prayer doing? According to me, it is opening up the channel of communication between ourselves and God. It is us that is tuning into God's way of thinking not him being dictated to by us and the way we see things.

When we ask God for something we are showing that we trust him, we are showing that we depend on him. I think that the most important thing is that we are letting him know that we acknowledge that he is already doing so much for us and that he has so much more up his sleeve for us. What happens then in prayer is not that we are pressing a button on a vending machine hoping to get a bar of chocolate and if we get nothing then keep pressing the button again and again until something eventually does come out.

No, when we pray what we are doing is opening up a dialogue with God and the longer we pray the deeper the dialogue gets. Often we forget what it was we first asked for, because it doesn't matter anymore, we become caught up in the mysterious ways of God himself. We begin to understand the meaning of some of the suffering and difficulties we are undergoing and we begin to see the hand of God in them. We begin to realise that pain and suffering has a deep and mysterious meaning.

Let us look at a marriage and particularly about the mutual support that is an essential element of any good marriage. Think of the relationship which you have with your partner in marriage as an analogy of your relationship with God. The important thing in a marriage is to be always communicating with your beloved. We do this in a myriad different ways, actually using words only occasionally. The important thing is not the content of the communication but the fact that there is a constant dialogue going on. This is what keeps the marriage healthy and vibrant. In time we realise that what we are actually saying to each other doesn’t matter very much as long as we are constantly communicating.

It's like a man going into a shop to buy a pair of shoes and having a lovely chat with the nice girl behind the counter. He invites her out and leaves the shop elated, only to realise later in the day that he forgot to take the shoes with him. This is how it often is when we are immersed in God. Praying for our immediate needs is actually only the starting point of our relationship with God.

We start our prayers by asking God for this or that grace, we ask him to bring healing for those we know who are sick, we place before him the needs of our families. But then we move on; we start to thank him for the things he has already given us, we begin to praise him for all that he has done in the world, we express our awe at his greatness, we praise him for the wonder of his being and give him the glory that is his due.

We come to realise that there is so much more to prayer than merely asking for things. Asking for things is simply the starting point and from there our prayer broadens out as one thing leads on to another. We move from intercession gradually through a number of phases ending up with praise and from there we move on to silent contemplation. And it is this contemplation which is actually the true object of prayer.

Although sometimes we might feel that God is neglecting us and our many needs, through prayer we eventually realise that he has won the victory; we become certain that in due time divine justice will be dispensed. For we realise that the outstretched arms of Moses are in fact the outstretched arms of Christ. And his arms never droop.
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