October 16, 2016
29th Sun Ord Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8
*At a Catholic church down in Louisiana during the middle of the week there was an elderly lady who was kneeling in the front pew praying the Rosary. She was really working those beads, knocking out those Hail Mary’s. At that time the inside of the church was being repainted and there was scaffolding that reached all the way up to the ceiling. She did not know it but there was a painter on the top level of the scaffolding. And the painter decided to mess with her. He said, “Hello down there!” The lady looked up but didn’t see anybody so she continued with her Hail Mary’s knocking out those beads. Once again the painter yelled out, “Hello down there!” The lady looked up again but did not see anyone so she went back to her Hail Mary’s. This time the painter decided he would really mess with her so he yelled out, “It’s me Jesus!” To which the old lady responded, “Hush up! I’m talking to your momma!” (I don’t make them up, I just repeat them.) J
The readings this Sunday help us to focus on prayer, but not only prayer but specifically the necessity to be persistent in prayer. First of all we must define what prayer is. Prayer is simply communication with God. It is speaking to God whether it is in the form of set prayers like the “Our Father”, the “Hail Mary” or the “Glory Be” or some other set prayer, or it’s just spontaneous words: whatever form it is it is true prayer if it is from the heart. But it is also listening to God, shutting up for a while and allowing Him to speak to us. It must be a two way conversation. Prayer is the lifeline in our relationship with God. Without it there is no way we can have a relationship with Him…But why does Jesus tell us in the Gospel about the necessity to pray always without becoming weary? Because He knows that sometimes our prayers and requests are not answered in the time that we want or in the way that we want. *One day while in deep prayer a young man looked up to heaven and asked the Lord, “God, how long is a million years to you?” The Lord answered, “My son, to me, a million years is like a minute.” Then the young man asked, “How much is a million dollars to you?” And God replied, “My son, to me, a million dollars is like a penny.” So the young man asked, “God, could you give me a penny?” And the Lord said, “In a minute.” J God’s time is not always our time. We want everything right now, our way. But Jesus tells us to be like the widow in the Gospel who did not give up but keep praying even when things seem to be taking too long or when nothing seems to be happening or when things are not turning out the way that we want. Why? Because when we continue to pray it builds our faith and our trust in the Father when we persevere. And that’s what God wants for His children, for us to have faith and trust in Him. Persistence in prayer builds our spiritual muscles like pumping iron builds our physical muscles. The more we consistently pray the stronger our faith will be.
Two weeks ago in the Gospel the apostles asked the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Prayer without becoming weary, without losing heart or giving up, increases our faith and helps us get through difficult times. It helps us to trust that the Father knows best. Yes prayer moves the heart of God like a child’s request moves their parent’s heart but most of all it helps us totally trust in God’s will for our lives…Jesus is our best example of this in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was scourged and crucified. The scripture said He prayed so intensely that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) And we know what the answer to His pray was right? Was the cup of suffering taken away from Him? No! He was put on trial, mocked, scourged and crucified. He trusted that God the Father had a greater plan, the Resurrection and total victory! Jesus asks us to pray without losing heart, trust even when it doesn’t make sense to us at the time, trust that He has a greater plan for our good and for the good of those we pray for. And this increases our faith which is what is most important now and for eternity. Trust in the Father who wants the good for us even when it is hard to understand. We trust when we pray Jesus’ words as our own, “not my will but yours be done.”
Persistence in prayer, praying the same requests every single day in faith and in trust without giving up sometimes allows us to see results and sometimes not. Or it may take years before we see anything happen. St. Monica prayed for the soul and conversion of her husband for many years and finally seen the fruit of her prayers as her husband turned to the Lord just before he died. She prayed for her wayward son, lost out in the world, for many years when it seemed hopeless and he turned out to be one of the greatest saints in the Catholic Church, theologian, bishop, and Doctor of the Church - St. Augustine…Sometimes we may pray for something or for someone but we will not see results in our lifetime but the fruit of our prayers may come to pass after we have gone home to the Lord. There are things I pray for every single day of my life waiting and trusting, confident that God hears me and will answer me in His time and in His way. And I continue to lift these requests to Him every single day as I pray the Rosary.
Now we turn to the first reading from the Book of Exodus where God’s people, through Moses, were told to engage the Amalekites (a fierce nomadic tribe) in battle. Amalek was one of the enemies of Israel and a real threat against them. The scripture said, “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” Moses with hands raised symbolizes prayer and goes along with our theme of persistent prayer. As long as his hands were raised in prayer he was winning the battle but when he let his hands rest he started to lose the battle. The same is true for us in our lives. When we continue to pray every day we will eventually win the battle against our enemies. But who are our spiritual enemies? What is a real threat to us, to our family, to our Church, to our salvation? There are basically 3 enemies: the evil one, the world and our own flesh. They manifest themselves in our personal lives in greed, selfishness, pride, jealousy, envy, lust for the flesh and for the material, indifference and complacency to name a few. They attack our spiritual and physical well-being, our marriages, our families and our souls. If we want to win the battle we must be persistent in prayer with our hands raised up like Moses. When we rest is when the enemy will start to take over. Prayer combined with the Word of God as we heard in the 2nd reading are our weapons to win the battle! But we must take advantage of them and utilize them daily. We must engage!
But the truth is we do get tired, we do get complacent, we do get discouraged at times. And that is why we need our Christian community, the Church (our brothers & sisters) to strengthen us, to pray with is and for us. The 1st reading said, “Moses’ hands grew tired…Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady…” We need the support of our brothers and sisters and we need to support them in return.
So, in closing, to be persistent in prayer does not mean endless repetition of long worded sessions but it is keeping our requests before our Loving God as we live for Him day by day always believing and trusting He will answer us in His time according to His will. And it is faith in prayer that keeps us going. Persistent prayer without becoming weary changes things, most importantly it changes us…So persist in prayer, do not lose heart, and trust that the Father knows best.
When we continue to lift our prayers to God, we have done our part, and the rest is up to Him. That gives us a peace that passes all understanding!