July 21, 2019

O. T. XVII Sunday homily (July 28, 20129)

O. T. XVII (July 28th) Sunday homily-one-page summary

Introduction: The main themes of today’s Scripture readings are the power of intercessory prayer, the Our Father as the ideal prayer, and the necessity for persistence and perseverance in prayer with trusting faith and boldness. In short, the readings teach us what to pray and how to pray.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis, gives us the model for intercessory prayer provided by Abraham in his dialogue with God. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138), with the Psalm Response, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me,” is a hymn of hope and trust in the Lord, reminding us that God is close to the humble of heart and to all those who call upon Him in their need. The second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, though it does not address prayer, reminds us of the need of perseverance in our living faith in Christ, which provides the basis for all Christian prayers, especially for liturgical prayer:  the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul assures us that even when we were dead in sin, God gave us new life through Jesus and pardoned all our sins.  In the Gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their Heavenly Father with the same boldness, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance Abraham displayed and the friend in need in the parable employed. He gives us the assurance that God will not be irritated by our requests or unwilling to meet them with generosity.

Life Messages: 1) Prayer is essential for Christian family life. To remain faithful in marriage, the spouses must pray, not only individually, but together.  They must thank God and offer intercessory prayers for each other, for their children and for their dear ones.    Daily prayer will help married couples to celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality and honor life from conception to natural death.  Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple:  “Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this every day.” 2) We need to accept others as children of God and thereby our brothers and sisters: Through the Our Father, Jesus is giving us a new vision of human relationships: that we all, irrespective of our color, creed or social background, are the children of God and thereby are brothers and sisters. When we learn this lesson – if we can learn this lesson, if we are able to treat God as our Father and love Him accordingly, and if we are able to treat every other human being as our own dear brothers and sisters and love them accordingly —  then, and then only, shall we experience the Kingdom of God here on earth and enjoy this in the next life. When we love each other and forgive each other’s failings God also will love us and forgive us. This is the foundation of true faith. (Joe Vemp).

OT XVII [C] (July 28) Gn 18:20-32, Col  2:12-14, Lk 11:1-13

Homily starter anecdote # 1:  “Never give up!”   Years ago, in Illinois, a young man with six months schooling and self-education competed in the state and national elections eleven times and was defeated eight times. List of Lincoln’s failures & successes: 1832 – Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature. 1834 – Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success). 1838 – Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker. 1843 – Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress. 1846 – Elected to Congress (success). 1848 – Lost re-nomination. 1849 – Rejected for Land Officer position. 1854 – Defeated in run for U.S. Senate. 1856 – Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President. 1858 – Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate. 1860 – Elected President (success) in 1860 when he was 51. That man was Abraham Lincoln who put his trust in the power of persistent prayer coupled with never-fading Faith in God’s goodness. (Despite his several defeats in elections, Lincoln was considered a fairly successful politician in Illinois and a leader of the Whig party in his state, as well as a successful lawyer in the U. S. Circuit Court (1839), U. S. District Court (1842) and U. S. Supreme Court (1849). Since there was no law school in his state, Lincoln studied law by himself and practiced under eminent lawyers).  It took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English!  Ironically, he was asked many years later to give the commencement address at Oxford University. His famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never give up!”   In today’s Gospel, after teaching the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us that we should never give up in our prayer life.

# 2: “Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again. In his book, Moments for Mothers (New Leaf Press: 1996), Robert Strand relates the story of a young boy named Benjamin who wrote a prayer-letter to God to ask for a baby sister. “Dear God, I’ve been a very good boy. . .” and then stopped, thinking that God might not be convinced by his claim. Taking a new sheet of paper, he began again, “Dear God, most of the time, I’ve been good. . .” Again, he stopped, dissatisfied that his plea was not sufficiently moving. After a few thoughtful moments, the young boy got a towel from the linen closet and laid it carefully on a chair in the living room. Then he went to the mantle over the fireplace and very slowly lifted down the statue of Mary. He had often seen his mother carefully dust the statue and knew it to be a special family heirloom. Very gently, Benjamin placed the Madonna in the middle of the towel, carefully folding over the edges. Then, after he secured the towel with rubber bands, he carried his parcel back to his desk, took another piece of paper and made his third attempt at a letter. . . “Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again. . .” Strand entitled his amusing story “Irreverent Manipulation”; however, given today’s readings from Genesis and Luke, it is feasible that Benjamin was being neither irreverent nor manipulative. Perhaps his child’s heart already knew that he could be bold and daring in his prayer because he knew himself to be loved by a bold and daring God. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez)

#3: “Why don’t you just try putting on the emergency brake?” Father Barry Foster, a priest in Dublin, Ireland, parked his car on a rather steep slope close to his church. His little dog was lying on the rear seat and could not be seen by anyone outside the vehicle. Father Foster got out of the car and turned to lock the door with his usual parting command to the dog. “Stay!” he ordered loudly, to an apparently empty car. “Stay!” An elderly man was watching the performance with amused interest. Grinning, he suggested, “Why don’t you just try putting on the emergency brake?” (Colin Jeffery, Catholic Digest, May 1992, p. 72). The theme of today’s Gospel is prayer, and it offers a model prayer. To the unbeliever, prayer is an exercise in futility like ordering “Stay,” to an automobile fully expecting it to obey. But to the believer, prayer is the most powerful and the most reliable force in the world today by which we communicate with God.

Introduction: The main themes of today’s Scripture readings are the power of intercessory prayer, the Our Father as the ideal prayer, and the necessity for persistence and perseverance in prayer, with trusting faith and boldness. In short, the readings teach us what to pray and how to pray.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis, gives us the model for intercessory prayer provided by Abraham in his dialogue with God. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138), with the Psalm Response, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me,” is a hymn of hope and trust in the Lord, reminding us that God is close to the humble of heart and to all those who call upon Him in their need. The second reading, taken from the Letter to the Colossians, does not deal with prayer directly, but it provides a basis for all Christian prayers, especially for liturgical prayer:  the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul assures us that even when we were dead in sin, God gave us new life through Jesus and pardoned all our sins.  In the Gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their Heavenly Father with the same boldness, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance Abraham displayed and the friend in need in the parable employed. He gives us the assurance that God will not be irritated by our requests or unwilling to meet them with generosity.

First reading: Genesis 20: 18-32 explained: The first reading is the story of Abraham’s negotiating for mercy with God on behalf of some innocent potential victims of Sodom and Gomorrah (including his nephew Lot and his family), when God had decided to destroy those cities which were almost entirely inhabited by people who led wicked and sexually-perverted lives. Abraham acknowledged that (1) he  was “dust and ashes” breathed into existence by the very breath of God (Genesis 2:7), (2) he had been called to become a covenantal partner of God (15:1-18), and (3) he had been blessed with the Divine promise of land, progeny protection and prosperity (12:1-3). But, as a close friend of God, the great patriarch of the Jews felt free to bargain with God when God told him He had decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: “If you find fifty righteous people in those wicked and immoral cities,” Abraham said,” you won’t destroy it, will you, God?” God said, “No, if I find fifty righteous people in the city, I will not destroy it.” “How about forty, thirty, twenty? Ten?” Although there were not even ten just people in those cities, God went beyond the terms of negotiation and spared the only just inhabitants of the cities, Abraham’s nephew and his family, because God is much more merciful than we are. Sodom’s destruction, in spite of Abraham’s intercession, teaches contemporary believers the valuable lesson that those who tolerate the evils perpetrated in human society and who refuse to protest against them by word, prayer and example leave themselves open to being swallowed up by them.

Second Reading: Colossians 2:12-14 explained: The Christians at Colossae were being exposed to a variety of philosophical and theological teachings, many of which were incompatible with the Gospel. Hence, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul tried to establish that Christ was superior to any other possible mediator between humanity and God. In today’s passage, Paul answered the question, “How, then, do we get Christ in us?” Assuming that the ritual of Baptism obviously simulates burial and resurrection, Paul’s declared that when we were buried in the waters of Baptism, we were united with Jesus in his saving death, and when we emerged from the baptismal font we were joined to Christ in his Resurrection. Long before “confession” came into existence, Paul taught that our sins were forgiven because the person who had committed those sins was no longer alive. That person died when he or she became one with the risen Jesus through Baptism. The new person who had come into existence at that point was not responsible for the dead person’s transgressions. His or her sins had been literally wiped out or erased from the mind and memory of God, having been snatched up and nailed to the cross (v. 14), i.e. put to death, through the saving sacrifice of Jesus.

Gospel exegesis: Luke’s version and Matthew’s version: Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is given in the context of the Sermon on the Mount as part of Jesus’ teaching on how to pray, while Luke’s version is set in one of those occasions just after our Lord had been at prayer. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is shorter than the more familiar version found in Matthew’s Gospel. However, it teaches us all we need to know about how to pray and what to pray for.  It has only five petitions while Mathew adds two more (“Your will be done…” and “deliver us from the evil one.”) The first two petitions have to do with praise and worship of God, while   the next three petitions present to Him our needs – daily bread, forgiveness and protection against the evil one. The Church uses the longer form of the Lord’s Prayer.

The structure of the Our Father: The prayer consists of two parts. In the first part, we praise and worship God and express our ardent desire for His rule in human hearts, enabling us to do His will in the most perfect way. In the second part we present our needs before God our Father with filial love and trusting Faith. We offer before God our present (daily bread), our past (forgiveness of sins) and our future (protection against temptations).  By this prayer we also invite the Trinitarian God into our lives: God the Father, the Creator and Provider, by asking for daily bread; God the Son, Jesus, our Savior, by requesting forgiveness of our sins; and God the Holy Spirit by asking for deliverance from temptations (“the final test.”).

The petitions: The petitions cover our present needs, the forgiveness of our past sins, and protection from future temptations. We need not only bodily nourishment, but also daily spiritual nourishment, so that we may be strong enough to forgive those who offend us.    In the next petition, Jesus links the giving and receiving of forgiveness.  If we expect God to forgive us, we must forgive one another (“Forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us”). The last petition- “and do not subject us to the final test“- covers future trials and temptations. We need God’s protection both from the evil one (the devil) and from the evils in society that seek to destroy us.  It is quite appropriate for us to pray for deliverance from evil for ourselves, our loved ones, our community, our nation, and our world.

Prayer: persistent and persevering: In the second part of today’s Gospel, by presenting the parable of a friend in need, Jesus emphasizes our need for persistent and persevering prayer, acknowledging our total dependence on God. In the ancient Hebrew world, hospitality was the essence of one’s goodness.  To welcome a visitor without food and drink was unthinkable. A traveler who was traveling in the evening to avoid the heat of the afternoon, might well arrive late at night.  But the villagers used to go to bed early, as they had no electricity.  So, in this parable, when a man received unexpected guests late at night and found his cupboard bare, he went to his neighbor and woke him in order to borrow a loaf of bread.   In those days, people generally slept in one room, the children bedded down with the adults. Rising to answer the door would disrupt the whole family and hence the neighbor was reluctant to get up.   Finally, however, because of the persistence of his guest, he got up and gave bread to his neighbor. This parable does not mean that God is a reluctant giver. Rather it stresses the necessity of our persisting in prayer as the expression of our total dependence on God. Persevering in prayer helps us to purify our prayer, to make clear to ourselves our values and hopes, and to lead us to ask for what is really in our very best interests. St. Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing” (Romans), “pray at all times” (Ephesians), “be steadfast in prayer” (Colossians), and “pray constantly” (Thessalonians). Jesus assures us, “Knock and the door shall be opened.”

The misconception: The parable teaches us that prayer is not putting coins in a vending machine called “God” to get whatever we wish. We must not look upon God as a sort of genie who grants all our requests. God is our loving Father Who knows what to give, when to give and how to give. This includes not only our daily bread to satisfy our physical hunger but also “bread” to satisfy our spiritual hunger. Prayer is a relationship — an intimate, loving, caring, parent-child relationship. The Greek text means: “Ask and you will receive something good,”–not just whatever we ask for. The New Testament Greek also instructs us, “ask and keep on asking…seek and keep on seeking…knock and keep on knocking.”  Hence, we are to be persistent declaring our trusting Faith and dependence on God. One thing that is sometimes overlooked in this story is that this, like the story of Abraham bargaining with God for the lives of Lot and his family, is primarily a story about intercessory prayer. One friend goes to another friend on behalf of someone else.

Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.” A colleague asked C.S. Lewis if he really thought he could change God with his prayer for the cure of his wife’s cancer. Lewis replied: “Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.” William McGill summed it up this way. “The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear God.” Keep in mind that Jesus has taught us to address God as Father.  A loving Father listens to his child, but does not blindly endorse every request.  Instead, the loving Father provides what is needed, including discipline. Bishop Sheen has this comment on prayer: “The man who thinks only of himself says prayers of petition. He who thinks of his neighbor says prayers of intercession. He who thinks only of loving and serving God says prayers of abandonment to God’s will, and that is the prayer of the saints.” To pray is not to impose our will on God but to ask God to make us open to His will; in other words, we pray not to change God’s mind but for God to change ours. The Our Father is the “summary of the whole Gospel” (Tertullian) and it is the “perfect prayer” (St. Thomas Aquinas). “The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, as quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2763)

Life messages: 1) Prayer is essential for Christian family life. Fidelity is one of the original blessings of married life.  To be truly faithful in marriage, spouses must pray, not only individually, but together.  Married couples should come together before God every day as prayer partners, thanking God and offering intercessory prayers for each other, for their children and for their dear ones.  Daily prayer will help married couples to celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality and to honor life from conception to natural death.  Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple who asked him how to pray: “Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this every day.”

2) We need to accept others as children of God and thereby brothers and sisters: Through the Our Father, Jesus is giving us a new vision of human relationships: that we all, irrespective of our color, creed or social background, are the children of God and thereby brothers and sisters. When we learn this lesson – if we can learn this lesson, if we are able to treat God as our father and love Him accordingly, and if we are able to treat every other human being as our own dear brothers and sisters and love them accordingly — then, and then only, shall we experience the Kingdom of God here on earth and enjoy this in the next life. When we love each other and forgive each other’s failings, God also will love us and forgive us. This is the foundation of true faith. (Joe Vempeny).

3) We need to avoid giving lame reasons why we don’t pray. Modern Christians give four lame excuses for not praying.   a) The first excuse: We are too busy. The richer a culture is, the less time it has for prayer, because money and wealth provide distractions. Researchers say that the average Christian living in a wealthy country prays four minutes a day. Often the first thing given up by a busy Christian is his prayer life. b) A second excuse: We don’t believe prayer does that much good, other than giving us psychological motivation to be better persons.  But besides giving us psychological motivation, prayer establishes and augments our relationship with God, the source of our power. c) A third excuse: We think a loving God should provide for us and protect us from the disasters of life, such as disease or accidents, without our asking Him.  Prayer expresses our awareness of our need for God and our dependence on Him. d) A fourth excuse: We think prayer is boring.  People who use this excuse forget the fact that prayer is a conversation with God: listening to God speaking to us through the Bible, and talking to God.  You can’t have a close relationship with anyone, including God, without persistent and intimate conversation. Four minutes a day is not much intimate conversation. Since our society concludes that prayer doesn’t work, it turns to sex, violence and unhealthy addictions resulting in broken marriages, broken families, psychological problems, moral decadence, spiritual poverty, law-and-order problems, and prison populations.

JOKE OF THE WEEK.

1)”God is not deaf but grandma is:” Two young boys were spending the night at their rich grandma’s house during Christmas. She was getting them ready for bed, and reminded them to say their prayers. Grandma left the boys alone and went into the next room before coming back to tuck them in. The older of the two said his prayers, thanking God and asking Him to bless grandma, his friends and family. Then, it was his younger brother’s turn. He offered the same prayer as his big brother, but at the end of the prayer, he shouted in a very loud voice, “And God, please send me a new scooter and a CD player.” His older brother turned and said, “You don’t have to shout. God isn’t deaf.” “I know,” the younger one replied. “But Grandma is.”

2) Memory pills to remember the prayers. Two elderly men were walking along the beach and their wives were walking behind them. One man says, “Eddie, did you know I’ve been taking these new memory pills to help me remember my prayers? They’re tremendous.” “I would like to improve my memory too,” said the other man.  “What are those pills called?”   The first man scratches his head, embarrassed because he can’t remember the name of the memory pills. “Wait!” he exclaims. “Let me ask my wife.”  He thinks a moment and then says, “My God! I forgot her name.  It’s the same name as a flower with red petals, long green stems and thorns.”  “The rose?” Eddie guesses. “Yes, that’s her name!”  The first man replies, smiling brightly, as he turns around to ask his wife. “Rose! What is the name of those memory pills I take?”

3) Liquor shop and the power of prayer:  A tale is told about a small town that had always been “dry.”  One day, however, a local businessman erected a tavern. A group of Christians from a local Church were concerned and they convened an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the tavern burning it down to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the Church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the Church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated, “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear: the tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”

4) God’s laughter: How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans. Robert Frost: “Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great big joke on me.”

Note: (I regret to see that the pictures disappeared for reasons beyond my control) Fr. Tony

23 Additional anecdotes

1)” Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?” At a small dinner party in the home of a member, a pastor was invited to ask the blessing for the meal. Turning to the talkative six-year-old in the house, the pastor suggested she might like to do the blessing instead. The outgoing youngster now suddenly shy replied, “I wouldn’t know what to say!” “Just say what you hear your Mommy say,” said the pastor assuredly. With that the little girl folded her hands, bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

2) “But I thank you anyway!”: In the movie, Shenandoah, Jimmy Stewart plays a prosperous Quaker farmer during the Civil War. One night at the supper table, this widower and hard worker lets his feelings show as he asks the blessing. “Bless this food, Lord. I plowed the land, I planted the seed, I irrigated the fields. I harvested the crops, I canned it, I cooked it and I served it. It took a lot of work and I did it all. But I thank You anyway because I promised my wife on her deathbed I would for the children’s sake. Amen.”

3“Don’t bother me.” We do not pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “give me this day what I want.” We pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We are created for community. Hunger kills somebody in the world every 3.6 seconds. 10.5% of all U. S. households are food-insecure. 800 million people in the world are malnourished. It would take 13 billion dollars a year to end hunger. The U.S. and Europe spend 18 billion dollars a year on pet food. There is a knock on our door in the midnight hour. Like the neighbor in the Scriptures we are prone to say, “Don’t bother me.”

4) “Lead us not into temptation”: Americans have a love affair with food. Statistics tell us Americans eat 75 acres of pizza, 53 million hotdogs, 167 million eggs, 3 million gallons of ice cream, and 3,000 tons of candy a day. An overweight businessman went on a diet. Among the first things he decided to eliminate were the doughnuts he regularly brought to the office. On the third day the executive carried in a sack of doughnuts. “What happened?” inquired his assistant. “Well,” said the businessman, “I said to the Lord on the way to work, ‘If You don’t want me to eat doughnuts don’t let there be a parking place in front of the bakery.’ On the third trip around the block I found a parking place right in front. That’s when I decided it was the Lord’s will for me to have doughnuts today.”

5) Cardiologist, Dean Ornish, puts it this way: “Our ‘eat more, weigh less’ nation is suffering from an epidemic of spiritual heart disease. People turn to food, alcohol, and other destructive habits out of loneliness and despair.” Bread for the body and food for the soul: ask for it, seek for it, knock for it until the door opens to it. Give us bread — DAY BY DAY. Give us this day our daily bread.

6) “The captain is my daddy.” A little boy was standing on the banks of the Mississippi River waving and shouting at a steamboat that was going by. He was beckoning the steamboat to come to shore. A stranger came by and said, “That’s foolish young man. The boat will never come ashore because of your request. The captain is too busy to notice your waving and shouting.” Just then the boat turned and headed for shore. The little boy grinned and said to the stranger, “The captain is my daddy.” The captain of the universe is our Abba. He pays attention to our petitions because he loves us. The first words in the Lord’s Prayer encourage us to believe in the affectionate intimacy of the Lord of the universe, but that doesn’t mean we should take God for granted.

7) A loving Heavenly Father: When Karl Barth, retired and in his later years, visited an American theological school, one of the students asked him, “How would you characterize your theology, Dr. Barth?” Barth thought for a moment and said that his answer was a song he learned at his mother’s knee: “Jesus loves me, this I know …” Isn’t that great! A renowned theologian, no stranger to using all his mind as he dealt with the meaning of the Gospel, wrapped it all up in a little Sunday school tune. Alongside his wide-ranging academic theology, he had an everyday theology. Jesus was a master of this theological style.

8) “Could You please just touch me?” A little girl is kneeling beside her bed. She says, “Dear God, if You are there and You hear my prayer, could You please just touch me?” Just then she feels a touch. She gets so excited! She says, “Thank You, God, for touching me!” Then she looks up, sees her older sister, and gets a little suspicious. “Did you touch me?” The sister answers, “Yes, I did.” “What did you do that for?” she asked. ”God told me to,” was the reply. God touches our lives during our prayers.

9) Forgive us our trespasses:  Edith Bunker, on the television show All in the Family, described the confessional boxes in the Catholic Church as “telephone booths to God.” Well, they are not quite that. But every prayer must contain an element of confession. We are not all God means for us to be. We are finite creatures in every respect. We need His mercy, His compassion, His amazing grace. So, we pray for forgiveness and sometimes we pray for the ability to forgive.

10) “Go back to your room”: A burst of thunder sent a three-year old flying into her parent’s bedroom. “Mommy, I’m scared,” she said. The mother, half-awake and half-unconscious, replied, “Go back to your room. God will be there with you.” The small figure stood in the unlit doorway for a moment and then said softly, “Mommy, I’ll sleep here with Daddy and you go in there and sleep with God.”

11) Christy’s prayers of 29 years! The story of Christie Borthwick’s dad vividly illustrates the need to persevere in prayer. With the exception of the “Billy Graham Crusade moment,” he seldom expressed spiritual interest. In fact, for years he aggressively resisted, citing the hypocrisies of the Church and the hard-to-believe content of the Bible. On one occasion, we talked through the “bad news” aspect of the Good News—that people without Christ go to hell. He resisted this message so strongly that he retorted, “If there is a God who allows people to go to Hell, then I don’t want to go to Heaven to live with him. I choose Hell.” A few years later, after the sudden death of Christie’s 47-year-old brother, her dad was again belligerent. When we asked if he would like to receive God’s gift of eternal life, he snapped, “Eternal life is a myth; there’s no Heaven or Hell. Just put me in the grave. The grave is all there is.” Christie kept praying tenaciously. We called friends and asked them to join us in prayer, and we marshaled the prayers of more than 500 friends and associates using e-mail. Two weeks later, her dad’s heart softened. He indicated an interest in a relationship with God. We invited him to pray a simple prayer—”Jesus, have mercy”—and he responded. For the first time in our lives we heard him pray, “Jesus, have mercy on my soul.” His countenance changed. His striving was over. God had finally answered Christie’s prayers of 29 years! Her dad died two weeks later. (Christie and Paul Borthwick, “Don’t Give Up on Your Family,” Discipleship Journal (Issue 126)

12) “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?” Paul Harvey told about a 3-year-old boy who went to the grocery store with his mother. Before they entered she had certain instructions for the little tyke: “Now you’re not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don’t even ask.” She put him in the child’s seat and off they went up and down the aisles. He was doing just fine until they came to the cookie section. Seeing the chocolate chip cookies he said, “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you not even to ask. You’re not going to get any at all.” They continued down the aisles, but in their search for certain items she had to backtrack and they ended up in the cookie aisle again. “Mom, can I please have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you that you can’t have any. Now sit down and be quiet.” Finally, they arrived at the checkout. The little boy sensed that the end was in sight, that this might be his last chance. He stood up on the seat and shouted in his loudest voice, “In the name of Jesus, may I have some chocolate chip cookies?” Everyone in the checkout lanes laughed and applauded. Do you think the little boy got his cookies? You bet! The other shoppers moved by his daring pooled their resources. The little boy and his mother left with 23 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. According to a Gallop Poll, 87% of all Americans pray, 50% use prayer for petitions, and 70% claim their prayers are answered. Although we are not allowed to pray in the classroom in public schools, it is clear that Americans do manage to pray.

13) “My husband’s new hearing aid.” One post office employee tells about an irate customer who stormed to her desk one day. “What’s the trouble?” the postal employee responded in her calmest voice. “I went out this morning,” the customer began angrily, “and when I came home I found a card saying the mailman tried to deliver a package but no one was home. I’ll have you know, my husband was in all morning! He never heard a thing!” After apologizing, the postal employee got the woman’s parcel. “Oh good!” the woman gushed. “We’ve been waiting for this for ages!” “What is it?” the postal worker asked. The woman said with pride, “My husband’s new hearing aid.” Well, no wonder! When we speak to one another, there are some people who can’t hear us, others who don’t listen to us. But when we speak to God, we speak to One Who hears all and listens to all.

14) Preaching on Our Father: What will I do with a sermon on such a familiar text? I could take the easy way out and do as a young man who had come to a monastery and asked for admission to the order. He told the abbot that he would accept any task, no matter how menial, if only he could be part of the religious life. He set only one condition, that he not be required to preach. The abbot replied, “Obviously this is the one area of your spiritual development that needs attention, so tomorrow morning you will be our preacher!” The young monk-trainee was gripped by fear when he approached the time to preach, but was seized by inspiration and said to the gathered brethren, “Do you know what I’m going to preach about this morning?” “No,” murmured the other monks. “Well, neither do I, so let’s go right to the benediction!” The abbot was upset and determined that the young novice preach, so he assigned him a second time. At the time of preaching, the man again said, “Do you know today what I’m going to preach about?” Wishing to help him along, the monks all nodded, “Yes.” He said, “Then if you know what I’m going to preach about, there’s no need to hear it again. Let’s go right to the benediction!” Now the abbot was furious, and he instructed the novice to try again the third time. At the third encounter the young monk said again, “Today do you know what I’m going to preach about?” The other monks were confused. Some said “yes,” and some said “no;” at which point the novice declared “Well, then those who know what I’m going to preach about turn to the ones who don’t know what I’m going to preach about, and you tell them what it is. Let’s go to the benediction!” (Reverend William G. Stell, “Perfect Love” Preached at St. Luke’s U.M.C. in Houston, Texas.) So, let us continue the Mass, because you know the text, and you’ve reflected on the prayer.

15)  Keep your prayers in the proper perspective: The following lines should help us keep our prayers in the proper perspective:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do great things; I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for but everything I had hoped for; despite myself, my prayers were answered.

I am, among all people, most richly blessed.

16) Prayer—Sharing in God’s Power: Jim Johnson was given the job of saving a failing hotel. Other managers had tried, but unsuccessfully. The hotel was in a now-or-never situation. Jim decided to try something different. Each night he drove to the top of a hill overlooking the hotel and the city. He parked his car and sat there for the next 20 minutes praying. Jim prayed for the hotel guests, relaxing behind the lighted windows. He prayed for the hotel employees and for their families. He prayed for the people, who did business with the hotel. Finally, he prayed for the city and its people. Night after night, Jim drove to the top of the hill, parked his car and prayed the same prayer. Soon the situation at the hotel started to improve. A new confidence radiated from its employees. A new warmth welcomed and greeted each new guest. A new spirit permeated its operation. The hotel experienced a remarkable rebirth thanks to the nightly prayer of Jim Johnson. (Norman Vincent Peale)

17) Leo Tolstoy’s “God Sees the Truth, But Waits” is a parable of forgiveness.

Ivan Demetrievich Aksenov was a merchant living in the town of Vladimir. One day he planned to go to a fair as a business venture, but his wife pleaded for him not to go because of a nightmare she had the previous night. She said that all his hair had gone gray when he returned from the fair. Aksenov ignored his wife’s dream and left for the fair. Aksenov met another merchant on his way, and the two decided to travel together. They checked into an inn and retired separately. Aksenov woke early the next morning to get to the fair and left without the other merchant. Not far down the road, Aksenov was stopped by the police. They explained that a merchant was just murdered and robbed in the town, and they searched Aksenov’s bag. They found a bloody knife, and despite Aksenov’s claims of innocence, he was sentenced to be flogged and sent to Siberia. Aksenov spent twenty-six years in Siberia. Slowly he gave up his desire for revenge, resigned to his fate, and dedicated his life to God. He became a mediator of sorts in the prison, and he was well respected by the other prisoners and guards alike. One day a new prisoner, Makar Semonovich, was transferred to the prison. After overhearing several conversations, Aksenov discovered that Makar Semonovich was the man who committed the murder for which Aksenov was blamed. One day the prison guards noticed that someone had been strewing mud around the grounds, and the search led to the discovery of a tunnel. Aksenov had found out earlier that it was Makar Semonovich who was digging the tunnel, but even after being questioned by the police, Aksenov declared that it was not his place to speak about the matter. Makar Semonovich approached Aksenov later that day in a terrible state, and he confessed eventually his crime. Aksenov forgave Makar Semonovich, and he felt as if a terrible weight had been lifted. In the prayer that Jesus taught, He added a clause, “Forgive us as we forgive our trespassers”.  Forgiveness is the central problem of life.  (Fr. Bobby Jose)

 

18) “Give us this day our daily bread:” We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time.  Cardinal Newman prayed for the strength to keep the next step.

“Lead, kindly Light, amid the’ encircling gloom;

Lead thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home;

Lead thou me on!

Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene–one step enough for me.”

We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time.  Cardinal Newman prayed for the strength to keep the next step.  (Fr. Bobby Jose)

19) If you ask, it will be given to you.” Jesus concluded His teaching by saying that “If you ask, it will be given to you.” Our prayers are answered by not granting what we ask, but by giving what we need.

I asked for strength…….

And God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom…

And God gave me problems to solve

I asked for prosperity…

And God gave me Brain and Brawn to work

I asked for courage…

And God gave me Danger to overcome

I asked for love….

And God gave me Troubled people to help

I asked for Favours….

And God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted…

I received everything I needed; my prayer have been answered.

(Fr. Bobby Jose)

20) Let it be Tokyo:  A mother sent her fifth-grade boy up to bed. In a few minutes she went to make sure that he was getting in bed. When she stuck her head into his room, she saw that he was kneeling beside his bed in prayer. Pausing to listen to his prayers, she heard her son praying over and over again. “Let it be Tokyo! Please dear God, let it be Tokyo!”  When he finished his prayers, she asked him, “What did you mean, ‘Let it be Tokyo’?”  “Oh,” the boy said with embarrassment, “we had our geography exam today and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.”  Prayer is not a magical means by which we get God to do what we want. Prayer is an inner openness to God which allows His Divine power to be released in us. Ultimately, the power of prayer is not that we succeed in changing God, but that God succeeds in changing us.

21) Forgive us our trespasses:  10 commandments of forgiveness!

  1. Forgiveness is not easy.
  2. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Nobody ever forgets where he buried the hatchet. It is not “forgive and forget” as if nothing wrong had ever happened, but rather, “forgive and move forward.”
  3. Forgiveness does not overlook evil or injustice for that would be to deny the truth.
  4. Forgiveness does not mean approval. A strong person rebukes and forgives; a weaker person is too timid to rebuke and too slow to forgive.
  5. Forgiveness begins with knowing you have been forgiven. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
  6. Forgiveness recognizes that people are always bigger than their faults. If we look for the good it is easier to forgive the bad.
  7. Forgiveness allows the other person to start over again.
  8. Forgiveness surrenders the right to get even. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.
  9. Forgiveness wishes the other well, and even prays for the blessing of the other person. “Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you.”
  10. Forgiveness is twice blest. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. 

22) Perseverance: There is a story told of the two frogs that fell into a bucket of cream. They tried very hard to get out by climbing up the side of the bucket. But each time they slipped back again. Finally, one frog said, “We’ll never get out of here. I give up.” So down he went and drowned. The other frog decided to keep trying. Again, and again he tried to climb with front legs and kicked with his back legs. He had almost lost his strength and his tired feet could hardly move. He said to himself, Now…now my end has come…I am going to drown.” Then suddenly, he hit something hard. He turned to see what it was behind and discovered that all his kicking had churned up a lump of butter! He hopped on top of it and leaped out to safety. It was perseverance in his effort that saved the second frog. Perseverance is an important virtue. It means to be persistent, to continue without stopping; it means to start something and to finish it to the end.
Today is the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the general theme of today’s Scripture Readings is perseverance. The thread tying together the First Reading and the Gospel reading is perseverance in prayer, and the Second Reading reminds us of our perseverance in living Faith.'(Fr. A. Larka)

23) ‘Let go — let God!:A story is told of a mother whose only child, a son, was confined in a hospital, seriously sick. She cared for him as best she could. When some relatives or friends dropped by, she asked them to attend to her son while she went to the Chapel. On her knees and in tears before the Blessed Sacrament, she began by acknowledging God as the Source of life and thanked Him for the gift of her son who had brought joy to her life. Then she begged God to spare him. The worse his condition became, the harder she prayed. But her prayers notwithstanding, her son died. Her relatives and friends were worried how she would take this turn of events. Were they surprised to see her take her son’s death in peace! When asked how come, she answered, What I prayed for was what I wanted. But during my prayer, there was something in me that said, ‘Let go — let God!’ Thus, at one point, I finally said, ‘Your will be done, Lord.’ With my child’s death, it was obvious that God did not go along with what I wanted. Though painful, I accepted His will wholeheartedly. He knew best.” L/19

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 40) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit this website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/  for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or CBCI or in the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text .

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.