OT XXIX [C] Sunday (Oct 20) Homily- one-page summary
Introduction: Today’s readings are mainly about prayer — perseverance in prayer in living faith, constancy in prayer and trust in God as we pray. They are also about the Trustworthiness and Justice of God, the type of Justice that reaches out to the poor and the weak, enabling them to fight against injustice.
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, Moses, after sending Joshua to fight against Amalek, is presented as making tireless intercession with constancy for the victory of Israel’s army. Both Moses and the widow in today’s Gospel story teach us how we should pray with trusting Faith and perseverance. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs Timothy to persevere in his ministry, to proclaim the word of God with persistence in all circumstances and to use it to “correct, reprove and appeal with patience.” By introducing the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow in today’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes the “necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Constancy in prayer is Faith in action. Jesus presents the widow in today’s Gospel as a model of the trust and tenacity with which his disciples are to pray. The widow was asking for something which God would certainly want for her – justice.
Life messages: 1) We need to combine formal prayers with action prayer: It is ideal that we start our prayers by reading from the Bible, especially the Psalms and the Gospels. Formal, memorized and liturgical prayers are also essential for the Christian prayer life. Personal prayer is of great importance in our life of prayer. Talking to God in our own words — praising Him, thanking Him and presenting our needs before Him — transforms our whole life into prayer. We should perfect our prayers by bringing ourselves into God’s presence during our work several times during the day and by offering all that we are, that we have and that we do to God. Along with formal and memorized prayers, this type of prayer life enables us to pray always and pray with constancy and trusting perseverance.
2) We should not expect to get whatever we pray for. This parable does not suggest that God writes a blank check, guaranteeing whatever we want, whenever we want, it in the form we ask for. But we conveniently forget the fact that, often, a loving father has to refuse the request of a child, because he knows that what the child asks would hurt rather than help him (e.g., a knife). God is like that. He knows what to give, when to give and how to give it. Only God sees time whole, and, therefore, only God knows what is good for us in the long run. That is why Jesus said that we must never be discouraged in prayer. Instead, we have to leave the answer to God’s decision saying, “Thy will be done.” Sincere and persistent prayer makes us ready to accept His will.
OT XXIX [C] (Oct 20) Ex 17:8-13, II Tm 3:14–4:2, Lk 18:1-8
Homily starter anecdote # 1: Gideon’s experiment with prayer: Many years ago, a man named Dalton suggested that the prayer of petition should be put to the test. One-half of England, he said, should pray for rain and then compare the rainfall with the other half who did not pray for rain. He was not, in fact, the first believer with a flair for experimentation. In the Book of Judges, Gideon said to God, “If you really mean to deliver Israel by my hand, as you have declared, see now, I spread out a fleece. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is left dry, then I shall know.” Gideon had the mind of a true experimenter. The following night he reversed his experiment to test God a second time. He prayed, “Do not be angry with me if I speak once again…. Let the fleece alone be dry and let there be dew on the ground all around it” (Jgs 6:36-40). Prayer isn’t just a way of getting what we want, but some people go to the opposite extreme of never asking God for anything (while having no problem with the prayer of praise, thanks, and so on). If it makes sense to thank God for something, it must make sense to ask God for it and to persevere in that prayer as Jesus proposes in today’s Gospel (Bible Diary 2004).
# 2: “Never give in!” Years ago, there was a young man in Illinois with only six months of formal school education. His mother home-schooled him and taught him to have a dream and to keep trying to realize that dream, relying on the power of persistent prayer. First, he ran for an office in the legislature and was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed at that, too, and spent the next 17 years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming young lady and they became engaged. But she died which led the young man to a short-term nervous breakdown. Next, he ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office but didn’t succeed. With strong belief in the power of prayer, he ran for U. S. Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated again for the office of Senator. He ran for office once more and was elected the 16th President of the United States, thus realizing his dream by the power of persistent prayer. He was Abraham Lincoln. It took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English – of all things! Ironically, he was asked many years later to give the commencement address at his alma mater, Harrow School. His now famous speech centered around three words: “Never give in!” (https://youtu.be/Ydi_KGXA9lk). No leader in history, perhaps, matched Churchill’s capacity for blurring the lines between speech and battle cry. This is one of his best. It’s an urban legend that the “Never give in” exhortation comprised the totality of his address; Churchill went on for several more paragraphs. But there’s no question that this, far and away, was what Harrow’s students remembered. And that is the message of today’s Gospel parable of the poor widow and the corrupt judge. (Adapted from Harold Butzow’s “God Still Speaks! Listen”).
# 3: The persistent widow in our midst: It may be a spouse’s Parkinson’s disease, a parent’s Alzheimer’s, a sister’s breast cancer, a child’s leukemia. The illness of a loved one, a catastrophe striking their family, the suffering of someone dear to them transforms these moms and dads and sons and daughters and friends into dedicated advocates and determined guardians. They fight hospitals and insurance companies for the critical medical care needed by their loved one. They take on the most obstinate bureaucracies for the assistance and services their child is entitled to but denied. They work tirelessly to raise awareness, raise money, and, when necessary, raise Cain, so that their loved one may live as full a life as possible, so that a cure might be found, so that other families will not have to experience the pain and anguish they have known. These dedicated men and women are the Gospel widow in our midst. They face down the “dishonest judges” of arrogance and avarice; they take on the “fearful judges” of insensitivity and unawareness; they go toe-to-toe with the “judges who fear neither God nor respect any human being,” save themselves. Their love for the sick and suffering enables them to carry on “day and night;” their faith and conviction in the rightness of their cause empowers them to carry on despite the frustration and inaction they face. The very compassion of God is their hope and assurance that their prayer will be heard. (Connections).
4) Tried and true: There was an elderly couple whose family had thrown a golden anniversary party for them. The husband was deeply touched by their kindness and stood to thank them. Then he looked at his wife of 50 years and tried to put into words just how he felt about her. Lifting his glass, he said: “My dear wife, after 50 years I’ve found you tried and true.” Everyone smiled their approval, but not his wife. She had hearing trouble, so she cupped one hand behind an ear and said, “Eh?” Her husband repeated himself loudly, “AFTER FIFTY YEARS I’VE FOUND YOU TRIED AND TRUE!” His wife shot back, “Well, let me tell YOU something — after 50 years I’m tired of you, too!” Today’s gospel presents an unjust judge who was hard of hearing a poor widow’s just complaint.
Introduction: Today’s readings are mainly about prayer — perseverance in prayer, constancy in prayer and trust in God as we pray. They are also about the Trustworthiness and Justice of God, a Justice that reaches out to the poor and the weak, enabling them to fight against injustice. In the first reading, Moses, after sending Joshua to fight against Amalek, is presented as making tireless intercession with constancy for the victory of Israel’s army. Both Moses and the widow in today’s Gospel story teach us how we should pray. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 121), the Psalmist reminds us that the Lord God, the “Guardian of Israel” in caring for His people “neither slumbers nor sleeps.” He continues, “The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your shade; He is beside you at your right hand … The Lord will guard you from all evil; He will guard your life. The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever.” Plainly our prayerful trust in Him should be as limitless as His Love for us. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs Timothy to persevere in his ministry, to proclaim the word of God with persistence in all circumstances and to use it to “correct, reprove and appeal with patience.” By introducing the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow in today’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes the “necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Constancy in prayer is Faith in action. Jesus presents the widow in today’s Gospel as a model of the trust and tenacity with which his disciples are to pray. The widow was asking for something which God would certainly want for her – justice.
First reading: Exodus 18: 8-13 explained: Clearly, Moses, Aaron, and Hur understood the “necessity of praying always and not losing heart,” when Joshua was fighting the battle against the Amalekites. At that time, Israel’s resources were inadequate, and their morale was at a low ebb. The Amalekites were a group of people who stood between Israel and the land God had promised her. They had waged war on Israel, and Israel had no choice but to fight back. Staff in hand, Moses stood on top of the mountain overlooking the battleground. He was praying fervently for Israel with raised, outstretched arms. As he grew weary, his two aides, Aaron and Hur, seated him on a rock and propped up his arms. “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.” When we join the army with Jesus, who prayed for us with outstretched arms on the cross, we will surely win the battle with our own Amalekites: the temptations and evil tendencies in our lives.
Second reading: II Timothy 3:14-4:2 explained: Paul recommends to Timothy—and to all of us — perseverance in prayer, in the practice of the Faith, and in preaching the word of God. At the time Paul was writing, pressure groups were trying to force Timothy to water down the doctrines of Faith. Therefore, Paul advised Timothy to “preach the word, stay with the task, whether convenient or inconvenient, correcting, reproving, appealing, constantly teaching and never losing patience.” “Whether the time is favorable or unfavorable,” Paul continued, “proclaim the message” and “carry out your ministry fully.” Our own ministry is to worship the Lord, share the Gospel with others, and bear witness to Christ by growing in discipleship and serving our neighbors lovingly, as Jesus did. Paul then reminded Timothy that the Holy Scriptures were meant to help him in these duties: “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (II Tim 3: 16-17).
Gospel exegesis: The context: When Luke wrote this Gospel, the Parousia or Second Coming of Jesus had been delayed beyond what the early Church had expected. In addition, the Church was experiencing persecution from both the Jews and the Romans. The persecuted early Christians were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their Faith. Hence, today’s Gospel lesson addresses the issues of Faith in difficult times. It reassures the disciples that God is listening to their persistent prayers and will grant them justice and vindicate their Faith in the end. The Gospel today seems to be a classic example of the link between perseverance and blessing. Luke sets the story in the context of a challenge Jesus makes to his disciples to pray always and not lose heart, that is, to persevere in prayer and receive God’s blessings.
The historical background: This parable is based on the corrupt Roman legal practices prevalent in Palestine at the time of Jesus. We know that the judge in the parable was not a Jewish judge, because ordinary Jewish disputes were judged before the Jewish elders. In Dt 1:16-17, Moses charged the judges to render fair and honest decisions regardless of the wealth or social standing of the petitioner. Hence, we conclude that the judge in the parable was one of the paid magistrates appointed either by Herod or by the Romans. Since such judges were avaricious, corrupt and without fear of God or the public, people called them “Dayyaneh Gezeloth”, robber judges. Although the Hebrew Scriptures demand protection for widows, orphans, and aliens (Dt 10:18-19, 24:17-21, Ex 22:22-24), the widows were not included in Hebrew laws on inheritance, and they became common symbols of the exploited and the oppressed. Prophets like Isaiah (1:23; 10:2), and Malachi (3:5), criticized the harsh treatment widows received, and throughout the Bible, widows are viewed as being under the special protection of God (Jer 49:11; Ps 68:5; Jas 1:27). The widow in Jesus’ parable was the symbol of all who were poor, defenseless, and without hope of ever obtaining justice. Her opponent was probably rich, crooked and influential.
Persistence of the widow: But the widow in Jesus’ parable had one powerful weapon—a dogged persistence which gave the judge no peace. Her persistence was a very public event, and the entire community witnessed the widow’s repeated encounters with the judge. By publicly badgering the judge every day, the woman was trying to shame this shameless person. Finally, the unjust judge was forced to yield. Hence, this parable is not only about the efficacy of persistent prayer, but also about the character of God, His Trustworthiness and Justice, a type of Justice that reaches out to the poor and the weak, enabling them to fight against injustice. God’s Justice goes far beyond human limits and can bring fullness of life to the poorest and the most vulnerable people in our world. Jesus ends the parable with a question: Will his followers continue to have confidence in God’s Justice until He comes again in Final Judgment?
God is not being likened to, but contrasted with, an unjust judge. God is not comparable to the unjust and insensitive judge, needing to be bribed or forced by our persistent prayers to give us what we need. Jesus is contrasting God to this unjust judge. Jesus is asking us to persevere in prayer that opens our hearts and minds to God’s always available grace. Prayer does not seek to move God’s heart for what we want. Prayer opens our own heart and spirit to what God wants for us. God hears the cry of the people, and God answers that cry speedily, although that does not seem to fit with our actual experience of unanswered prayer. That is because God answers us by His active presence in our lives. For God is intimately present in all the turmoil and terror of life, vindicating those who cry out in Faith. God is, in fact, with us, even before the cry for help leaves our mouth. God is present, experiencing our pain and distress, and Jesus is the illustration and guarantee of that Truth. In his ministry, Jesus shared this immediacy of God’s love for the deaf, blind, diseased, mentally ill, poor, weak, despised, alone and the crippled, as well as for the dead and those who mourned them. His response to the cries of people was speedy. But Jesus himself seemed to be God-forsaken on the cross. God was in Jesus, bearing our sins and carrying our sorrows. The same God is with us, savouring the joy of our laughter and feeling the agony of pain and grief, as our Immanuel: God-with-us.
Faith is the condition of God’s vindication of us: Luke seems to be the first author of the Christian Scriptures who concludes that he and everyone in his community will die a natural death before Jesus returns in the Parousia or “second coming.” (Lk 18:1-8). That’s why, throughout his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, he emphasizes persistence in Faith. In other words, God will take care of His obligations, and our job is to take care of our obligations. God will vindicate us, His persecuted community, provided we stay watchful and persevere in Faith and prayer as Jesus instructs us repeatedly. We have to trust God to bring about that which He has promised. In praying, we show our confidence that our God hears, and cares, and acts. When we pray for something as essential as “daily bread,” we are making a rather amazing statement of Faith in the Goodness of a loving and providing God. Jesus calls us, with the example of the widow and the unjust judge, to have Faith, to trust that God in his Goodness will bring about the Justice we all seek, the blessing we all require. But we should continue in prayer for these things until they happen, as an expression of our trusting Faith and grateful, loving dependence on God. Thus, the purpose of all our prayers is the augmentation of our trusting Faith in a loving and caring God who is our Father.
Life messages: 1) We need to combine formal prayers with action prayer: It is ideal that we start our prayers by reading from the Bible, especially the Psalms and the Gospels. Formal, memorized and liturgical prayers are also essential for the Christian prayer life. Personal prayer is of great importance in our life of prayer. Talking to God in our own words — praising Him, thanking Him and presenting our needs before Him — transforms our whole life into prayer. We should perfect our prayers by bringing ourselves into God’s presence during our work several times during the day and by offering all that we are, that we have and that we do to God. This will help us to bring all our successes and failures, joys and sorrows, highs and lows to God in prayer. Along with formal and memorized prayers, this type of prayer life enables us to pray always and pray with constancy and trusting perseverance.
2) We should not expect to get whatever we pray for. This parable does not suggest that God writes a blank check, guaranteeing whatever we want whenever we want it in the form we ask for. But we conveniently forget the fact that, often, a loving father has to refuse the request of a child, because he knows that what the child asks would hurt rather than help him (e.g., a knife). God is like that. He knows what to give, when to give, and how to give it. Only God sees time whole, and, therefore, only God knows what is good for us in the long run. That is why Jesus says that we must never be discouraged in prayer. Instead we have to leave the answer to God’s decision saying, as he did in Gethsemane, “Thy will be done.”
3) To make our prayers effective, we do not have to nag God. Long, meaningless prayers — although a natural expression of our misery — should not be used as bargaining chips with God. The parable teaches that our prayers do not change God’s will. Instead, they bring our minds into line with His purposes. Persistent prayer — continuing communion with God — reshapes our hearts to God’s original design. Such prayer does not change God; instead, it changes us. Sincere and persistent prayer makes us ready to accept His will. In Priests for the Third Millennium, Monsignor Timothy Dolan observes that prayer must become like eating and breathing. We have to eat daily, not stock up on food on Monday, and then take off the rest of the week. Do we take ten deep breaths and say, “Good, that’s over for a while, I won’t have to breathe for a couple of hours?”
JOKE OF THE WEEK
1) Persistent prayer works: The middle-aged farm couple had no children. As a last resort they put their trust in persistent prayer. And it worked. The wife became pregnant, and at the end of her term, she was delivered of triplets. “Persistent prayer really works, doesn’t it?” she asked her husband. Her husband replied, “Seems to– but I sure as heck didn’t pray for a bumper crop!”
2) Refreshing sermon: The pastor gave an unusually long sermon on prayer that Sunday based on the parable of The Poor Widow and the Corrupt Judge. Later at the door, while the pastor was shaking hands with his parishioners, one man said: “Father, your sermon, was simply wonderful- -so invigorating, inspiring and refreshing.” The pastor, of course, broke out in a big smile only to hear with a shock the man’s next words: “I felt like a new man when I woke up after you finished your sermon!”
USEFUL WESITES OF THE WEEK
2) “Critical” assessment of Catholic news & views updated every other day: http://www.newoxfordreview.org/
3) Resources for the celebration of “Priesthood Sunday on October 30, 2016 http://www.priestsunday.org/
4) OT 29 video Scripture study: Catholic: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
Non- Catholic: https://youtu.be/QBBSqDn_qGU
5) Weekday gospel reflections: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/
24- Additional anecdotes
1) “So where was God all this time?” There is a story which illustrates how we often confuse God’s timing with our own. A rural newspaper had been running a series of articles on the value of Church attendance in its Sunday Religion column. One day, the editor received a letter which read: “Print this if you dare. I am trying an experiment. I have a field of corn which I plowed on Sunday. I planted it on Sunday. I did all the cultivating on Sunday. I gathered the harvest on Sunday and hauled it to my barn on Sunday. I find that my harvest this October is just as great as any of my neighbors who went to Church on Sunday. So where was God all this time?” The editor printed the letter, but added his reply at the bottom: “Your mistake lies in thinking that God always settles his accounts in October.” We who believe in the power of prayer often wrongly think that our persevering prayers will force God to act when and how we want Him to act, according to our timetable and according to our desire. (Rev. R. J. Fairchild). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Perseverance of Olympians: Most of us will never be Olympians no matter how hard we work. We haven’t inherited the right combination of endurance, potential, speed and muscle. But given equal talent, the better-trained athlete can generally outperform the one who did not give a serious effort, and is usually more confident at the starting block. The four years before an Olympics, Greg Louganis probably practiced each of his dives 3,000 times. Kim Zmeskal has probably done every flip in her gymnastics routine at least 20,000 times, and Janet Evans has completed more than 240,000 laps. Training works, but it isn’t easy or simple. Swimmers train an average of 10 miles a day, at speeds of 5 mph in the pool. That might not sound fast, but their heart rates average 160 the entire time. Try running up a flight of stairs, then check your heart rate. Then imagine having to do that for four hours! Marathon runners average 160 miles a week at 10 mph. Two important training principles must be followed: Progressively increase the amount and intensity of the work. Train specifically. Persevere with prayer till you realize your dream. (John Troup, USA Today, July 29, 1992, 11E). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) Perseverance of Wilma Rudolf, the Olympic gold medalist: Wilma didn’t get much of a head start in life. Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born prematurely at 4.5 lbs., the 20th of 22 siblings; her father Ed was a railway porter and her mother Blanche a maid. Rudolph contracted infantile paralysis (caused by the polio virus) at age four. She recovered, but wore a brace on her left leg and foot (which had become twisted as a result) until she was nine. She was required to wear an orthopedic shoe for support of her foot for another two years. At age 12 Wilma tried out for a girls’ basketball team, but didn’t make it. Determined, she practiced with a girlfriend and two boys every day. The next year she made the team. When a college track coach saw her during a game, he talked her into letting him train her as a runner. By age 14 she had outrun the fastest sprinters in the U.S. In 1956 Wilma made the U.S. Olympic team, but showed poorly. That bitter disappointment motivated her to work harder for the 1960 Olympics in Rome–and there Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals, the most a woman had ever won. The widow in today’s Gospel story might have been her source of inspiration. [Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, (Jan, 1992), p.10].(http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) Widow’s-like persistence: An A&E survey of the top ten most influential people or leaders of the past 1000 years yielded the following list: 10) Galileo 9) Copernicus 8) Albert Einstein 7) Karl Marx 6) Christopher Columbus 5) William Shakespeare 4) Charles Darwin 3) Martin Luther 2) Isaac Newton 1) Johann Gutenberg. Without exception, each one of the remarkable persons named by the survey met with total resistance, complete rejection, and absolute failure whenever he attempted to impress his unique new visions upon the world in which he lived. Despite the fact that these individuals represent diverse insights and radical advancements in science, politics, literature, religion, and technology, they’re all tied together by a common trait. Each of these historically exalted individuals was widow-like in persistence, exhibiting unfailing endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition. But the parable that Jesus gives in today’s Gospel is not just about persistence. It’s about persistence coupled with prayer. When you yoke persistence with prayer, you get revolution. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) Slow starters who persevered to accomplish their dreams: Many famous People Who Were Slow Starters: Winston Churchill seemed so dull as a youth that his father thought he might be incapable of earning a living in England. Charles Darwin did so poorly in school that his father once told him, “You will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family. G.K. Chesterton, the English writer, could not read until he was eight. One of his teachers told him, “If we could open your head we should not find any brain but only a lump of white fat.” Thomas Edison’s first teacher described him as “addled,” and his father almost convinced him he was a “dunce.” Albert Einstein’s parents feared their child was dull, and he performed so badly in all high school courses except mathematics that a teacher asked him to drop out. (Irving Wallace, Book of Lists, 1986, Wm. Morrow & Co., NY, NY). Prayerful perseverance was the secret of their success. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “Mendel, you’re a wonderful tailor.” There is an old story about a tailor who visits his rabbi and says, “I have a problem with my prayers. If someone comes to me and says, ‘Mendel, you’re a wonderful tailor,’ that makes me feel good. I feel appreciated. I can go on feeling good for a whole week, even longer on the strength of one compliment like that. But if people came to me every day, one after another, hour after hour, and kept saying to me ‘Mendel, you’re a wonderful tailor,’ over and over again it would drive me crazy. This is what bothers me about prayer. Is God so insecure that He needs us praising him every day? Three times a day, morning, noon, and night? It seems to me it would drive Him crazy.” The rabbi smiled and said, “Mendel, you’re absolutely right. You have no idea how hard it is for God to listen to all of our praises, hour after hour, day after day. But God knows how important it is for us to utter that praise, so in His great love for us, He tolerates all of our prayers.” [Harold Kushner, Who Needs God? (New York: Summit Books, 1989), p.153.] In telling the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus is teaching the disciples to pray with persistence. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) God always answers prayer. Now for us to get our prayers answered the way that we want them answered, the request must be right, the timing must be right, and we must be right. But that is not always the case. “If the request is wrong, God answers, “No.” If the timing is wrong, God answers, “Slow.” If we are wrong, God answers, “Grow.” But if the request is right, the timing is right, and we are right, God says, “Go!” (Bill Hybels: Too Busy to Pray, p. 74). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) But every time they’re knocked down, they stand up. Author Irving Stone has spent a lifetime studying greatness, writing novelized biographies of such men as Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. Stone was once asked if he had found a thread that runs through the lives of all these exceptional people. He said, “I write about people who sometime in their life…have a vision or dream of something that should be accomplished…and they go to work. “They are beaten over the head, knocked down, vilified and for years they get nowhere. But every time they’re knocked down, they stand up. You cannot destroy these people. And at the end of their lives they’ve accomplished some modest part of what they set out to do.” (Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 18). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) “American history shall march along that skyline,” announced Gutzon Borglum in 1924, gazing at the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 1927 Borglum began sculpting the images of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt on the granite face of 6,000-foot Mount Rushmore. Most of the sculpting was done by experienced miners under Borglum’s direction. Working with jackhammers and dynamite, they removed some 400,000 tons of outer rock, cutting within three inches of the final surface. When Borglum died in March 1941, his dream of the world’s biggest sculpture was near completion. His son Lincoln finished the work that October, some 14 years after it was begun. (Today in the Word, January 2, 1993). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) Persistence paid off for American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto. After astronomers calculated a probable orbit for this “suspected” heavenly body, Tombaugh took up the search in March 1929. Time magazine recorded the investigation: “He examined scores of telescopic photographs each showing tens of thousands of star images in pairs under the dual microscope. It often took three days to scan a single pair. It was exhausting, eye-cracking work–in his own words, ‘brutal, tediousness.’ And it went on for months. Star by star, he examined 20 million images. Then on February 18, 1930, as he was blinking at a pair of photographs in the constellation Gemini, ‘I suddenly came upon the image of Pluto!” It was the most dramatic astronomic discovery in nearly 100 years. (Today in the Word, November 26, 1991). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) The movie Dances with Wolves: Some of the wealthiest people in our society fought for years in their early days just to avoid bankruptcy. During their struggle for solvency, they learned some lessons that prepared them for later prosperity. They are successful today because they didn’t quit. Some of the happiest adults are people who felt lonely and rejected as teenagers. Sometimes, people who hang in there and refuse to fold come out on top. A young man named Michael Blake suffered through poverty while writing screenplays that for years were never accepted. He admits, “I slept on a lot of floors,” as friends would let him stay at their homes. Then he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph system, which is currently in remission. But then he did something that would radically alter his life. He wrote a book that sold 30,000 copies. It was not a massive best seller, but Kevin Costner liked it and made the movie Dances with Wolves from it. Now the book has sold over 2 million copies, and Michael has won the Oscar for the movie adaptation. He now enjoys speaking in schools and to homeless children. “I tell them that if you stay committed, your dreams can come true. I am living proof of it. I left home at seventeen and had nothing but rejection for twenty-five years. I wrote more than twenty screenplays, but I never gave up.” (Art Mortell, The Courage to Fail, McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993; quoted by Fr. Botelho) People who trust in God and never give up often win. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) Frightening statistics and the need for restoration of family prayer: Families are falling apart in the Unites States, as is made clear from the following statistics: 1) There has been a 200% growth in single parent households since 1970 – from four million to eight million homes. 2) The number of married moms leaving home for work each morning rose 65% from 10.2 million in 1970, to 16.8 million in 1990. 3) Married couples with children now make up only 26% of US households, down from 40% in 1970. 4) 36% of children said their chores included making their own meals in 1993. Only 13% said the same in 1987. 5) An estimated 70% of juvenile offenders come from single parent families. 6) The average child has watched 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school. 7) One in six youths, between the ages of 10 and 17, has seen or known someone who has been shot. 8) The estimated number of child-abuse victims increased 40% between 1985 and 1991. 9) In 1988, 26% of girls, age 15, reported being sexually active, as compared to only 5% in 1970. 10) Children under 18 are 244% more likely to be killed by guns than they were in 1986 [Newsweek (Jan 10, 1994).] It is not surprising that a study, completed at the University of Rhode Island described the American home as the most dangerous place to be outside of riots and a war. (Charles R. Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip, 254). Next to those facts, put this observation: Newsweek magazine (Jan 10, 1994), discovered that a surprisingly large percentage of Americans believe deeply in the efficacy of prayer. According to a Gallup poll they commissioned, 78% of Americans prayed once a week, and 57% prayed at least once a day. 91% of women prayed at some time, and 85% of men. This included 94% of blacks and 87% of whites (Newsweek, 6, 1992). Now, when we think about the problems we have in the families, we will be convinced that we need to get daily family prayer back in our homes. We need to use the power of prayer to bring families together, to put families together, and to keep families together. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “Knock and it shall be opened:” The book of Job is perhaps the best place in Scripture to study “knocking prayer.” There, the righteous Job is devastated. He loses his children, his friends, his property, and his health. Satan has horribly afflicted him. His wife urges him to curse God and die. But instead, Job begins a knocking prayer. “Oh, that today I might find Him that I might come to His judgment seat! I would set out my cause before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments; I would learn the words with which He would answer, and understand what He would reply to me.” (Job 23:3-5). Thus, Job begins to knock in prayer. He blindly gropes for God. He patiently, and sometimes impatiently, yearns for deliverance. Again, and again, Job reaches for God in prayer. Though his body is wasting away, though all seems lost, though he cannot understand, Job has Faith in God. His heart is filled with hope and he says: “But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that He will at last stand forth upon the dust; And from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing.” (Job 19:25-26). Thus, with Hope, Faith, and persistence Job continues to knock in prayer. Finally, God comes to him. Though the Lord does not explain the affliction, He does heal Job. He restores his fortune and gives him ten more children. As Jesus promised, His door will be opened to those that knock. And Job triumphantly says to God, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of You by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen You. (Job 42:, 5). (Music from Another Room, Rev. Stephen M. Crotts)(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) Perseverance of Andrew Jackson: The story is told that U. S. President Andrew Jackson’s boyhood friends just couldn’t understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson’s friends said, “Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now.” Another friend responded, “How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn’t they usually say three times and out?” “Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat — he would never stay ‘throwed.’ Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner.” Picking up on that idea, someone has said, “The thing that counts is not how many times you are ‘throwed,’ but whether you are willing to stay ‘throwed’.” We may face setbacks, but we must take courage and go forward in Faith. Then through the Holy Spirit’s power, we can be the eventual victor over sin and the world. The battle is the Lord’s, so there is no excuse for us to stay “throwed”!(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) Perseverance of a swimmer: From the booklet, Bits and Pieces, comes an interesting story about Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. When she was young, Florence Chadwick wanted desperately to be a great speed swimmer. At the age of six, she persuaded her parents to enter her in a 0,-yard race, She came in last, so she practiced every day for the New Year. Again, she entered and lost. When she was an 11-year old, Florence won attention and praise for completing the San Diego Bay endurance swim — 6 miles in all. But she still wanted to be a speed swimmer. At 14, she tried for the national backstroke championship but came in second to the great Eleanor Holm. At 18 she tried out for Olympic speed swimming and came in fourth — only three made the team. Frustrated, she gave it up, married, and moved on to other interests. As she matured, however, Florence began to wonder if she might not have done better if she had specialized in endurance swimming, something that came more naturally. So, with the help of her father, she began swimming distances again. Twelve years after she had failed to make the Olympic team, Florence Chadwick swam the English Channel, breaking Gertrude Ederle’s 24-year-old record. On the Fourth of July in 1951, she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. The challenge was not so much the distance, but the bone-chilling waters of the Pacific. To complicate matters, a dense fog lay over the entire area, making it impossible for her to see land. After about 15 hours in the water, and within a half mile of her goal, Chadwick gave up. Later she told a reporter, “Look, I’m not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land, I might have made it.” Not long afterward she attempted the feat again. Once more a misty veil obscured the coastline and she couldn’t see the shore. But this time she made it because she kept reminding herself that land was there. With that confidence she bravely swam on and achieved her goal. In fact, she broke the men’s record by 2 hours! It took a little time, but eventually she found out what she could do best and did it. (Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 19).(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) Bette Nesmith’s “MistakeOut.” Bette Nesmith had a good secretarial job in a Dallas bank when she ran across a problem that interested her. Wasn’t there a better way to correct the errors she made on her electric typewriter? Bette had some art experience and she knew that artists who worked in oils just painted over their errors. Maybe that would work for her too. So she concocted a fluid to paint over her typing errors. Before long, all the secretaries in her building were using what she then called “MistakeOut”. She attempted to sell the product idea to marketing agencies and various companies (including IBM), but they turned her down. However, secretaries continued to like her product, so Bette Nesmith’s kitchen became her first manufacturing facility and she started selling it on her own. When Bette Nesmith sold the enterprise, the tiny white bottles were earning $3.5 million annually on sales of $38 million. The buyer was Gillette Company and the sale price was $47.5 million. (Crossroads, Issue No. 7, pp. 3-4). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) Ross Perot’s perseverance: During the Vietnam War the Texas Computer millionaire, H. Ross Perot decided he would give a Christmas present to every American prisoner of war in Vietnam. According to David Frost, who tells the story, Perot had thousands of packages wrapped and prepared for shipping. He chartered a fleet of Boeing 707s to deliver them to Hanoi, but the war was at its height, and the Hanoi government said it would refuse to cooperate. No charity was possible, officials explained, while American bombers were devastating Vietnamese villages. The wealthy Perot offered to hire an American construction firm to help rebuild what Americans had knocked down. The government still wouldn’t cooperate. Christmas drew near, and the packages were unsent. Refusing to give up, Perot finally took off in his chartered fleet and flew to Moscow, where his aides mailed the packages, one at a time, at the Moscow central post office. They were delivered intact. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) “Then I dug in and wrestled and won.” Zabysco was a Polish physician, who became a world champion wrestler. During World War I he was captured by Russian soldiers and sentenced to death. Thinking to have fun with him, the Russians offered to free him if he could defeat their wrestling champion. Zabysco said, “I prayed that God would give me strength and judgment. Then I dug in and wrestled and won.” [Alexander Lake, Your Prayers are Always Answered (Gilbert Press, 1956).] Sometimes that is the answer to our prayers as well – to pray, to dig in and then to wrestle. And when we do wrestle in Faith, we grow. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) Prayer Power: Some years ago, Guideposts magazine printed a remarkable story. It was about a young high school teacher named Mary. She wanted so much to succeed as a teacher. But a student named Bill was turning her into a nervous wreck. One morning, before school began, Mary was sitting at her classroom desk writing something in shorthand. Suddenly Bill appeared at the door. “What are you writing?” he asked as he approached her desk, “I’m writing a prayer to God,” she said, “Can God read shorthand?” he joked. “He can do anything,” said Mary, “even answer this prayer.” Then she tucked the prayer inside her Bible and turned to write on the chalkboard. As she did, Bill slipped the prayer from her Bible into his typing book. Twenty year later Bill was going through a box of his belongings that his mother had stored in her attic. He came across his old typing book. Picking it up, he began to thumb through it. Lo and behold, he found the shorthand prayer. It was yellow and faded with age. Bill stared at the jottings on the paper and wondered what they said. He took the prayer and put it in his wallet. When he got to his office, he gave the prayer to his secretary to decipher. She read it and blushed. “It’s rather personal,” she said. “I’ll type it out and put it on your desk when I leave tonight.” That night Bill read the prayer. It said: “Dear God, don’t let me fail this job. I can’t handle my class with Bill upsetting it. Touch his heart. He’s someone who can become either very good or very evil.” The final sentence bit Bill like a hammer. Only hours before, he was contemplating making a decision that would commit him to a life of evil. During the next week Bill took the prayer out several times to read it. To make a long story short, that prayer caused Bill to change his mind about doing what he was contemplating. Weeks later Bill located his old teacher and told her how her prayer had changed his life. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) Prayer is the key…Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation and the chief architect of its freedom from colonial rule and independence, was a secret admirer of Jesus Christ. Gandhi used to read the Gospels and was particularly fascinated by the Sermon on the Mount. Mahatma Gandhi was first and foremost a man of prayer. He faithfully began each day at four in the morning with an hour’s prayer in the little sanctuary he had arranged in his modest home. His phenomenal success and unparalleled fame as a freedom fighter can be ascribed to his indomitable patience and tenacity and his unshakable Faith in God. In a word, Gandhi, like every devoutly religious person and successful person, worked as though all depended on him, but prayed as though all depended on God. Gandhi once said: “I am neither a man of letters nor of science, but I humbly claim to be a man of prayer. It is prayer that has saved my life. Without it I would have lost my reason long ago. If I did not lose my peace of soul in the midst of my many trials, it is because of the peace that came to me through prayer. One can live several days without food, but not without prayer. Prayer is the key to each morning and the lock to each evening. Let everyone try this experience and they will find that daily prayer will add something new to their lives, something which cannot be found elsewhere. (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
21) Hang in there! Once there was a little boy who wanted more than anything to play in the school band. The boy went home one day and asked his parents if they would buy him an instrument and let him play in the band. They said, “We will think about it. After all, a musical instrument costs a lot of money and we are not sure you will stick with it.” A few days went by and the boy’s parents hadn’t said anything, so the boy decided to ask again. The boy’s parents didn’t say yes and they didn’t say no. They said, “We are still thinking about it.” On his way home the next day, the boy decided to stop by the local music store to check out the musical instruments. When he walked in the store, the first thing that caught his eye was a beautiful shiny trumpet. It wasn’t new, but it was in good condition. It was just what he wanted. That night at supper the boy said to his parents, “I went by the music store today after school and they really have a nice trumpet, it is exactly what I want and it costs only $100!” The boy’s father turned to his wife and said, “We had better go and take a look at that trumpet or we are not going to hear the end of this.” The next day the boy went to the music store with his parents and they bought him that trumpet. The boy joined the band and he stuck with it. He played in the band all through high school and when he graduated from high school, he went on to university and studied music. After graduating from university, he became a music teacher. I wonder how differently his life might have turned out if he had asked his parents for that musical instrument one time and never mentioned it again. Perhaps God, too, wants us to show that we are really serious about what we ask of Him. He may not always answer in the way we want, but we have to trust that God loves us and knows what is best for us. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
22) Film – Heartland: The movie Heartland dramatizes the story of rugged prairie life in the early 1900’s. A widow named Elinore Randall answers an ad to become a housekeeper for Clyde Stewart, a taciturn cattle homesteader in Burntfork, Wyoming. After a rocky beginning, their relationship smoothes out and they eventually get married, partly out of economic convenience and partly out of deep human needs. Together they heroically endure the hardships of a stubborn soil that yields little food, freezing winter winds that decimate their herd and the death of their new born little boy. In the climax of the story, Clyde Stewart has given up on the cattle ranch and begins to pack their belongings. But Elinore won’t let him quit. She pleads and bargains with him not to abandon their dream. Her tenacity triumphs when a calf is born, a sign of a new beginning, new life and new hope. Clyde finally agrees to stay and give the ranch one more try. Elinore’s persistence and faith are comparable to the widow’s in today’s parable. The widow kept coming to the judge for her rights and eventually wore him out. Jesus uses her as an example of praying always and not losing heart. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) Tenacity: A little-known man who exemplified that tenacity is John Harrison. Until the eighteenth century, sailors navigated by following parallels of latitude and roughly estimating distance travelled east or west. Ships routinely missed their destinations. In 1714, England’s Parliament offered a large reward to anyone who provided a “practicable and useful” means of determining longitude. Most astronomers believed the answers lay in the sky, but Harrison, a clock maker, imagined a mechanical solution – a clock that would keep precise time at sea. By knowing the exact times at the Greenwich meridian and at a ship’s position, one could find longitude by calculating the time difference. However, most scientists, including Isaac Newton, discounted Harrison’s idea. Harrison persisted. He worked for decades – decades! – of his brilliant life, in spite of skepticism and ridicule, developing a timepiece. Even after completing his timepiece, an instrument we now call a chronometer, in 1759, he underwent a long series of unfair trials and demonstrations. Ultimately, he triumphed. (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks! Listen; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) “We did answer all your prayers.” There was a story of a man who prayed religiously without ceasing to God. Even during the celebration of the Mass, he always said his rosary. He walked to the altar of the church with his knees on the floor. He told his neighbors that he wants God to be the one to answer all His prayers. A typhoon came into their village and flooded the whole village. It was reported that a tidal wave would come and sweep the entire village. A policeman came informing the village people about the coming tidal wave and the typhoon, but this man did not mind the policeman would not leave the place because he wanted that God would be the one to answer his prayers. The flood became bigger and bigger, so a boat sailed on the water informing again this person to vacate the place, but he wanted that God would be the one to answer his prayers. Later, when the water level was already on the roof, a helicopter came in order to rescue this man, but he did not listen to the request. So he died and went into the gate of heaven. He was angry with St. Peter because God did not answer his prayers. St. Peter said: “We did answer all your prayers. We sent you a policeman, a boat and a helicopter, but you did not listen to all of them. It’s not our fault.” (Fr. Benitez). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/19
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 52) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ (or using Google Search) for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith“ Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only firstname.lastname@example.org. Click on http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).