Homily (Reflection) for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year, (C) (16th October, 2016) on the Gospel
Ex 17:8-13;Ps 120. (R. cf. v. 2);
2Tim 3:14 – 4:2;
One man suffering from arthritis was visited by one of his neighbours in need. Because the disease sometimes makes walking very difficult for him, there is an intercom that aids him communicate with other people in other parts of the building. After his neighbour had narrated his problems and what he was looking for through the intercom, as a way of exercising himself on one part and also to show concern, the man decided to go downstairs by himself and offer the much needed help. Because he could not reach briskly, by the time he reached downstairs, his neighbour was nowhere to be found. He had gone to seek for help from somewhere else thinking that the man might never come down eventually despite the fact that he told him that he was coming.
Topic: Pray like who you are.
In general, different people have different ways of seeing things and this includes how they relate with others including their creator. For example, magicians and those patronizing them expect spectacular and quick responses. They also expect the exact things they want and the way they want them happen, cf. Acts 8:9-19. Pagans think that being verbose and lots of sacrifices will make them receive what they ask for and fast too, cf. Matt 6:7. Christians are taught to pray not just for their needs but above all for the will of God to be done. This is made manifest in the Lord’s prayer among other places, cf. Matt 6:10; 26:42, Heb 10:7, 9 because it is by God’s will that we exist and were created, cf. Rev 4:11. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego relied on the will of God despite their faithfulness, cf. Dan 3:16-18. It is important to note that some Christians today including the leaders do approach God either as magicians or pagans or both.
Before going further, we should not see this parable as a way of comparing the unjust judge with God. No! Just like the parable of that friend who went to borrow from his friend at midnight, cf. Lk 11: 5-13, the message is “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13).
The widow in today’s gospel was an example for all on how steadfast we should be at prayer. For Barclay, she “was a symbol of all who are poor and defenceless”. Being poor here refers to any form of lack at all. This widow was persistent because she had no other means of getting justice. It is the correct Christian disposition towards God in prayer; we should never see God as an alternative. Hence the first verse of this gospel reading, gave us the essence of the parable as the “need to pray always and not to lose heart” whether one receives what he or she prays for immediately or not.
How many of us still pray to God as Christians? Unlike the widow in the gospel, we tend to do like the man we saw in our introductory story. Jumping from one place to another is so common today that we don’t even see anything wrong in it. As we pray, we should always remember the last verse of the gospel, “… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” That is, when God turns towards you for that thing that you are asking for, where will you be – in His house or the house of the devil? Even when it appears to be delayed, it must surely come to pass, cf. Hab 2:3, unless it is not God’s will.
Although Jesus enjoined us to “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Matt 7:7), we ought to pray always, (cf. 1Thess 5:17) not just for one problem or another. Apostle Paul asks us to “Pray at all times in the Spirit ...” (Eph 6:18). Praying in the Spirit is praying in accordance with the Spirit of God which has been sent into our hearts and is crying "Abba! Father!" cf. Gal 4:6. Hence, Saint Jude wrote, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20). As we calculate how long we have prayed for, we must remember the bitter truth that “... we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). That is to say Matt 7:7 holds when we pray according to the Holy Spirit. If this is anything to go by, one might be asking for one thing and the Spirit in him or her asking for something else and we know that God listens to His Spirit, cf. 1Cor 2:11. That you are alive today might be simply an answer to the prayer made by the Spirit of God in you.
I would like us to take two things from the Letter of Saint James – the importance of prayer and the object of our prayer:
You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures (Jas 4:2-3).
That intention you have prayed for is it not for your pleasures?
When the author of the Letter to the Hebrews asked for prayers, he noted that they had clear conscience, cf. Heb 13:18. What does our consciences look like even as we are now before God? We must be at peace with God before raising our hands before him because the prayer of the righteous man has great power in its effects, cf. Jas 5:16. There is need for our minds to agree with the Spirit of God in our prayer, cf. 1Cor 14:15.
Bible Reading: Lk 11:5-13, Heb 10:7-10, Jas 4:1-10; Dan 3:1-24.
Thought for today: Pray like a Christian.
Let us pray with the Psalmist: “Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God! Let thy good spirit lead me on a level path!” (Ps 143:10).
Lord, help us to pray in agreement with your Holy Spirit that is in us according to thy holy will – Amen.
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