Homily for the 29th Sunday in ordinary time.
Updated: Nov 18
Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy Luke 18:1-8
Saint John Baptist de Ia Salle October 16. 2022
One day an electrician is working high up in the choir loft, of a very large Church. He hears the door open, and sees an old lady enter the Church. She walks directly to its front of the Church and kneels before a statue of the Virgin Mary. The electrician decides to have a little fun, and so he says loudly, "Hello, this is Jesus." There is no response from the old lady, as she continues to recite her rosary, praying, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women."
Perhaps this old woman is hard of hearing, he thinks, so he hollers all the louder, "Hello, this is Jesus. I'm listening. How may I help?" Without turning around, the old lady hollers, "Would you please be quiet. I'm talking to your mother. "
We live most of our life unintentionally. In other words, we do most things in life with much less intention than we should. This is also true of our prayer. We pray, but not as though we truly believe that someone is listening. The exception might be prayers of petition, when we are asking God for something. But even with prayers of petition one might ask where our attention is truly focused. Are we really focused upon the God we believe we are talking to, or upon our intention? How could God say no to this prayer that I am offering for good old Aunt Barbara? Some non-believers laugh at the sheer audacity of prayer, especially prayers of petition. Saying things like, "So, whoever created the universe is supposed to receive your petition, realize that he did not get it right the first time, and then adjust his plans for the universe in response to your petition?" Put like that, prayer does not seem to make much sense, yet Jesus told us to pray, to pray always, to bring our needs to him. We must simply admit that our reasoning cannot comprehend the claim that the words of Jesus make upon us. I was sitting by the shoreline of Keer Scott Reservoir on a rather windy day this week. I was thinking about the words of Jesus, and how we should pray always. The image of the waves, one after another, crashing on the shore, reminded me of the power of prayer. Prayer is a means by which we grow in our relationship with God. Our prayers, just like every wave have an effect. We may not see it immediately, but prayer does change us, just like the waves change the shoreline.
There is no prayer too big or too small for God to answer. So, the next time you say a prayer, and the Our Father and the Hail Mary are good examples, remind yourself that someone is listening.
I admit, our ability to be attentive in prayer is limited, but our prayers would improve immeasurably if we truly believed, like the old woman, that we were indeed talking to someone. This is important for all of us, but especially for priests who offer Mass, and for all those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Jesus once said to me in prayer, "If l, who Am, desire to hear this prayer, might you try to believe that? Speak to me, as though you know that I am listening." I have hardly ever offered a prayer, or said a Mass, not thinking God is listening. It makes a difference. Prayer is not just saying prayers. Prayer is entering into a moment of intentional relationship with God. Often enough, when we are in Church praying, our prayer is interrupted by children playing or people talking. Does that mean that we presume nothing is really going on, that nothing is being interrupted? Why do we believe, at least we act as though this is what we believe, that simply because we cannot see a relationship, none exists? That nothing is really happening when we pray? "Would you be quiet. I'm talking to your mother!" If only we believed that. If only we tried, at least occasionally, to pray as though we did.