10/17/10

To pray always without growing weary...

Aaron and Hur holding Moses arms: Wikimedia Commons
Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for this Sunday's liturgy)

Audio for homily


None are happier than the 33 miners in Chile and their families
but around the world everyone's rejoicing in their amazing rescue
from what might have been their grave,
a half-mile below the ground.

We prayed at Mass for the miners each weekend
through their 69 days of captivity.
But that’s nothing compared to the miners' prayers
and those of their families and friends
keeping prayerful vigil at the site.

And now everyone is giving thanks to God
for the safe return of these men.

I wonder...
Is that what today’s scriptures are all about?

These readings seem to encourage our persistence in prayer:
our holding each other’s arms aloft
when some among us might grow too weary to pray;
and hounding the Lord until we’ve been heard and satisfied.

Is that what these scriptures are teaching us?

Because all 33 miners were rescued safe and sound,
we have the emotional and spiritual space in which to ask,
“What if they had perished?”
What if the carefully pieced-together rescue machinery had failed?
What if the rescue shaft had collapsed on itself?
What if only half the miners had survived?

Would we then say our prayer had failed?
- that we’d not supported one another faithfully enough?
Would we fear that our prayers had been found wanting by God?
- that we’d failed in our spiritual persistence?

Or might we say that God had failed us?
failed to hear us?
failed to answer us?

The gospel today, given it’s beginning, has a curious ending.
The passage begins with the words,
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them
to pray always without becoming weary…

That seems clear enough - until the parable ends with Jesus asking:
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Faith in what? Faith in whom?

Faith in a God who will answer our prayers as we want, if
- like the widow in the parable,
we badger him long enough with our pleading persistence?
- or if we hold up each other’s arms up long enough
for God to relent, to answer us?

But who among us does not know from personal experience
that God won't easily badgered into doing our bidding,
even in the face of our prayerful persistence and selfless sincerity?
This is not a parable about praying until we get what we want.

It’s a story to teach us that in all times:
in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,
in want or wealth, for better or for worse -
we need to draw close to the Lord in prayer, always -
and not grow weary of doing so.

What we learn here is this:
the Lord is with us in the joy of the miners being rescued
just as he would have been with us in our sorrow - had they perished.

The relationship here between God and his people
is like the relationship between husbands and wives in good marriages:
spouses cannot promise each other a life without pain
but they can and do promise a faithful, life-long companionship
through good times and bad, in sickness and in health,
in want and in wealth, for better or for worse.

And such companionship, such fidelity is nourished and sustained
by the persistent, untiring “prayer” of their communication,
their sharing with and supporting each other in
the ups and downs of their every-day life together.

And so it is with the Lord and each of us.
Just as shared communication strengthens the marriage bond
so does prayer strengthen our relationship with, our faith in God.

What is asked in both relationships is this:
that we not lose heart, not grow weary, that we trust, in faith,
in good times and in bad,
even when the rescue efforts (as they sometimes do) fail.

Because of who I am and what I do,
people ask me all the time to pray for them - and I do.
(Some folks believe I have a special phone line that goes right to God!)
I pray for what people ask me to pray for - but more than that -
I pray that whatever the answer to their prayer, that in praying
they’ll have deepened and strengthened their faith in God enough
to survive the disappointments as well as to rejoice in the “rescues.”

I pray that the prayers the miners offered for 69 days underground
and the prayers offered by us above ground,
will have drawn us all closer, in faith, to the Lord.

It’s easy to see the impact the miners’ rescue had on their lives.
What will be the impact on our lives of all the prayers we prayed for them?

As we come to the Lord’s Table to pray
may the Eucharist we receive draw us closer, in faith, to the Lord:
our life-long companion,  in good times and in bad...

And perhaps you’ve heard:
there’s been another mining disaster, this time in China,
in the city of Yuzhou in the province of Henan.

Last year, over 2,600 miners died in accidents in China -
in just one year...

In yesterday’s sudden “coal and gas outburst,”
some 200 miners made it to the surface
but 21 others have been found dead and 16 yet remain missing.

For them, for their families and for safer working conditions,
let us pray…




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7 comments:

Austin Fleming said...

The first of your questions does have an answer and it's right in the first reading: when you grow too weary to pray you reach out to others and ask for their help.

Didn't see anything in the first reading about Aaron and Hur being too worn out to help Moses - unless your supporters are abandoning you, consider them to be faithfully present.

Joanne said...

Thank you so much for your posts! Today's homily is very helpful. My husband has just been diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer and I find myself at a loss as to what to pray for. Of course I want a miraculous cure, which is scientifically unlikely but it is hard to give up that prayer. I know that I can ask for that, but in my quest for deepening my relationship with God, I know that my prayer needs to be "not my will but yours, Oh lord...give me the strength and the grace and the wisdom to handle all that is to come. But if you want please cure my husband!:) This is not easy stuff to live with.

Austin Fleming said...

Joanne, be assured of my prayers, and the prayers of my readers, for your husband, for you and your family...

Austin Fleming said...

There was a problem with posting comments. Above, you'll see that I seem to be responding to a comment that isn't there! I did hit "publish" on the comment but for some reason it didn't post. If that commenter resubmits, I'd be happy to post it.

Anonymous said...

My prayers are with you as well Joanne. It is amazing how much we really need each other.

God Bless.

Teacher.

Anonymous said...

(okay, I will try to write again what I wrote- but I'm sure this is not exactly like my first comment)

what if we DO pray and we DO grow weary? (it seems like this is NOT what the Lord wants us to do)
but, what if that is what is happening? like it is with me.

what if we pray and pray and pray-
and we get too tired...

I am afraid of the cycle:
praying, getting too tired, praying, getting too tired, praying...
(I ended here with "praying", but I am afraid of ending with "getting too tired")

and I am afraid of wearing out those who are "holding my arms up"-


(I know you already responded to my comment- thank you for that-
I hope this comment helps)


thank you.

Austin Fleming said...

Thanks! The comment posted just above is the one I was responding to in my comment at the top of the page!