Aaron and Hur spotting for Moses!

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Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

I’ve sometimes wondered if God looks forward
to the playoffs and the World Series
because when that time of year comes around,
there are fewer teams in the mix- 
and thus fewer fans storming heaven for victory -
so God’s decision about whose prayer to answer is that much easier!
(That’s IF you believe that God does, indeed,
have a hand in deciding who wins ball games...)
But then every 4 years that gets klutzed up by the presidential election
and right now God is overrun with prayers
for or against one candidate or another.

People ask me all the time to pray for them,
for members of their families, for their friends
and for particular needs.
And I do pray for them.
I lift up them with their loved ones in prayer to God,
like Aaron and Hur, in the first reading, lifted up Moses’ arms.

And I know that many of you pray for others, too,
lifting up in prayer the ones you love,
the ones whose own arms of prayer have grown weary.
And sometimes there comes a healing, a recovery, a reconciliation,
a job, or peace of mind.
But sometimes, in spite of Jesus saying the answer will come speedily
(that’s on his time, not ours)
sometimes the answer to our prayer seems not to come at all
or is not the answer we wanted,
or is so long in coming that we begin to think it never will.
And then we may be temped to think that God hasn’t heard us,
or has forgotten us, or is simply ignoring our prayer.
When that happens, some people give up on prayer -
and some even give up on God -
or at least give up on expecting God to answer as we want.

But my experience as a pastor tells me that most folks don’t give up.
Most of you don’t give up on prayer.
Most people continue to believe and to pray,
Most people do persevere in prayer,
seeking God’s help again the next time they're in need
whether their last prayer was answered as they hoped - or not.
Are we foolish in seeking again the help of God
who so often seems not to help?
No. We’re not foolish.
We’ve come to realize, to understand, to accept
that when we turn to God in prayer
- especially when our needs are most acute -
that the greatest benefit of prayer is the assurance
that we have a place to turn to, someone to go to,
especially when it seems there’s no place to turn
and no one to help us.

When we were children, we lifted our arms up to adults
to fix our broken toys, to put a band-aid on a skinned knee
and to mend our  broken hearts and shattered dreams.
There were times when mom or dad, or others,
did indeed fix what was broken.
And sometimes they could not.
But that didn’t keep us from going back to them again and again
with the next broken toy or bruised feelings
in need of fixing and healing  - and, most of all, comfort.
We kept going back to them because we knew
that even if our parents couldn’t fix what was broken,
they’d be there for us, and hold us,
and comfort us and grieve the brokenness with us
- especially in times when they couldn't make things better.

And so it is with God and us.
I don’t know why God, who could do anything and everything,
so often - doesn't.
But we need to remember that the purpose of prayer,
the purpose of all prayer,
is not to get what we want or even what we need,
much less to move or change God's mind.
Rather, the primary purpose of prayer
is to draw us into a closer relationship
with the One we pray to, with God.

We often hear parents say how they wish they could take away
their children’s hurt and brokenness and make it their own.
Jesus says –and did – the very same thing.
The Lord is no stranger to our brokenness and our pain
and, on the cross, he took all of our hurt on his shoulders
- and made it his own.
And in his moment of most acute need he cried out to God
who seemed to be abandoning him  – and no answer came.
At least no answer came until after Christ abandoned himself
to his Father’s will - and his Father’s arms.

The greater the need, the more painful the brokenness
and the more fervently we pray for the Lord’s help
the more we need to trust
that the one answer that will always come, without fail,
is God’s voice saying, like a loving mother, like a loving father,
“I’m here…  I won’t leave you...   I’m with you… always...”

God may not answer our prayer as we would like but without fail
he will be with us in and through our time of need.

The best gift prayer has to offer us
is not so much the granting of our desire
as it is the opportunity to grow in our relationship with God
not because God will always fix things for us,
but because he faithfully walks with us in our brokenness.

We are about to break the bread which the Lord will make his body,
broken for us that we might remember and know
that he is here…  that he is with us…
that he will not abandon us…

May Christ broken once for us on the Cross
and broken again for us here in the bread of this altar,
may Chris heal the brokenness we bring to his table today
and draw us deeper into his love.


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