Homily for 9/10

Homily for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily 

“I say to you, if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.”

But haven’t you and I and others prayed together for something,
even something very good and for the good of others,
and haven’t we had the experience of what we prayed for
not being granted?

Is the gospel just plain wrong on this promise
or is Jesus playing some kind of joke on us?

No, Jesus isn’t trying to fool us here and the gospel speaks the truth.

The problem comes when we pull this quote out of its context -
just as I did at the beginning of this homily -
and make demands on it as if it stood alone.

The context here is how the faith community ought to deal
with members who have sinned and offended others.
After giving a protocol of a gradual confrontation
between the sinner and the one offended,
Jesus assures us that our prayer in resolving such a case
will be heard by God who will confirm our decision.
So, Jesus isn’t promising here that every prayer we make together
will be answered just the way we want.

But that leaves another question hanging:
 “Why don’t some prayers, especially prayers for the good of others,
why don’t some prayers get the response we hope (and pray) for?

For instance:
over the past 10 days, how many people around the world
have prayed for the hurricane to veer off course
and head out to the open seas where it would do no harm?
And if that’s what we’re praying for,
for deliverance from danger and death at the hands of Harvey and Irma,
why is there a hurricane Jose on the horizon?

I don’t have any better answers to the question than you do.
I only know that in the face of some disasters,
natural or man-made,
we stand mostly helpless, save for asking, begging, praying
that God who is stronger than anything or anyone
that God might intervene or in some way shield us
from the danger ahead.

Sometimes it seems that God does intervene
and a hurricane changes course or dies down and dies out.
But sometimes, too often,
there’s death and damage in spite of our prayers
and before a storm moves out to sea
or diminishes in strength.

We should pray at all times
but we certainly pray in the face of anything before which       
we stand helpless.

Some hurricanes are tracked by the weather bureau -
some are much more individual and personal.
Perhaps your personal hurricane is an illness,
or financial trouble, or deep disappointment,
or grief, or loneliness, or confusion,
or a failed relationship, or anxiety and fear
or worry about a loved one.

Hurricanes come in many categories and many strengths.

Just days ago I wrote a prayer for my blog,
before hurricane Harvey:

We hold in prayer all those who live in the path of Harvey...

As creation reveals your stormy power,
show us the strength of your mercy
and spare those whose fragile lives are threatened
by wind and rain and floods…

We pray especially for all seeking shelter in safer places,
forced to leave their homes behind..

And we pray for those who welcome them,
offering safety and comfort, a place to hide
till nature's fury dies...

And to those who stand among us,
called first to respond and serve the many,
send angels to protect them, Lord,
as they step up to protect and serve us all...

And remind us, Lord,
of how much we need to trust in you
and in those who serve as you served us:
fully, freely, no strings attached,
laying down your own life
that ours might be spared...

Be our refuge, our protection,
our shelter in the storms of life,
and save us, Lord,
that we might praise you and glorify your name...


Well, my prayer and yours didn’t stop Harvey in Houston.
Still, last night found me writing another prayer,
as hurricane Irma was making her way north:

O God,
we like some of your weather,  the fair-weather days,
not a cloud in the sky
(except for occasional beautiful puffs),
temperatures warm but not too warm
with the forecast: the same -
for at least a few days...

Though, farmers love the rain,
slaking earth's thirst, nurturing growth,
bringing to harvest
seeds that have died for the sake of the crop
and its bounty of food
and the life it provides and sustains...

Then some love the cold,
for beauty or sport:
the chill of a frost and snow:
capping mountains, blanketing hills,
carpeting yards, sidewalks and streets,
drifting in beauty and charm,
shining as clear, as bright as the sun...

But to my knowledge, Lord,
no one loves hurricanes -
their threat too muscular, fearsome and menacing:
the havoc they wreak, their toll of destruction,
their death-dealing force more than we can abide...

If hurricanes reveal your power, Lord,
then show us the power of your arm for our sakes
and flex your muscular mercy over your people
whose lives and homes lie in the path
of wind and rain and oceans gone mad...

With but a breath steer the eye of disaster
degrees away rom its innocent targets
and spare your people, Lord,
from whatever might threaten or harm them...

In nature and spirit
yours is the power and yours is the glory:
reveal your glory, Lord, in the power of your mercy
and show us your power,
for the glory of your merciful name... 


As always, our prayer brings us to the Lord’s Table
where we remember his prayer on the night before he died
when he prayed he might be spared the cup of suffering
waiting for his lips to drink.

But he was not spared, not spared his suffering and death,
in spite of his prayer to his heavenly Father.

Rather, he gave himself for us,
laid down his life for us on the Cross,
he, our greatest and first responder, Christ Jesus,
that we might have life and have it to the full.

Pray with me for all who died in
and all who lived through Harvey,
and for those who live in the path of  Irma and Jose -
and whoever will follow them.

Pray for their safety and protection
and for those who will make the first response
when others are found to be in trouble.

Pray with me for deliverance
from our own personal hurricanes,
the ones tracked only in our hearts and souls.

Pray with me,
for in the face of such powerful storms
our only refuge, our only haven,
is the saving power and love of the Lord our God.


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