Read: Eccles. 35:12-14, 16-19, Ps. 34:2-3,17-19,23, 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18, Luke 18:9-14)
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
Last Sunday, we read about the battle between Israel and the Amalekites. Moses stood on the mountain with his hands raised in prayer. Israel prevailed only when Moses’ hands were raised thereby showing us the power of persistent and consistent prayer. Jesus also gave us the parable of the widow and the unjust judge to teach us that we must continue praying and never lose heart even when our prayers are not answered. Today, our readings teach us some important dimensions of effective prayer.
1. God Never Ignores the Prayer of the Poor and Oppressed.
As the book of Sirach says: “He (God) will not show partiality in the case of a poor man, and he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged. He will not ignore the supplication of the fatherless, nor the widow when she pours out her story.” (Sirach 35:13-14).
No matter what you may be going through right now, remember that God cares and He always listens to the cries of the poor and oppressed. When you cannot fight with your hands, call on God with all your heart. As our Psalmist sings today: “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save.” (Psalm 34:18)
2. Prayer Demands an Attitude of Humility: Avoid Commanding God.
Again, from our first reading, we learn that: “He whose service is pleasing to the Lord will be accepted… The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds…” (Sirach 35:16-17). When we pray, we must always assume the attitude of servants begging, not as masters giving orders.
As the book of Proverbs teaches us: “The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but maintains the widow's boundaries.” (Proverbs 15:25). In Mary’s Magnificat, she explains how God works saying: “He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.” (Luke 1:51-52).
3. Prayer Demands Examination of Conscience.In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus gave us a parable of two men who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee’s prayer was not only an exercise in self-praise, but it was also vindictive of others. As Jesus explains, this Pharisee ended up “praying with himself.” In other words, for his pride and vindictiveness, his prayers did not go up to heaven.
When the tax collector approached the Temple, he stood far off (like the prodigal Son at the gate of the Father sacred of entering the house), he couldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven but beat his breast (as we do during the “I Confess” at Mass), saying “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus tells us that this man went home justified. The time of prayer is not the time to boast, it is rather a time to look inwards, a time to search deep and beg for God’s mercy.
4. The Christian Life is a Fight and a Race: Prayer Keeps us Going.Our final lesson today comes from our second reading. We hear St. Paul saying: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In other words, the Christian life is not an easy one. Jesus himself says “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14). The Christian life is a real battle, a battle against the forces of darkness, principalities, powers and the devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy.
The Christian life is also a race, one that requires constant training, and constant self-discipline as Paul would say: “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things…. I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). St. Paul went on to say that his success did not come from his own strength but from the help of God. He says: “the Lord stood by me and gave me the strength to proclaim the word fully…”
Prayer is our direct connection to God. It is our source of grace and power. Without prayer, we cannot fight and we cannot run the race before us. As the saying goes, a prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian.
World Mission Sunday.
As we celebrate World Mission Sunday today, we are reminded that missionary work is not the exclusive reserve of the ordained but something to which we all are called. In his message for world mission Sunday 2022, Pope Francis tells us: “The essence of the mission is to bear witness to Christ, that is, to his life, passion, death, and resurrection for the love of the Father and of humanity.” (para. 5).
Francis reflects on “the three foundations of the life and mission of every disciple:” 1. “You shall be my witnesses”, 2. “to the ends of the earth” and 3. “you shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit”. Each of us is a witness to Christ, our witness is not limited to any geographical location and our success in witnessing for Christ depends on the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us.
What does it mean to witness for Christ? It is living just like Christ. Pope Francis reminds of the words of Pope Paul VI: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41). Preaching is important but it must be accompanied by doing; by walking in the light and even ultimately choosing martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel.
Our witness to Christ should not be restricted. Pope Francis mentions the fact that “for all the benefits of modern travel, there are still geographical areas in which missionary witnesses of Christ have not arrived to bring the Good News of his love.” (para. 11). Never assume everyone has heard about Christ already. Keep “pressing on”.
Pope Francis reminds us that without the Holy Spirit, there can be no evangelization. “Just as no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor 12:3), so no Christian is able to bear full and genuine witness to Christ the Lord without the Spirit’s inspiration and assistance.” (para 13). We must recognize the essential importance of the Holy Spirit even from the experience of the early church, it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit descended on the Pentecost day that the work of evangelization started.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit and enkindle in me the fire of your love. Fill me more and more with your living unction that I may not fail in my missionary task to proclaim Christ by my words and deeds. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Eccles. 35:12-14, 16-19, Ps. 34:2-3,17-19,23, 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18, Luke 18:9-14)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu