Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 20, 2019
“Dear God, if you have any pull with Santa Clause, please make sure he reads my letter this year.” I remember praying that prayer, or some version of it as a kid, kind of my attempt at covering all my bases, a double-guarantee, I suppose, for getting what I wanted. IF I’m honest, I’m not sure, some days, that I’ve progressed much beyond that point of spiritual understanding. Petitionary prayer, asking God for things, certainly holds a secure place in our Judeo-Christian heritage. We’ve been doing it for centuries and, most likely, will continue to do it. And we should.
There was time, probably during my years in seminary, that I thought this might not be the best use of my prayer-capital, that perhaps contemplative prayer or meditation or scriptural discernment might, indeed, serve me better. And it might. But I think we stand on solid ground to continue to pray our needs before God. In fact, prayers of petition are an official part of the major Liturgies of the Church- Mass, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer. They all include, in part, prayers of petition.
So, what is the difference between praying for Santa to pay attention to my wishes every December and, for example, offering prayers petitioning God for peace in the world, for the protection of all life, for justice for those who are burdened, for healing for the sick, for protection of the immigrants and refugees? And what about all those sincere prayers for the Green Bay Packers? (Seriously, try to deny that one!) Aren’t they all prayers of petition? Aren’t they all asking God for something?
The scriptures today give an insight that’s well worth considering: Moses is leading his people to the promised land. They encounter opposition; Amalek and his army are preventing their journey. Moses calls upon God for help so that his people might complete their journey to the Promised Land. And when he gets tired, Aaron and Hur come to assist him. Aren’t they simply cooperating with God’s will? Isn’t that what God wanted for his people, get them to the Promised Land? Isn’t that what God wants for us all? Won’t that, ultimately be the prayer we utter with our last breath: “God, bring me home!”
We sang out in the psalm today, “Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” reminding us once again that every blessing flows from God; not political position, not money, not earthly honors, not power. God is always the source of every blessing and our ultimate guardian.
St. Paul beckons us to remain faithful; to remember what we learned as children. Doesn’t that image remind us of those days when we knelt at the side of the bed (before we were too old to kneel and still get up again) offering our night prayers before our mysterious and yet, very real, God, asking God to bless Mommy and Daddy and the dog and the gold fish that’s floating in the fish bowl right now.
And the key to the rather confusing parable that Jesus offers is found, not so much in the parable as in the introduction, “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” He wasn’t teaching them that it’s good to be a nagging pray-er, but rather to always be a persistent pray-er.
It’s so easy, whether we are young and Santa seems to once again have lost our letter, or when we watch our loved ones suffer, or when another senseless shooting occurs, or when our hearts are breaking, or when we seem to be losing ground in whatever battle we are fighting, to give up. But we can’t. The scriptures teach us; the tradition of our faith teach us; the liturgies of the church teach us – don’t give up! Drop to your knees, turn your eyes to the heavens, shout if you must, wrap those prayers in tears if they come, every day…so that when the Son of Man comes, he will find faith on the earth.