Sunday, October 21, 2007

29th Sunday - homily

God will provide. These three words really sum up our whole faith in God. It is the faith of Abraham that we share when we say that God will provide. We look at different people as examples of this kind of faith; I look at all parents as examples. When they bring a child into the world, they can’t see into the future and don’t know what will happen. Yet, they have confidence that God will provide whatever their child needs. There is one couple, though, who has stood out to me as an example of the faith that God will provide.

They are a couple that I knew growing up in my home parish. They were very nice, very active in the parish, and very devout. For most of the years that I knew them, they didn’t have children. I learned years later that they had prayed for a long time – 19 years – to God for children. 19 years! As they got to the age when it seemed like it would be impossible for them to bear children, I’m sure their friends were telling them to give up their hope and prayer, and move on. After 19 years of praying and hoping and as it was beginning to seem impossible, she became pregnant! It was a source of great joy for our whole parish, not to mention the overjoyed couple, when they gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Jack. They are a great example of having confidence in God, faith that He will provide, and perseverance in prayer.

These are the themes that Jesus is stressing when He tells the parable in today’s Gospel. He tells the story of a widow who petitions an unjust judge “for a long time” for a just decision in a matter involving her adversary. We don’t know what the matter was, but we can figure that her adversary was a rich, influential person. The judge probably didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of a V.I.P. in his community. Like some judges today, he was acting out of political and selfish motives rather than for the sake of a justice for a long time.

And yet, she had great confidence in him. This was a man who had “no fear of God and no respect for any human being”. That’s about as bad as it gets! She had great confidence that ultimately he would render her a just decision, and he does. Jesus is pointing out to us how much more confidence we should have in God, the just judge, when we pray to Him.

Prayer can be a tricky thing to understand. There are couples who pray for a long time with great confidence and faith in God for children but never have children. As Fr. Mike said recently in a homily, God always hears our prayers, but sometimes the answer is ‘no’. When we are talking about confidence in God, we are saying that we trust that when pray to Him about something specific for a long time, He will give us a just decision. His idea of justice might be different than ours; He knows what we need more than we do.

In my own life, I prayed for a long time to be married and have children. You see where that prayer got me! I though that that would be best for me and that it was really my heart’s desire. I am happy, though, that the answer was no because priesthood is my happiness. And, I have known couples who don’t have children and have found happiness through adoption, serving the community or Church.

I was reading an interesting commentary on this parable. The commentator reversed the roles by saying that God is the widow and each one of us is the judge, and that God pleads with us constantly to do the right thing. He can’t force us to love Him and to choose the good, but He is always pleading with us until finally we give in. One quote that backs this up is from St. Theresa of Avila who said, “Jesus is always speaking to us; the question is, ‘are we listening?’”

Finally, Jesus finishes the parable with a question: “when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?” Will he find great confidence in God, faith that says God will provide, and perseverance in prayer? In a few minutes, Jesus will come to us in the Eucharist. As he comes to us in Holy Communion, will he find faith among the parishioners and priests at St. Andrew’s?


At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing in intercessory prayer. It's obvious that God does not grant all prayers; He does for us what we need and not necessarily on a time line that we like. Like the parent who refuses to give the kid a candy bar but gives a carrot instead. The child's prayer was not granted, but something was done for the child that was good for him. So what role does praying for a certain thing play in all this? It seems like the role of prayer is to discern how God is acting in our lives, not to get God to act in a certain way.

At 6:09 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

The kids get extra credit when they fill out a comment sheet after attending Mass for their religion class. This came out of the discussion with my daughter about this week's gospel and homily-

How do we take complete responsibility for the consequences of our actions if we believe all things are God’s will?

And how does one really know God’s will? People make decision b/c they think they are the right ones and turn out to be mistaken. So how do you recognize if something is God's will or your own?

In his own personal experience FG described here- how does FG (or any of us in our own lives’ examples) know he was meant to be a priest (I personally think he was- but that’s not my point)? I understand he says he his happy, but certainly a measure of contentment can’t equate living out God’s will. We’ve heard our priests talk about the beauty of suffering, so happiness can’t be an accurate measure.

At 12:09 AM, Blogger fran said...

Catechism of the Catholic Church -

Prayer of Intercession
2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us... and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

2635 Since Abraham, intercession -asking on behalf of another- has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ's, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.

2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely. Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel but also intercedes for them. The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: "for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions," for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger fran said...

Mindy - Those are really great questions that came from your Sunday discussion. Had I been a part of it, I would have offered this:

I don't think we believe that ALL things are God's will. If I drive drunk and kill another driver, it is a consequence of my own free will, choosing to drive while intoxicated, that resulted in another's death. God allows it to happen, but he does not will it.
God's will? That I amend my ways and become a local high school speaker, discussing the dangers of drunk driving, which results in fewer accidents and more lives saved.
I think anything that is good is God's will. The bad that happens in life, most often, is a result of the misuse of our own free will. God's will is also the resultant good that comes from anything that He allows, (not wills,) to occur, such as suffering, natural disaster, etc.

How do we know if we were meant to be: priest, husband, wife, mother, father and so on?
I asked the "how do you know" question, of two other priest friends of our family, regarding their call to their vocations as priests. One replied that it was a process. The other said that he would have been a good husband and father, but he was called to be a priest.

Both answers can be applied to other vocations in life. Dating and engagement are the processes by which we decide whether or not we are meant to be married. Likewise, once married I may choose to leave a particular career to have children. Perhaps I could have continued up the career ladder and become a wonderful corporate executive, but I was called to be a stay at home mom.

Finally, I think for some, happiness, true happiness, can be found in suffering. Many saints exemplified this. In knowing that their suffering is/was a glorification of God, that is their joy, that is their happiness.

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Fran, that’s an excellent distinction- what God allows and what He wills. In teaching my kids about God’s role in their lives, they draw many parallels between that relationship and the one they have with me. I can easily point to many examples when I have allowed my children to do things (especially as they grew older) that I wouldn’t necessarily want them to do, but I am a believer in allowing them opportunities to learn from their own actions.

I posed the questions, as I am always interested in hearing another’s perspective. I didn’t grow up in a household where these kinds of discussions occurred- so I welcome hearing what another would have said in my situation.

Your priest’s answer about his vocation being a process was similar to what I told my daughter about my own life. Some people will know from a very young age to what they are called to do. In his class, Fr. Mike talked about wanting to be a priest from a very young age. Others will discover what they are called to one day at a time. At one point in my life, I was pretty sure I didn’t ever want to get married and have a family. Here I am- I’ve been with married 13 years and have 6 kids! I told her that the “mistakes” she will make are all part of the plan God has for her. I’m not quite sure I understand the beauty in suffering, but as to mistakes, I consider mine to be blessings. It’s strange to say, but I’ve learned quite a bit in my life from all the things I did “wrong.” Some of those were very hard lessons, but if I never had them, my perspective of many things would be very different.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Anon 10:06 a.m. asks: “what role does praying for a certain thing play?”

Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) He wants us to understand that while it is normal and natural to be concerned with acquiring the good things we want and need, our chief concern is to be our supreme good. The supreme good is the good we were built for, the good that is Love, Truth, and Righteousness, that is God Himself. Jesus wants our relationship with Him to be the primary source of our security, our hope, and our joy. Such a relationship with God is built on our part by prayer, lots of prayer. For this reason, God has from all eternity ordained that certain goods will be given us specifically in response to our prayers.

Saint Thomas Aquinas explains this: “God bestows many things on us out of His liberality, even without our asking for them, but that He wishes to bestow certain things on us at our asking, is for the sake of our good, namely, that we may acquire confidence in having recourse to God, and that we may recognize in Him the Author of our goods . . . For we pray not that we may change the Divine disposition, but that we may impetrate that which God has disposed to be fulfilled by our prayers, in other words that by asking, men may deserve to receive what Almighty God from eternity has disposed to give." (Summa II-II q.83 a.2.)


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