Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 20, 2019
Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
2 Timothy 3:14-4:2:1-8
The Gospel of Luke 18:1-8
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
Two weeks ago we heard the Gospel from St. Luke. It was a lesson that if our faith was the size of a mustard seed we could order a Mulberry tree to pick itself up and plant itself into the sea. Mulberry trees are a fruit tree and some varieties can grow up to 70 feet tall. St. Luke used the analogy of lifting the Mulberry tree up and moving it, to a people who are familiar with the tree. Luke showed them just how much a little bit of faith can change their lives and their relationship with God. Just imagine if our faith was as big as a mustard seed. We could move mountains, correct injustices, create medical cures for drastic illnesses. What if our faith was bigger? How can we grow our faith to the size of a mustard seed or greater? The answer is prayer. We hear a lot about prayer today.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer as “The elevation of the mind and heart to God in praise of His glory; a petition made to God for some desired good, or in Thanksgiving for a good received, or in intercession for others before God…” We pray to God. We can also pray to our Virgin Mother Mary, or to a particular saint, asking them to intercede with God, on our behalf, in thanksgiving or for a plea of assistance. Prayer is a method to strengthen, reaffirm and grow our faith in God.
Today’s readings speak forcefully of our need to pray to the Lord more often. Jesus tells the disciples to pray always. Pray in times of need or thanksgiving and in times of sadness or joy. The gospel tells the story of a woman who constantly was begging a judge for a just decision. She was harassing him. The judge granted the woman’s request due to his fear that she might attack him. He did it only to stop the harassment. Jesus tells the disciples that God, the final judge, will come to the aid of those who call out to Him often. We need to be as persistent as the woman was. Pray often. Sing, even if you cannot carry a tune, because “Song equals prayer twice.”
This week in the Liturgy of the Hours I read the following “You watch over heaven and earth, Lord Jesus. Your death brought light to the dead, your resurrection gave joy to the saints, your ascension made the angels rejoice. Your power exceeds all power. Lead us to life eternal, and watch over us with your love. May your friends be filled with honor and join you in heaven.” Jesus is our Lord and we want to be His friend. We should, must, pray to Him. After all, He is watching over us, guiding us, loving us and, most importantly, died for us so we can be with Him in eternal life. I am the oldest of eight children. We all recall our dad coming into our rooms at night with his daily missal. He knelt by the sides of our beds and prayed over us asking God to guide and protect us. He then made the sign of the cross on our foreheads. We have done that with our children as they were growing up. Pray often.
I read a news article about William Bedford. Bedford was a very gifted basketball player at Memphis State in 1984-85 when they went to the NCAA Final Four. He became an NBA star. Unfortunately, after the NBA, he made some poor decisions and ended up in prison. After getting out of prison he had no work skills, other than basketball, from 30 years ago. He is now 55. The City of Memphis has a program called Manhood Univ. It provides training to former prisoners enabling them to come back into society with education and job skills to help them to stay out of prison. One of the Bedford’s fellow graduates, Earl Wilson, in the same news article, said he discovered something in himself at Man U. He discovered “…When things are going right, we don’t do much talking to God but as soon as things go wrong, as soon as they go wrong, that’s when we want him to intervene.” Wilson went on to say…” That’s something else I learned- I had to show my appreciation and respect for a higher power. Even when things are going right.” Quite an insightful comment. That the lesson we are hear in today’s gospel is to pray always whether in good times or in bad times. That sounds like our wedding vows doesn’t it? Christ is the groom. He is married to the church. We are the Church. How many of us often forget to give thanks to God when things are going right? How many of us turn immediately to God for his help when we are in distress? God wants to hear from us whether in good or bad times. He loves us always.
Prayers can be in many forms. The church provides us with many ways to pray. We can also use our own words, and works, to pray. St. James said that “…faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Prayer is words but it is even stronger when it is accompanied with works. We can offer our words, and our actions, in thanksgiving for God’s blessings upon us whether that thanksgiving be for His help to us, or in gratitude for His blessings upon us. Our faith in, and our relationship with, God is strengthened by our prayers.
In St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount we are told “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men… But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your father who is in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you…” I know a woman who does laundry regularly for one of the overnight shelters for the homeless. Most people hate doing laundry. This woman does it lovingly, without reward and does quietly. In the inner room. She does not do it to be recognized. In fact, it was only by accident that I found out. She is doing a form of prayer when she does that laundry. It is a work of mercy.
One of Pres. Ronald Reagan’s speeches, and perhaps his finest, was at Pointe du Hoc, France on the 40th anniversary of D-day. The military says there are no atheists in foxholes. Res. Reagan told the people gathered that the men invading Normandy 40 years earlier “had a faith and a belief, a loyalty and a love, that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next”. He told about the British Colonel preparing his paratroopers, all kneeling in prayer, the night before the invasion. The Colonel told them “Do not bow your heads but look up so you can see God, and ask His blessing for what we are about to do.” The soldiers knew that the battle would be fierce and many would die so they all prayed to God for His assistance and mercy. They were not alone. Pres. Reagan told of people filling churches in Georgia at 4 am, people in Kansas kneeling and praying on their porches at 2 am with their eyes lifted to the sky. He told of the 225 U.S. Army Rangers tasked with climbing the sheer walls at Pointe du Hoc and, that after two days of intense fighting, the Rangers had finally succeeded in obtaining a beach head while only 90 of them could still bear arms. The landings at all the other beaches that day, and the days following, were the first, necessary, steps to liberate a continent, and a people, from tyranny. And people everywhere were for praying for God’s help and mercy in this battle. Just like Moses led the Israelites to victory in today’s first reading.
A prayer by Danny Thomas to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, yielded a visible result known around the world, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. It is right here still growing in Memphis. Thomas was at a desperate time in his life. He had given away the last of his money in the collection basket and His wife was soon going to have a baby. Thomas begged for St. Jude’s intercession with God for a job. He promised, if his plea was rewarded, that he would build a shrine to honor St. Jude. His prayer resulted in obtaining a job yielding tremendous success. Thomas fulfilled his promise to St. Jude. That promise continues to be a miracle every day with every life saved, every research breakthrough and every cure or treatment discovered. St. Jude’s is known for its excellent treatment of serious childhood illnesses, particularly cancer, with no out-of-pocket costs to the family. The hospital, and all its good works and treatments, is a real time example to us of the continual power of prayer. There is another way that the promise Danny Thomas made continues. St. Jude’s is located in a small mid-south riverfront city that has had more than its fair share of poverty, social and racial issues. St. Jude’s is a beacon of light in spite of that. St. Judes provides a chance for employment to people with opportunities to advance and, for some, lift themselves out of poverty. And then there all the ancillary businesses and jobs that exist because of St. Jude’s. I do not know if Danny Thomas foresaw that part of the miracle that continues to grow at St. Jude’s. Jesus told us that to get into heaven we must be childlike and turn to Him. The children, and their families, turn to the doctors at St. Jude in much the same way Danny Thomas turned to St. Jude. Each begging, praying, for intercession with God.
But not all answers to our prayers have to be big or noticed. They can gradually creep up on us. Think about this parish. For over the last year we have prayed the Rosary or Divine mercy Chaplet before weekend Masses. I have noticed more and more people coming to Mass earlier. For a while some sat silently but now they are audibly praying with everyone else. At the end of Mass we have been praying for the success of the Alpha program. The attendance at the Alpha meetings has been strong and consistent during this session of the program. Other churches, Catholic and Christian, are exploring using the program for their congregations. People want to learn how to have a better prayer life and be closer to God. This is prayer at work.
The ultimate lesson for all of us is PRAYER WORKS! DO IT OFTEN. DO NOT be afraid to pray and give thanks or ask for help. There is nothing that God has not heard before. The last verse in today’s gospel is “…But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith here on earth?” The answer is a resounding ………….YES HE WILL because WE WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!!!
FOLLOWING FOR THE 6 PM SUNDAY MASS ONLY
I want to briefly go back to the story about the mustard seed that I mentioned at the beginning. Two weeks ago, at this Mass, Fr. Burke invited all of us after Mass to see just how small a mustard seed is by getting some from the bowls set out around the church exits. As we were in the narthex after mass everyone was looking for the bowls of seeds which were not in plain sight. After we found them many people, young and old, were talking about the tiny mustard seed. They wanted to see how small they were. A few said they were going to see if the seeds would grow. A kind woman told me to put some seeds on a wet sponge for them to germinate and then, if they sprouted, to transplant them into soil.
Put the seeds on the ambo with a VOILA!!!
Here is a tray with three pots of mustard plants that started from the seeds I transplanted less than 2 weeks ago. They are now numerous plants in 3 pots. I have put spoons in each of the pots if anyone wants to take some home and try to grow them into bushes. Just imagine if our faith could grow that fast and was as easy to grow. I also gave a quick look to The Google to find out about mustard seed. Wikipedia says “Mustard oil is known to be great for the skin because it generates warmth. – Mustard seeds are rich in a nutrient called selenium, known for its high anti-inflammatory effects. … – Mustard seeds are very rich in calcium, manganese, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, protein and dietary fiber — include them in your diet.” So it is good for your body and a reminder to take care of your soul and your faith through an active prayer life.
Finally, there is one mmore informational session for those men who may be considering a call the the diaconate. That last session will be next Sat. Oct. 26 at 11 AM at St. Mary’s in Jackson TN. Please pray (there is that word again) for the men who went to the previous information sessions as they and their families begin their discernment. And please pray for the men who will go to Jackson TN to discern this call. Pray that the Holy Spirit guide them and their loved ones.
God Bless You