Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Sunday, July 28, 2019

Luke 11 1-13 17th Sunday-C

A little boy was standing on the banks of the Mississippi River waving and shouting at a steamboat that was going by. He was beckoning the steamboat to come to shore. A stranger came by and said, “That’s foolish young man. The boat will never come ashore because of your demand. The captain is too busy to notice your waving and shouting.” Just then the boat turned and headed for shore. The little boy smiled and said to the stranger, “The captain is my daddy.” The captain of the universe is our Abba. He pays attention to our petitions because he loves us. The first words in the Lord’s Prayer encourage us to believe that God is our Father- Daddy.

Today’s readings tell us what to pray and how to pray. The first reading from the book of Genesis where Abraham having a dialogue with God, speaks about the power intercessory prayer. The responsorial psalm “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me,” is a hymn of hope and trust in the Lord, reminding us that God is close to the humble of heart and to all those who call upon Him in their need. In the gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their heavenly Father with the same courage, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance as Abraham did and as the friend in need in the parable did. He gives us the assurance that God will not be irritated by our requests or unwilling to meet them with generosity.

Our Father was a revolutionary teaching! The Jewish concept of God was different.  He taught us to call upon God the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Great I am, The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End as our Father. Elohim (God the Creator) ,Yahweh (God who keeps His covenant) Adonai  Now this is so incredibly revolutionary because people up until the time of Jesus, all the OT people and all the people around Jesus did not think of God as a Father. In the OT, God had 3 primary names:

Elohim (God the Creator)

Yahweh (God who keeps His covenant)

Adonai (God is the Lord or Master)

And up unto the time of Jesus, the Jews so revered the name of God that they dear not even say it. They took the consonants out of the name Yahweh and the vowels out of the name Adonai and put them together to create a new name for God, Jehovah. Since the time of the calling of Moses a top Mt Sinai in Ex. 3, when God said “Do not come any closer,” “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground . . . At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God, the people of God feared and stood in awe of the Lord God Almighty.
However, when Jesus came, He changed all that. The Bible records many prayers and gives many ways to approach God, using many different titles. But the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer because it is taught to us by the greatest person, for the greatest range of prayers through the greatest title given to the Lord God Almighty, “Our Father”. This week I encourage you to linger a little longer at the beginning of this prayer and spend some time talking to your Dad!

The context: In today’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount, after instructing the crowd that we should not pray like the Gentiles, repeating empty phrases, Jesus teaches a model prayer – Our Father.

A prayer in two parts: In the first part, we address God, lovingly acknowledging Him as our heavenly Father, praising and worshipping Him and asking that His Holy Will be done on earth and in our lives as perfectly as it is done in heaven. Hollowed be thy name explained as “ we are offering ourself to be a light and salt to the world and because of our action, people may praise God!

In the second part, we ask God for our present needs (daily bread), our past needs (forgiveness of sins) and our future needs (protection against the tempter and his temptations), and we ask for His blessings. In this part we also bring the Trinitarian God into our lives. We bring 1) God the Father, the Provider, by asking for daily bread, 2) God the Son, our Savior, by asking forgiveness for our sins and 3) God the Holy Spirit, our guide, advocate, comforter and illuminator, by asking for protection and deliverance from evil.

Why do we pray? We have learned about the wondrous process by which a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. The story usually begins with a very hungry caterpillar hatching from an egg.  The caterpillar is busy eating, stuffing itself with leaves, growing plumper and longer.  And then one day, the caterpillar stops eating, gets into a sleep or prayer mode and in few days emerging as a butterfly. Prayer is that process by which we becoming a beautiful butterfly!

Carl Lewis is one of the greatest long jumpers the world has ever seen. He tried to jump as far as he could. So what he did, he always took a couple steps backwards to have the best jump. He never had a standing start. In the long jump, the run up is all important. Prayer is taking that few steps backward so that we can have the best long jump or best performance for the day and for the future of our life!

Our prayer during the Mass says ‘O lord, you are not in need of our prayers. In fact our prayer adds nothing to your greatness but it helps us to grow in your grace. A colleague asked C.S. Lewis if he really thought he could change God with his prayer for the healing of his wife’s cancer. Lewis replied: “Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.” “Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.” William McGill says. “The worth of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear God.” Keep in mind that Jesus has taught us to address God as Father. A loving Father listens to his child, but does not blindly endorse every request. Instead, the loving Father provides what is needed, including discipline. Bishop Sheen has this comment on prayer: “The man who thinks only of himself says prayers of petition. He who thinks of his neighbor says prayers of intercession. He who thinks only of loving and serving God says prayers of abandonment to God’s will, and that is the prayer of the saints.”

Prayer is essential for Christian life. Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple who asked him how to pray: “Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this every day.”

Why we don’t pray?

1) Lame reasons why we don’t pray and the sad result. Modern Christians give four lame excuses for not praying. 1) We are too busy. The richer a culture is, the less time it has for prayer, because money and wealth provide distractions. Researchers say that the average Christian living in a wealthy country prays four minutes a day. Often the first thing given up by a busy Christian is his prayer life. 2) A second excuse: we don’t believe prayer does that much good other than giving us psychological motivation to be better persons. Besides psychological motivation, prayer establishes and enhances our relationship with God, the source of our power. 3) A third excuse: A loving God should provide for us and protect us from the disasters of life, such as disease or accidents, without our asking Him. Prayer expresses our awareness of our need for God and our dependence on Him. 4) A fourth excuse: Prayer is boring. People who use this excuse forget the fact that prayer is a conversation with God: listening to God speaking to us through the Bible and talking to God. You can’t have a close relationship with anyone, including God, without persistent and intimate conversation. Four minutes a day is not much intimate conversation. Since our society concludes that prayer doesn’t work, it turns to sex, violence and unhealthy addictions resulting in broken marriages, broken families, psychological problems, moral decadence, spiritual poverty, law-and-order problems, and prison populations.