FR. GERALD MUOKA HOMILY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: THE POWER OF INTERCESSORY AND PERSEVERING PRAYERS
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY JULY 24 2022
R1 – Gen 18:20-32
R2 – Col 2:12-24
GOSPEL – Luke 11:1-13
Bill was a notorious and troublesome boy in the class. The Teacher was always finding it hard to control him and it was disturbing the whole class. She was sad. One day as the boy entered the class he found the teacher writing something in short-hand and the boy asked her out of curiosity, what she was writing. She told him quietly that it was a prayer. The boy asked her whether God knows short-hand and she said God knows everything and reads every heart. As she looked at the board the boy took the letter and hid it in his book. After several years when Bill was a successful man, when he looked through his past materials found this note and out of curiosity took it to the office to translate. The clerk told him that the note said: “Dear God, I am finding it difficult to control Bill and he disturbs me. Please touch his heart. He is capable and he can be very good or very evil.” Bill had tears in his eyes. He knew the prayers of his teacher were heard.
Beloved in Christ, the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, invite us to reflect on the importance of intercessory, persevering and consistent prayers.
This is because, our prayer life is a reflection of our true faith in God. That is why, St Pio designates prayer as, “The oxygen of the soul.” The short hand prayer of Bill’s teacher in the intro it story, opens our eyes to understand deeply the power and effectiveness of intercessory prayers.
In the first reading of today, we see Abraham’s dialogical prayer of intercession for the city of Sodom and Gomorrah, where his nephew, Lot lived. He pleaded for divine mercy as he was concerned that God would destroy Sodom where his nephew Lot was staying. What fascinates one most is Abraham’s closeness to God, solidified in a consistent and persevering disposition to pray always. God so highly regards the Patriarch that he decides to disclose to him the mission to Sodom and Gomorrah. Through his intercessory prayers, he wins a reprieve for the city if just handful innocent righteous souls were found within the city.
The second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, though it does not address prayer, reminds us of the need of perseverance in our living faith in Christ, which provides the basis for all Christian prayers, especially for liturgical prayer.
While the Gospel of today, has three sections, all dealing with prayer. The first part deals with the prayer, ‘Our Father’, the other two sections illustrate the attitude and dispositions for prayer, which comprise of intercessory, persevering and consistent gestures towards prayer.
*THE LORD’S PRAYER: THE PARADIGM OF INTERCESSORY AND PERSEVERING PRAYERS*
The Gospel reading presents us with the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” which Turtullian regarded as the “summary of the whole Gospel,” because it is a prayer of love that seeks the good and well-being of others. According to St Thomas Aquinas, “It is the “perfect prayer,” because it explores and integrates the various kinds and forms of prayer that give us a module for Christian prayer life. Little wonder, St Thomas Aquinas insists of the Lord’s prayer, “This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.”
However, it is pertinent to note that, Our Lord’s Prayer is not a selfish or personal prayer. It has a community character. The objective pronoun, “us” and possessive determiner, “our” are so much stressed in this prayer to intimate us that every prayer that doesn’t talk about others (prayer of intercession), is deficient and selfish. That is why, this Sunday’s liturgy sets Abraham’s altruistic, persistent and intercessory prayers as a paradigm and model of all prayers.
Fr Mike Lagrimas, in citing “Pope Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth,” wrote: “Only within the ‘we’ of the disciples can we call God ‘Father’, because only through communion with Jesus do we truly become ‘children of God.’ In this sense, the word “our” is really demanding: It requires that we step out of the closed circle of our ‘I’. It requires that we surrender ourselves to communion with the other children of God. It requires that we accept the others – that we open our ears and our hearts to them. When we say the word our, we say Yes to the living Church in which the Lord wanted to gather his new family…The Our Father overcomes all boundaries and makes us one family.”
Furthermore, Bishop Fulton Sheen has this comment on the Lord’s 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.”
Nevertheless, prayer itself doesn’t change God; it changes us. When C.S. Lewis was asked if he really thought he could change God with his prayer for the cure of his wife’s terminal sickness. Lewis replied: “Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.” So, the value 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.
To pray is not to impose our will on God but to ask God to make us open to His will; in other words, we pray not to change God’s mind but for God to change ours. Jesus’ prayers at Gethsemane, “Father ‘if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine” (Luke 22:42), disposes us to understand how best to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers because, in it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired.
(1) *PRAYER IS THE MOST ESSENTIAL ASPECT OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE*
The Christian song, “Prayer is the key, prayer is the key, prayer is the master key. Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer, prayer is the master key…” simply teaches us that the Christian life is all about prayer, via, consistent and persevering communication with God. Today, we see Jesus at prayer. Even Jesus, who is God Himself and always in communion with the Father, He prayed. Just think of how many times our Muslim brethren pray every day.. five good times; even a Jew prays three times everyday. What about us who claim to be followers of Christ and are baptized Christians? Fr Chidubem Ohaeri once said, “A Christian without Christ is like a vehicle without brake and accelerator. He could not move or stop. If we take the word ‘CHRIST’ from the word ‘CHRISTIAN’, the remaining letters are ‘IAN’ which means I Am Nothing. In other words, without Christ, I Am Nothing at all.
(2) *OUR PRAYER MUST BE PERSEVERING AND CONSISTENT*
One good thing we learn today from our father in faith, Abraham, is perseverance and consistency in prayers. Abraham persevered in his pleading with the Lord. We need to note that our prayer does not change God, but rather, prayer gives us a share in His power and definitely, that prayer changes us so that we can accept whatever is God’s will for us.
However, God answers prayers in one of the three ways.
(a) God says “Yes,” and you receive what you ask for.
(b) God says “No,” and you have to accept it and move on.
(b) Or God says “Not Yet,” and you learn to be patient and wait.
So, do not let any of these responses discourage you from offering your consistent and persevering prayers to God.
(3) *WE MUST APPRECIATE PRAYING FOR OTHERS*
Another important take-home message for today’s liturgy is the power and effectiveness of intercessory prayers. The scriptural emphasis on the power of intercession is replete:
(i) Abraham’s Prayer for Sodom
(ii) Moses Prayer, Interceding For Israel (Exodus 32:11-13; Exodus 32:31-32)
(iii) Elijah Asks God to Reveal Himself to the People
I Kings 18:36-37
(iv) Before Going to the Father, Jesus intercedes for His Followers (John 17:6-26)
(v) Stephen’s Prayer, For His Murderers, At The Point Of His Death.
(vi) Paul’s Prayer For The Ephesian, Philippian and Colossian churches.
(Ephesians 3:14-20, Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:9-12)
Finally, 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 request. The captain is too busy to notice your waving and shouting.” Just then the boat turned and headed for shore. The little boy grinned and said to the stranger, “The captain is my daddy.”
Beloved, 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 in the affectionate intimacy of the Lord of the universe as our father. Never cease to inundate heaven with your prayers.
MAY THE HOLY SPIRIT WHOM THE FATHER HAS GIVEN US AS A TEACHER WHO INSTRUCTS US ON HOW BEST TO PRAY, STIR IN US THE PERSISTENT, CONSISTENT AND PERSEVERING DESIRES TO ALWAYS LEAD A PRAYERFUL LIFE. AMEN!
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA_
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