YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.” (Luke 18:7-8)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 18:1-8
I’m remembering the time a young doctor astounded me by his faith and his ability to share it so comfortably with his patient and family. It was at the bedside of a dying patient, family members encircling the bed, all gathered to pray for the peaceful release of a beloved soul. As I invited the family to join hands, a voice came from the midst of the crowd, “Can we wait for the doctor, please? We know him from our church.”
Not a minute passed when Dr. Philip Chase, a young resident physician, entered the room and stood at the bedside. Not a word was uttered as he reached out for the hands of the family on either side of him. Then, as if on cue, all in the room joined hands. Dr. Chase, smiling gently, nodded to me, seeming to ask permission for what he was about to do. “Let us pray,” he began, and in the moment of silence that followed, I could feel the strength of faith in his voice. “Dear God, we commend Michael to your love. We commend our breaking hearts to your love. We commend the best efforts of medicine to your love. Thank you, Lord, for giving us all a share in the life of Michael. And thank you for allowing me to bring him what healing and comfort I have been able.” The prayer continued as Dr. Chase invited each one present to name a gift given them by Michael and then, in thanksgiving, to trace upon his forehead the Sign of the Cross. When all gathered had thus blessed him, this inspiring young doctor concluded the prayer with “Amen.” Within minutes, Michael’s soul was lifted heavenward in the peace of death.
What is prayer and how does it work? I believe prayer is communicating to God my acceptance of the humbling truth that God’s the boss and I’m not. And going a step farther, it’s the acceptance of the truth that God’s reasons for allowing things to happen cannot be fathomed by my mortal mind. In the end, it’s about trust. Do I believe God really does love me? If I do, then no harm will come to me, even though what is happening may, indeed, appear to be harmful.
How many times have I heard patients and families ask the question, “Why is God doing this?” or “Why is God allowing this to happen?” Looking to me for the answer they can’t themselves find, my usual reply is, “I don’t know.” But were I invited to continue the discussion, I’d respond, “God is allowing this to happen because he loves you.”
Does God hear the prayers of those who call out to him night and day? Yes. Does God answer the prayers of those who call out to him unceasingly? Yes. Do we get what we pray for? Mostly not. But I’ve seen some astounding changes in the person who prays fervently. I’ve seen such a trusting relationship develop between the desire of the one praying and the love of God reaching out to that person. The gift of prayer, of being in such a profound relationship, becomes its own reward. St. Thomas a Kempis affirmed this when he wrote, “The wise person values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver.”
In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus says, “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.” (Luke 18:7-8) The challenge, then, is mine. Can I believe that whatever comes my way from the generous hand of God is what I most need at the moment? Can I believe that I don’t really have the good sense to know what’s best for me but that God does? Can I believe in a love greater than what makes any logical sense?
The deep faith of Dr. Philip Chase helped a dying man give himself back to God as also did it carry a grieving family nearer the peace of heaven.