YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: HOW LONG MUST I PRAY?
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: During the week I received two calls on different days to pray for two pregnant women who were in maternity ward and in labour. One gave birth only after few hours and the other gave birth after many hours of agonising pain. When the husband called for prayers he was very anxious and tensed. He had never found himself in such situation. His anxiety was understandable because it was his first child. He could hear the groaning of his wife inside of the labour room and he could hear the voice of the nurses assisting her but he could not come into the room. The many uncomfortable hours he spent waiting for the delivery of the child appeared to him like many years moving at snail speed.
There are many couples that we know who have been praying for many years to have a child. Some of these couples never lose hope or trust in God the giver of life. Sometimes we get what we need without prayers and at other times we obtain our needs through simple and short prayers. Some other times we have to wait patiently for God’s best time to receive our needs. In short, sometimes, we get quick results and at other times there is a long delay. During the period of delay we ask: How long must I pray and how long must I wait? In such moments we exclaim like the Psalmist: Answer me speedily, O Lord; my spirit fails!” (Psalm 143:7). In 2008 A Gospel pop rock music group called Tenth Avenue North released an album with an interesting track titled “Hold my Heart.” Some of the powerful words in this track are as follows:
“How long must I pray…? How long must I wait, must I wait for You?
How long ’til I see Your face, see You shining through? I’m on my knees, begging You to notice me. I’m on my knees, Father will You turn to me?”
The above song sounds like an honest cry to God similar to Psalm 22:1-3 where the Psalmist cried loudly saying: “Why are you so far from helping me? Why are you so far from the words of my groaning, O God I cry by day and you do not answer, at night but no rest. Why, God have you forsaken me?” We constantly knock on heaven’s door expecting instant answers to our prayers and our patience easily grows thin. When we are in desperate need we knock, knock, and knock hard on heaven’s door with frustration and anger. We often hold a single or multiple agenda when we come knocking on this door as we seek for answers and solutions to our problems. We pray for success in studies; we pray a better job or promotion in our working places; we ask God to grant us or our loved ones healing from sickness; we pray to God to assist us in resolving the many conflicts around us; we pray to have good husbands, wives and children. There is an unending list of the things we ask for in prayers. Most importantly, we pray with confidence and trust to a God who cares for our needs and welfare.
The story of the battle between Israel and the Amalekites is a perfect example of the importance of praying without ceasing. In those days, Amalek came and waged an unprovoked war against Israel. Joshua picked up some men to engage Amalek in Battle, while Moses stood on top of the hill with a staff of God and was praying. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up in prayer, Israel had a better of the fight, but when he had his hands rest, Amalek had the better fight. Moses was able to sustain his intercessory prayer because of the support of his prayer partners Hur and Aaron. Likewise, we ask for the prayerful support of priests, family members, friends and praying community in crucial moments of our life.
Therefore, the term Amalekites is sometimes used as a metaphor to describe a ruthless, stubborn, and relentless enemy. In life, we are confronted and overwhelmed by enemies and many times we are challenged for a fierce fight against the trials and adversities that surround us. We fight against the weaknesses that embarrass us, we constantly fight to overcome some sickness that put us down; we fight against all forms of evil; we fight against many opposing forces that surround us. We fight these battles without giving up and with a prayerful confidence in the words of the Lord, which says: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s”
(2 Chronicles 20:15).
Jesus told his disciples about the necessity to pray always without becoming weary. He gives an example of a woman who went constantly to a Judge seeking for justice against an adversary. For a long time the judge was unwilling, but after a long time he budged because he did not want to be bothered anymore by this widow. If this dishonest judge was able to listen to the widow, will God not listen to those who pray to him night and day? The Psalmist says: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).
Prayers can be very boring and monotonous when our needs are not met. Sometimes, prayers appear to be a waste of time when instant results don’t seem to come. What makes prayers even more boring is when we are constantly doing the talking without taking time to listen to the one to whom we pray. We should not only speak to God when we pray, but and should also take time to listen to God through silent meditation. In meditation we discover God’s will and to his plans for us. We also listen to God in prayers through reading of scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 emphasises the power of scriptures in giving wisdom and in making people competent and equipped for the many challenges of life.
One question that we ask frequently is “How long must we continue to pray for my needs?” The scriptures instruct us to continue steadfastly in prayer (Colossians 4:2). The good thing about prayer is that it assures us of the presence of God and without prayer we are like fish taken out of water. In prayer we grow spiritually and in prayer our faith is nourished. We pray in good time and in bad times, when life is rough and when life is great. Always Say A Prayer (ASAP).
Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8; 29th Sunday of Year C