Homily for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (15 & 16/10/22)

posted 17 Oct 2022, 04:12 by Parish Office

The need to pray continually and never lose heart: living in the West, we can so often expect things to be done, and done yesterday. You should only need to ask once, and then it should happen. You order something on-line, or from a shop, and you expect it to arrive a few days later. You don’t expect to have to keep on phoning up, week after week, asking, “where is my parcel?” The comedian Omid Djalili once said that in Iranian culture, when you are offered something to eat, it is considered polite to refuse the first two occasions, and then the third time you are asked, you can then gorge yourself. Our Lord says to us today that we should persevere in prayer, rather than giving up if we don’t get what we expected the first time we asked.

Looking at the first reading, there is also an example of persevering prayer there too. It’s as if prayer is like electricity – whilst it’s on, things happen, and when it’s switched off, they don’t. Whilst Moses prays, Joshua seems to be winning, but when Moses gets tired and stops, then Joshua gets pushed back. So it requires others to sustain Moses in his prayer, and that enables Joshua to win the battle against the Amalekites.

So is this how things are in the Church? We’ve got the priests and religious praying, whilst the lay faithful are battling the forces of secularism. Whilst the prayers continue, victories are scored on the battlefield, whilst when priests and religious get lazy, or maybe just go to bed because it’s getting late, then everyone else struggles in the fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. Maybe not.

There’s the hymn The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended and it talks about, or sings, rather, about the fact that prayer is constantly going on all over the world: “The voice of prayer is never silent / Nor dies the strain of praise away”, and that includes both private prayer, and formal prayer. If you look on-line for livestreamed Masses, you will see that, because of the different time zones and the fact that parishes, convents and so on have Mass at different times throughout the day, the Mass is being celebrated constantly. Then, in the different monasteries, convents and so on, they pray the psalms throughout the day. The monks at Ampleforth Abbey, in Yorkshire, pray all one hundred and fifty psalms over the course of two weeks. Priests and religious have a slimmed down version, as they can’t spend quite so much of the day praying, called The Liturgy of the Hours, and we pray the psalms, plus other prayers, canticles, hymns, bidding prayers and so on, over the course of four weeks. So prayer is going on.

But it’s not just a job for those who are ordained or who wear a religious habit. You are asked to pray as well. Our Lord never said in today’s Gospel that it was only certain people in the Church that were expected to pray. He didn’t say, well, the priests can pray all day, because they’ve got nothing else to do, but you have to go to work, so don’t bother.

So how do you pray, apart from attending Mass? Today is / Yesterday was our Day of Prayer for Vocations, and if the Blessed Sacrament is being exposed from 9:30 am to 6 pm, what do you say during all that time? Do you just go into church and say the Our Father over and over again, until your hour is up? Well, no. You can pray to God in your own words and have a conversation with Him. There can be all sorts of people and

situations in our world to pray for, as well as praying, of course, for vocations. Prayer, of course, is not just about asking for things, but it’s also a chance to thank God, to praise God, and also to sometimes say sorry as well.

One of the best prayers we have (obviously the Mass is the greatest and the highest prayer that we have, the source and summit of the Christian life, as the Church says, but one of the best prayers we have) is the Rosary. You might think it’s a bit strange to pray to Our Lady when Jesus is exposed there for adoration in the Blessed Sacrament. But all prayer to Our Lady is ultimately prayer to God. And the way the Rosary works, is it’s about reflecting on the different mysteries, the episodes in the life of Our Lady and Our Lord. You don’t need to be concentrating on the meaning of each word of the Hail Mary. The Hail Marys are supposed to be the background music, if you like, to your meditation, as you reflect on what happened. Reflecting on the mysteries is a way of keeping our faith at the forefront of our mind, rather than letting it slip off the radar.

Linked with the Rosary, is simply reading and reflecting on the Sacred Scriptures, the Bible. We can sometimes find the Bible a confusing book, and not quite know where to start. My advice always is a bit like what they sometimes say about Star Wars. With the original Star Wars films, I’m told the best way to watch them is not from one to six, but to start at number four, and watch them four, five six, one, two, three. The same applies to the Bible – start with the New Testament and St Matthew’s Gospel, and work your way through to the end, and then start the Old Testament. Obviously the Bible is a big book – in fact it’s quite a few books all in one book, and you can’t read it all in one day. It’s a bit like the saying: how do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time. You can’t expect to eat a whole elephant in one day (perhaps you would never eat an elephant anyway), but in the same way, you can’t expect to read the whole Bible in one night.

Lastly, when you pray, either before the Blessed Sacrament or in some other quiet place, another form of prayer is just to sit there in silence, relax in the presence of God, and sunbathe, if you like in His presence. Prayer doesn’t have to be always me speaking. Sometimes a married couple can spend profound moments just sitting together on the settee, without saying anything. When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, there is nothing wrong with just being there in the Church and adoring Jesus, present body, blood, soul and divinity, right there in front of us on the altar. He loves us, and we adore and love Him back. It’s that simple.

So, yes, prayer is not about treating God like a machine: put a few coins of prayer in and collect the chocolate bar. Prayer is about a relationship and spending quality time with God, whether it’s through formal prayer of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, or our own private prayer. Prayer is what sustains us and gives us life.