October 20, 2019 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Andy Upah

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 EX 17:8-13

Responsorial Psalm PS 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

  1. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Reading 2 2 TM 3:14-4:2

 Alleluia HEB 4:12

The word of God is living and effective,
discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 18:1-8

Homily for Nativity on the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 10/20/2019 EX 17:8-13 2 TM 3:14-4:2 LK 18:1-8 

Our readings today focus on perseverance and persistence in prayer.  Prayer is something that often goes in cycles, sometimes we feel good about it, we are uplifted by it, we feel that we are doing good through our prayer. 

But then sometimes it doesn’t feel good at all, our prayer is dry, perhaps it is boring and we are distracted, and it doesn’t feel like anything is happening as a result. 

Our Church offers so much as far as different methods and ways to pray, from the Rosary to Lectio Divina or meditation on scripture, from Liturgies like the Mass to spontaneous prayer, there are many, many ways to pray, and it is healthy to change it up from time to time. 

In my life, I’ve learned many styles and prayed many different ways, I’ve experienced the cycles, the highs and the lows.  When I was ordained, I made a promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours which is five periods of prayer each and every day, focusing primarily on praying the psalms which is how Jesus prayed.   

My problem recently is when I sit down to pray I find it so relaxing and peaceful that I just fall asleep! Once I finally wake up, I continue praying where I left off, I persevere and persist despite the tiredness. 

In that second reading, Paul said, “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; ” 

Prayer is not always convenient or easy. In that first reading for example, Moses knew that God would lead the Israelites in battle and that they would win the war, but that wasn’t enough, Moses had to keep his arms raised while praying, he had to do his part in prayer. 

I envision Moses holding his arms up like this, the prayer position of the priest, the orans.  The orans position is really only for the priest, the deacon only does it if he is leading the worship. I use the orans position often during Mass, at specific times in the Mass when I am praying for all of you especially.  When I say “Let us pray,” the prayer I am making is for the whole community. 

During the Our Father, I have my arms extended also.  During the Eucharistic Prayer I have my arms extended for the longest period of time, and honestly, my arms start to get tired by the end of it, especially if it is a longer Eucharistic Prayer, so I can understand why Moses needed two men to hold his arms up. 

But what is with this position?  Why arms raised up and extended?  It is a position of complete openness.  It is not an attack position, like fists up, sword or gun drawn, it’s completely open and vulnerable.  Open and vulnerable. 

That is a difficult position for us to be in, isn’t it?  We want to protect ourselves, being open and vulnerable is not comfortable, in fact it is rather unnerving.

 But mentally that needs to be our position before God, it is a position of faith, where we realize we are not in ultimate control, we don’t know when Jesus will  come again, we don’t have everything figured out.  We are open to his leading and moreso, we are dependent on Him for everything, for our constant care. 

So when we come to Him in prayer, if that isn’t our posture physically, it should be our posture mentally, where we primarily do two things, one is we realize our dependence on Him and thank him for those blessings he has given us.   

And two is that we ask him for what we need, like the widow, we ask persistently.  There are other things we can and should do in prayer, such as Adoration and Contrition, but if everyone were to do those two primary things, thank God for the blessings and ask Him for our needs, we would be even more open to receiving the gifts He wants to give us. 

Our responsibility is to show up, to persevere, to persist, even when it is dry and doesn’t feel effective.  Daily prayer is so important to our faith, it is a sign of faith, that even when we do not feel like it, we do it anyway, we still show up to prayer, I believe that is what Jesus meant when he said at the end of today’s Gospel, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” 

If we knew when Jesus was going to return, prayer would be easy, we’d all sprint to the finish because we know where the line is.  The problem is, we don’t know when he will return, and that makes prayer like a marathon with no set finish line, and that makes it difficult, so we must persevere and persist forward every day, every hour, every minute even. 

Our faith will not be convincing unless we are persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.  

That being said, the highest form of prayer is the Mass. About 12 years ago, while I was still early in my computer consulting career in Des Moines, I was praying the rosary twice a day until I realized the Mass was really the highest form of prayer.  At that point, I started to go to Mass daily and only praying the rosary once daily. 

Going to Mass is not always convenient, especially when we are traveling or very busy, but it is especially important to persist in going to Mass, to show up, even if the priest isn't very good or if it doesn't feel like we are getting anything out of it, this is where we encounter God in the most tangible way, in communion, and it is where we are joined with our community praying with and for one another. 

One other practical point, when it gets hard to pray, when prayer feels dry and it is hard to persevere, that is the time to make a change in our prayer life.  Change the posture, change the location, change the style.  I believe it is healthy for us to change up our prayer from time to time. 

May God bless you as you persevere and persist in prayer, and help you to grow in faith every minute of every day.