Tag Archives: prayer

7th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

This in-between-time is a time for a “significant pause” – a pause that refreshes!

The Spirit is always a gift freely given, but also ‘waited upon’ – constantly sought anew in prayer. This Spirit is the powerful, tangible presence of the Risen Christ who strengthens us to work for the good of all. The Spirit is not given to answer our every manipulative request. The Spirit is the gratuitous, unmerited gift of God’s love and action in our lives. In order to welcome this Spirit and be ready to respond, we are called to prayer and to self-sacrificing discipleship. (M Birmingham, W& W Workbook for Year A, p. 330)

1st Reading: Acts 1: 12-14

Jesus was “taken up to heaven”. . . What is ‘heaven’ to you?

The eleven, so important to Luke’s gospel, are named, as is Mary the mother of Jesus.  This is an indication of the parallel between the Spirit’s overshadowing of Mary at the conception of Jesus, and the Spirit’s overshadowing her and the other disciples at the birth of the Church.  There is great significance in the coming together of Jesus’ followers, not only as individuals but also as one body.  (Foundations in Faith, p. 101)  What experiences of gathering together with family and friends during times of confusion or anticipation have you had?  Why was it important to be together…what was the result of your coming together?

Prayer is a part of all of our readings today.  Since the twelve play such a key role as witnesses to Jesus’ ministry and the subsequent gospel proclamation, Luke sees it as essential that they be at full complement before the coming of the Spirit.  Mary, Jesus’ mother is the living personification of faith, the “brothers” of Jesus and the women (who were probably at the crucifixion) are all gathered together to pray (R. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 357).  Margaret Guenther says, “…there is no such thing as a private Christian spirituality.  Christian spirituality is a family affair:  it is lived in the midst of relationships with God and those around us,” (The Practice of Prayer, p. 10).  What does prayer do for you?

2nd Reading: 1 Peter 4: 13-16

In Kittel’s Theological Dictionary, it states: Greek, doxa (glory) Hebrew, kabod, have these connotations:  honor, splendor, divine radiance, something of great importance, that which reveals God’s very nature. It is God’s self-manifestation; it is what shows forth God’s impressiveness, importance, splendor!  How is this connected to the “sufferings of Christ” and our sufferings?  This reading is a warning about coming hardship and trials. As Christ was triumphant in the face of the horror of the cross, so we must trust that any of our trials and sufferings are transitory and are as nothing compared to the goodness and glory of God’s love for us. Any ‘dying’ that we must do is to be seen as an opportunity to share more fully in the paschal mystery of eternal life – a gift we have now and for ever more. (Living Liturgy, Year A, 2004 & M. Birmingham, Word and Worship Wbk. For Yr. A, p. 329)

Rob Bell, in his podcast series on Alternative Wisdom:

  1. Pre-conventional Wisdom:  unaware that there’s a way things are usually done, against the rules
  2. Conventional Wisdom:  the rules, how things are done
  3. Post-conventional Wisdom:  mindful bending or application of the rules, resisting or moving beyond rules because of reasons

You have to learn conventional wisdom before you can get to post-conventional.  It’s the wisdom after wisdom.  This is what Peter is talking about.  Jesus showed us that he suffered because of evil in the world.  If we want to be like Jesus, then we might have to as well.  But it is all for good.  Knowing that can bring us peace and glorifies God.  It is a deep knowing that abides with us now.  It is the other side of knowing…does that make sense?  How can you incorporate that in your life?

The Gospel: John 17: 1-11

What does it mean that Jesus “revealed God’s name”?  Kittel states: “It is a common belief of antiquity that the name is not just a label, but part of the personality of the one who bears it . . .the name carries will and power. The “name conjures up the person” carrying a real sense of presence and power. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged, 694)

Another time to ponder Ronald Rolheiser’s discussion of the Paschal Mystery in The Holy Longing, chapter 7:

The Paschal Mystery is a cycle for rebirth; this is what Jesus taught and lived.

There are two kinds of death:

Terminal death — a death that ends life and ends possibilities.

Paschal death – a death that while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life.

There are two kinds of life:

Resuscitated life – when one is restored to a former life and health.

Resurrected life – this is an entirely new way of life. Jesus did not get his old life back. He                             received a new life – a richer life and one within which he would not have                        to die again.

Jesus gives us a pattern in which with his help we, too, can experience this Paschal Mystery – throughout our lives – in many little deaths and risings – until someday we enter into the ultimate experience of this mystery – which is really God’s love for us – calling us always to fully experience his eternal love and life.

  1. Good Friday . . . “the loss of life – real death”
  2. Easter Sunday . . . “the reception of new life”
  3. The Forty Days . . . “a time for readjustment to the new and for grieving the old”
  4. Ascension . . . “letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling”
  5. Pentecost . . .”the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living”

In more common language of our day this means:

  1. “Name your deaths”
  2. “Claim your births”
  3. “Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality”
  4. “Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing”
  5. “Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living”

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

Reading #1:  Sirach35: 12-14, 16-18

Jesus Ben Sirach lived and wrote around 180 BC.  He was an educated man whose main writing concerns were reflection on the Torah and practical suggestions for upright living.  To live uprightly is to live up to the covenantal relationship one has with God – hesedHesed assumes a reciprocity and requires that love of one another flow out of love of God, (W&W, Birmingham, p.  510).  Hesed is difficult to translate. No single word in English captures its meanings. Translators use words like “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty.” Perhaps “loyal love” is close.  Hesed is one of the richest, most powerful words in the Old Testament. It reflects the loyal love that people committed to the God of the Bible should have for one another. It is not a “mood.”  Hesed is not primarily something people “feel.”  It is something people DO for other people who have no claim on them (www.discovertheword.org).  What does this mean to you?

God knows no favorites.  There are no prayers better than any others.  Sometimes we are afraid to go to God with our small requests.  But Sirach says the one who serves God willingly is heard!  Pope Francis says, “Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.  To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds.”  The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds!

 Reading #2: 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18

Paul’s ‘departure,’ a euphemism for death, uses a Greek word that means to leave, to loosen the bonds or fetters, to relax, to be released from prison – unyoked, free, unfettered. (Celebration, Oct. 1998)  This is often a reading at funerals.

From Celebrations Oct. 2004:

Scholars suggest that the abandonment that is referred to in this reading happened at the end of Paul’s life, during his second imprisonment in Rome under Nero. Even though there was a sizeable Christian community in Rome, no one appeared at Paul’s preliminary hearing to encourage or to defend him. Paul who had brought countless numbers of people to Christ, found himself alone, with no one other than Christ to strengthen and support him. Paul likens his death to a sacrifice or a libation. Libations of wine and oil were done sometimes by Jews, but even more often by Greeks and Romans. Before meals and, at times, in between courses, as well as at religious ceremonies, a goblet of wine was poured out on the ground as a gesture of homage to the gods.

From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Remember, Paul had entered ‘the race’ only after he met the Risen Christ and realized that all his accomplishments were so much rubbish. He gave up the pretense of being a self-made, self-righteous man. In Christ, he learned the freedom and the gift that is God’s grace poured out for us. The mercy of the Lord was his hope, his joy, his faith.

Gospel:  Luke 18:9-14

From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Prayer, most surely, is not about trying to change God’s mind or heart about anything. It is about changing us. And that is why the Pharisee’s prayer is so meaningless. There is nothing in his life to be changed – no empty spaces to be filled up. Remember Mary’s Magnificat: God fills the hungry and the ‘full’

(the rich) go away empty . . .” (Lk. 1:53)  If the cries of the poor are to be heard or the orphan or oppressed are to be cared for, it will not be by some magic changing of God’s mind.  They will be heard and served by concerned people who can recognize their needs and decide how to respond to them.  Prayers can indeed be answered by a God who can ‘get through’ to prayerful people. We need to open a place for God’s entry into our lives.  This is true prayer.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

To strike the breast is a Middle-Eastern gesture that was usually used by women. It was used by men only in extreme anguish, so it is touching that this tax collector uses this gesture.  The closing phrase (“whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”) is one of those ‘floating sayings.” It occurs also in Lk 14:11, Mt 18:4: 23:12; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:6. Most of us go through life tallying successes and failures. God’s ways are not like that. With God’s help, we can discover even in our so-called failures examples of divine reversals, a better plan, a more rewarding venture, new life after hitting a dead-end. What looks like a set-back, can be an opportunity for growth. This is the Paschal Mystery: new life from death.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st  Reading — Exodus 17: 8-13

Amalek incurred God’s wrath for attacking the Israelites when they were faint and weary on their journey out of Egypt. (Just before this passage is the section where God provides food as manna, and drink as water from a rock.)  Amalek had set upon the most vulnerable and weak, the stragglers who were too exhausted to keep up with the rest.  Amalek did not fear (respect) God.  His sin is not unlike that of the corrupt judge who “feared neither God nor humans” who we will hear in the Gospel.

Picture Moses: he is sitting on a rock holding up the staff of God with his tired and aching arms supported by fellow believers. This is not meant to be seen as magic or ritual superstition. It is symbolic of the powerful presence of God in our midst. Remember also, that Joshua, who’s name in Latin is Jesus, is the one who defends the people against the aggressors.  Who supports you in prayer?

*How do you pray?  Do you kneel down?  Clasp your hands?  Bow your head?  Our posture can be a part of our prayer.  Being mindful of our body and what it is saying about our attentiveness to God can make our prayer more holistic.  We should be in a state of openness.  Henri Nouwen says, “Praying demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in the darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.  The resistance to praying is like the resistance of tightly clenched fists…When you are invited to pray, you are asked to open your tightly clenched fists…Each time you dare to let go and surrender one of those many fears, your hand opens a little and your palms spread out in a gesture of receiving.  You must be patient, of course, very patient until your hands are completely open.  It is a long journey of trust…”

2nd Reading:  2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2

Do you have a favorite verse or phrase that you find helpful – hopeful – faith-filled?

This reading reminds us that as long as we are laboring at faith, faith is winning. We just need to stay at the task, living with trust in God’s love and doing as God would have us do —  when it is easy and convenient — and when it is not. (John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

Henri Nouwen says, “Often I have found myself saying:  ‘The Gospel that I read this morning was just what I needed today!’  This was much more than a wonderful coincidence.  What, in fact, was taking place was not that a Gospel text helped me with a concrete problem, but that the many Gospel passages that I had been contemplating were gradually giving me new eyes and new ears to see and hear what was happening in the world.  It wasn’t that the Gospel proved useful for my many worries but that the Gospel proved the uselessness of my worries and so refocused my whole attention.”  Here and Now, p. 127

The Gospel – Luke 18: 1-8

This judge is obviously corrupt – nothing like God.  God throughout the Hebrew Scriptures speaks on behalf of the oppressed and the widowed.  The word ‘widow’ in Hebrew, admanah, means unable to speak, a silent one. Chera, meaning forsaken or empty, was also often applied to a widow. The prophets always challenged the people and leaders to care for the widow and orphan, those without power. See Isaiah 1:23; 10:2; Malachi 3:5; Jeremiah 49:11; Psalm 68:6; James 1:27.  (J. Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

Luke’s gospel is often called the gospel of prayer.  What does prayer have to do with faith?  How do you see prayer as important?  How do you keep from ‘losing heart’ about problems?

More thoughts from John Pilch:

The word that is translated, ‘strike me’ literally meant to “give a black eye.” It was used also to imply a public shaming. In other words this pestering widow puts the ‘fear of the Lord’ back in this awful judge due to her persistence and public pressure! The point of this story is that if a helpless widow can get what is needed from a shameless judge, how much more can we trust that our ever-loving, honor-sensitive God will be with us to help us.

If you are feeling like your prayers are not being heard, don’t give up.  Don’t despair.  Don’t relent to your fears.  It is in the persistence.  “Perseverance in prayer is more than true grit that will never quit; it is trust in a God who will never abandon or ignore those who entrust themselves to the divine power, care and mercy in prayer.  With this assurance, perseverance in prayer without losing heart becomes not only possible but a permanent practice in the life of the believer.”  (Celebration, 10/21/01)

The Cookie Prayer BY Kris Rooney

oatmeal raisin

I have a friend in the hospital.  His favorite cookies are oatmeal raisin, so I’m baking him a batch.  I write this as I wait for one pan to come out and another one to go in.  I don’t even know if they allow cookies in the I.C.U., but I’m baking them anyway.  I have to DO something.  You know that feeling?  When someone you care about is suffering and you just want to take it away but you can’t?  So I bake cookies.  This is my prayer for him.  I mix the dough, I add the wrinkled raisins, and I pray to God that he finds healing.  It is something my small self can do through God’s good grace.

I’ve been feeling this a lot lately…an aching feeling to do something in situations where I really can’t do much of anything.  Sometimes it is small things, like not getting anything to grow in my vegetable garden.  Sometimes it is big things, like Pulse in Orlando.  People say we can at least pray, as if that’s at the bottom of the “What To Do in a Crisis” list.  Isn’t it the most we can do?

Maybe we dismiss prayer because it’s so easy.  It’s just a conversation with God.  It doesn’t feel like enough.  Maybe we dismiss it because it’s hard to see the fruits of it sometimes.  Answers don’t come readily, or in the way we wish they would.  Maybe prayer can feel one-sided.  We talk, we wait, we wonder.  Is God really out there?

But I think God puts the ache there to begin with.  God starts the conversation before we even fold our hands together in prayer.  God calls to us…come, please, come.  God calls to us to be with God.  And it is because of God’s good grace that we go to prayer.  It’s why I’m making cookies.  I don’t think I came up with the idea on my own.  God put the “I-need-to-DO-something” feeling on my heart and I just went along with it.  How else do we weather storms but to go to God in prayer?  Jesus said it is the only way.  Even if things don’t get better, there is healing…there is solace…there is comfort…there is company.  Prayer DOES make things better when we look at it that way.

And so the last batch is now in the oven.  The prayer for my friend draws to a close.  My son runs up to the counter to be a taste-tester, and he pronounces the cookies good.  To me, they are good in more ways than taste.  God made them a prayer by God’s good grace.  It says in Psalm 63 that we will hear this Sunday, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” That is the aching feeling God puts in us.  So let’s go to God in prayer and answer that thirst.  It is the most we can do, whether it is a friend in the hospital, an empty garden or a terrorist attack.  Just let God in, and pray.

Advent, Like Stars in a Black Sky BY: Kris Rooney

stars in black sky

I couldn’t sleep the other night.  I went to bed late and I woke up early.  My head was too full.  Some things weren’t going well, some things weren’t getting done, people I know were having troubles…just stuff filling up my brain.  I decided to get up and go for a run.  I thought if I could have a little time to myself to think through all the thoughts, I would feel peace again.

That didn’t happen.  The more I got into my head about all these issues, the worse I felt.  As I ran, I could feel myself getting more and more tense.  Why wasn’t this working?  I started to pray about it, when suddenly I looked up.  The sky was full of the brightest stars.  There were no clouds, just black night and pinpoints of clear light.  It dawned on me that I wouldn’t see the stars if not for the darkness.  That’s actually something Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”  I finally felt peace.

I was too caught up in myself.  It wasn’t until I stopped and looked beyond myself and my head full of thoughts that I could experience a stillness.  There can be such beauty in darkness.  When things aren’t going well, it is then that strength is found.  It is then that people reach out to one another in support.  It is then that we find out who we truly are.  The stars shine out through the darkness.  It is so comforting.

Maybe that’s what Advent is.  Yes there’s waiting, but it is with expectation.  There is darkness, but the light of Christ shines through it.  I can have a head full of thoughts, but I can also take time to stop.  Just be still.  Hit the pause button.  That’s when I (we) will know God was with us all along, waiting -in expectation – for us…to see God through the pinpoints in the darkness.

Have a hope-filled Advent.

The “I don’t know” Prayer

Kris Rooney here.  For my morning prayer today, I quieted myself and thought about what I wanted to say to God.  The first words out were, “I don’t know.”  There are things happening that I don’t have answers for, not just in my life (nothing earth-shattering) but in the world  (quite earth-shattering).  I have no idea what to do or where to even find the answer.  Do you ever feel that way?  But it is extremely comforting to know that God accompanies me.    God accompanies all of us.  It reminds me of this prayer by Thomas Merton.  He seems to have found better words than my short, I-don’t-know prayer.  You may know it, but it’s worth repeating:

MY LORD GOD,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact

that I think that I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you 

does in fact please you.  And I hope I have

that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything 

apart from that desire. 

And I know that if I do this you will lead me

by the right road

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem lost

and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear,

for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me

to face my perils alone.

AMEN

As We Enter Holy Week…Thoughts by Helen Moon

springlent

I often think how The Lord is with me — with us — and yet I can go through my day rather unaware… So I’ve come to treasure a prayer to help me to focus on this loving Presence that permeates my life — all life. In Mass it comes at the end of the Eucharistic prayer. For me it has become a sort of mantra: “Through you, Lord, with you, Lord, in you Lord.” When in difficulties, problems or grief, I find these words bring strength somehow. When happy or celebrating, they bring me gratitude and a good sense of humility. They are great words to exercise through — and with. These words can become a morning prayer, a walking prayer, a pondering prayer — and a good night prayer along with a thank you, Lord! I share this in case you might find it helpful also.

***

Do you ever think about how wonderful it is to stand at different parts of our Mass? I do! When we stand in prayer with the presider who represents Christ, we are standing with Jesus and for Jesus. It is a position of commitment and purpose. I once read in an article that the early Christians decided to stand around the table of The Lord because that was the position of the servant at meals. Like Jesus who said he came to serve, so they also stood ready to serve — to be one with Christ. We stand at the gospel showing our readiness to be a part of this Good News. We stand at the Eucharistic prayers ready to offer our ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ — uniting ourselves with Christ’s. We stand at the Our Father together — one in God’s family.  We then receive The Lord walking upright together. At the end of our Mass we stand waiting to be blessed and sent out to be the presence of the Risen Lord in a world in need.  As we head toward Easter I also think what a lovely resurrection position it is. May we rise up with joy and love this Easter!

***

It is wonderful to walk in spring, isn’t it? Even wet patches seem ‘mud-luscious’!  And just wait until the leaves start to burst out of dead- looking branches– and flowers pop their heads out of the cold earth! It is precious time to walk AND pray. I like to use the line from our Mass prayers: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory!”  Maybe as we pray this simple  prayer, our hearts will burst open with gratitude and love for the many wonders of life.

Prayers BY: Maureen McGuinness

 prayer roots

I’m changing my prayer routine for the New Year.

For most of my life my prayers have centered on the Blessed Mother.

As a teen babysitting, soothing a crying baby in the comfort of a carpeted and heated home while reciting Hail Mary’s put my problems in perspective. I was a middle class teen living in the abundance of America getting paid to mind a crying baby. Meanwhile Mary had been my age living in caves with dirt floors caring for her own child.

As a college student struggling with my studies, again I would focus on Mary’s life. She raised our Savior. Her challenge was great; writing a paper on Russian history not so great.

Any life experiences I have struggled with I have been able to bring to the Blessed Mother and ask her to intercede on my behalf or take comfort in the ritual of the Rosary.

Let me be clear, I love Mary. However this year I am expanding my prayer.

The very first prayer I learned as a child was to my Guardian Angels. Our family also said a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

One of the great stories of our family was when my brother was getting ready to enter kindergarten at the parish school. All incoming kindergartners were required to recite a prayer for the principal. Most said a Hail Mary or Grace Before Meals. My little brother, with unruly blond curly hair, who had lost both front teeth in a scuffle at age four, proceeded to recite “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil…”

Sister Mary Presentation had a hard time keeping a straight face but was very impressed.

I believe it was in my teen years that I gave up on angels. I think I put angels in the same realm as fairies, magical mythical beings. Beings you can’t see so they must not be real.

My grandparents had a deep appreciation for angels. My grandfather would insist that priests had two guardian angels as opposed to the one all of the rest of us have. This just pushed my teen-aged self to the edge and I allowed angels to drop off my radar.

Now I have aged and mellowed. I have children. We pray to their guardian angels at night. When they were little their favorite book was about a baby and the angels that watched over her.

As I have reflected on the Blessed Mother’s life I can see that she let angels into her life. It’s as if she’s telling me there are an infinite number of beings who can help me on this journey.

My reawakening toward angels came through a friend a few years ago. I was having some challenges at work and my friend asked if I asked St. Michael to help me at work. I had not. (Was she crazy?)

She instructed me to pray and reflect on St. Michael on my drive in, to invite him to be with me in the work place and protect and guide me. I listened. The challenges no longer bothered me.

As the New Year started my heater broke. As I struggled trying to fix it, I asked Mary to intercede; I reflected on the lives of every Rosie the Riveter I knew; I asked my Papa to intercede and give me the wisdom to fix the heater. The heater was still not working.

I reached the cursing stage. I put down my tools. I asked St. Michael to take over. I went upstairs, texted my brother for help and within the hour everything was working again.

I don’t understand angels. I do know there is a distinction between a spirit and an angel. When I die my spirit will still exist, it will not turn into an angel as the Hallmark Movie Channel suggests. An angel is a distinct being created by God. I suspect the angels around me and my family love us in a way I can’t understand.

I will spend this year inviting them into my life, hoping to get to know them better.

Advent is too hard! By: Kristine Rooney

Advent is hard

 

I’m going to be honest…I’m not that wild about Advent this year.  Advent is an impossible task.  I am trying not to listen to the Christmas carols, and I’m not getting stressed over the holiday rush of what gift to buy which relative.  Still, there is a lot to do.  Presents don’t buy themselves, trees don’t magically appear in the living room and all of the normal stuff of life still happens whether there are Christmas preparations or not.  Leaving the Christmas to-do list aside, Advent itself has its own expectations.  I feel like I’m being bombarded with prayers, reflections and ideas on what I SHOULD be doing this Advent.  I actually have a little Advent reflection book that starts out asking me to sketch out what my plans for Advent are.  I have no plans!  Am I supposed to have plans?  Now I’m stressing over my lack of plans.  Is this what Advent is supposed to be like?  Feeling overwhelmed and guilty?

Nope, I’m not going there.  Whatever is not life-giving is not God-giving.  As a matter of fact, I don’t know if God is anywhere in the “SHOULDs”.  Doesn’t that feel freeing?  Maybe it’s not that there is so much to do…there’s just so much that we feel we SHOULD do.  And Advent is here to say no to that.  Stop.  Pray about the “shoulds”.  Do I feel called to do this?  Does it help others?  Do I feel a “yes” inside when I think about it?  These questions will help make the choice of whether something is a “should” or a life-giving action.  And through prayer, God will be part of that choice.  Advent is all about prayer, reflection and anticipated life, right?  Maybe this Advent stuff isn’t so bad after all.

Richard Rohr and John Bookser Feister explained this idea so much better than I am in a December 1989 Catholic Update entitled “Christmas Watch: What Are We Waiting For?”  They said, “Come Lord Jesus’ means that all of Christian history has to live with an expectation – to live out of an inner longing or emptiness, a kind of chosen non-fulfillment. For the fulfillment we await is always to come.”  Many of the expectations we have will never be met.  We are not supposed to have everything figured out.  We don’t have to have a plan.  What we can do is live a life of prayer.  And hope.  Because no matter what we do, or feel we SHOULD be doing, Lord Jesus is coming.

Scripture Commentary for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

dove prayer

Let us pray using Psalms 34:1-8…

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will never stop singing his praises.
Humble people, listen and be happy,
while I brag about the Lord.
Praise the Lord with me.
Let us honor his name.
I went to the Lord for help, and he listened.
He saved me from all that I fear.
If you look to him for help, he will put a smile on your face.
You will have no need to be ashamed.
As a poor, helpless man I prayed to the Lord,
and he heard me.  He saved me from all my troubles.
The Lord’s angel builds a camp around his followers,
and he protects them.
Give the Lord a chance to show you how good he is.
Great blessings belong to those who depend on him!  Amen

Reading #1:  Sirach35: 12-14, 16-18

Jesus Ben Sirach lived and wrote around 180 BC.  He was an educated man whose main writing concerns were reflection on the Torah and practical suggestions for upright living.  To live uprightly is to live up to the covenantal relationship one has with God – hesedHesed assumes a reciprocity and requires that love of one another flow out of love of God, (W&W, Birmingham, p.  510). What does this mean to you?

God knows no favorites.  There are no prayers better than any others.  Sometimes we are afraid to go to God with our small requests.  But Sirach says the one who serves God willingly is heard!  Pope Francis says, “Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.  To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds.”  The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds!

 Reading #2: 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18

Paul’s ‘departure,’ a euphemism for death, uses a Greek word that means to leave, to loosen the bonds or fetters, to relax, to be released from prison – unyoked, free, unfettered. (Celebration, Oct. 1998)

From Celebrations Oct. 2004:

Scholars suggest that the abandonment that is referred to in this reading happened at the end of Paul’s life, during his second imprisonment in Rome under Nero. Even though there was a sizeable Christian community in Rome, no one appeared at Paul’s preliminary hearing to encourage or to defend him. Paul who had brought countless numbers of people to Christ, found himself alone, with no one other than Christ to strengthen and support him. Paul likens his death to a sacrifice or a libation. Libations of wine and oil were done sometimes by Jews, but even more often by Greeks and Romans. Before meals and, at times, in between courses, as well as at religious ceremonies, a goblet of wine was poured out on the ground as a gesture of homage to the gods.

From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Remember, Paul had entered ‘the race’ only after he met the Risen Christ and realized that all his accomplishments were so much rubbish. He gave up the pretense of being a self-made, self-righteous man. In Christ, he learned the freedom and the gift that is God’s grace poured out for us. The mercy of the Lord was his hope, his joy, his faith.

Gospel:  Luke 18:9-14

From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Prayer, most surely, is not about trying to change God’s mind or heart about anything. It is about changing us. And that is why the Pharisee’s prayer is so meaningless. There is nothing in his life to be changed – no empty spaces to be filled up. Remember Mary’s Magnificat: God fills the hungry and the ‘full’

(the rich) go away empty . . .” (Lk. 1:53)  If the cries of the poor are to be heard or the orphan or oppressed are to be cared for, it will not be by some magic changing of God’s mind.  They will be heard and served by concerned people who can recognize their needs and decide how to respond to them.  Prayers can indeed be answered by a God who can ‘get through’ to prayerful people. We need to open a place for God’s entry into our lives.  This is true prayer.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

To strike the breast is a Middle-Eastern gesture that was usually used by women. It was used by men only in extreme anguish, so it is touching that this tax collector uses this gesture.  The closing phrase (“whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”) is one of those ‘floating sayings.” It occurs also in Lk 14:11, Mt 18:4: 23:12; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:6. Most of us go through life tallying successes and failures. God’s ways are not like that. With God’s help, we can discover even in our so-called failures examples of divine reversals, a better plan, a more rewarding venture, new life after hitting a dead-end. What looks like a set-back, can be an opportunity for growth. This is the Paschal Mystery: new life from death.