Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (c)

All this Sunday is about prayer. It can be helpful to realize that we don't pray to flatter God, or try to talk God into something, or because God needs to have people praising him. We pray because it affects us. It sets us in the right direction –toward God. Praying helps us realize that there is a God, that God loves us, that we need God, and that the gifts God gives us are far, far beyond us. Existence, life, eternal life, the forgiveness of sin –these are not things we can do for ourselves. They're beyond us, and they're gifts from God, and when we pray, we realize that. It points us in the right direction[1].

We teach a little child to say thank-you to his mother, and on Mother's Day to take crayons and make a card for her. The mother doesn't need that, but the child does. The child realizes how much his mother does for him, how much his mother loves him. It sets the child in the right direction.

We turn ourselves towards God, and when we do that, it sets everything in the right direction and a lot of good things happen.

It's not hard to pray. It's very simple. And actually we like to pray. That's not the problem.
The problem is trying to do it from time to time when we're in the middle of our day. We forget to turn toward God. As a matter of fact, it doesn't seem that God "belongs" in the regular stuff of our day. God doesn't "fit" there –when we're caught in traffic, or in a meeting, or doing the things we do all day. That's what's hard about prayer. That's what Jesus was talking about in today's Gospel –being persistent in our prayer, sustaining our prayer. When we manage to do that it sets us in the right direction, and a lot of good things happen.

Over the course of time, Christians have developed customs and traditions that try to help us do that, and we ought to take a good look at them. I've thought about these and since I am from another country, I asked a few parishioners to brainstorm with me what some of those customs are. Here are some that I've come up with and I'll bet you've heard of and done most of them at one time or another.

-When you hear a siren, you say a prayer. It might be a fire engine or an ambulance or a police car, and you say a prayer for the people who are in some kind of trouble.

-We pray before a meal. We all know that one. It's one of the easiest prayers to say... and it's one of the easiest prayers to skip.

-When you pass a church you make the sign of the cross. In the past men used to tip their hats.

-When you see a funeral procession or pass a cemetery, you say a prayer.

- When you hear a church bell, you say a prayer. That's why the church developed the custom of the Angelus –to remind us to pray in the morning, at noon, and in the evening... to pray in the middle of whatever we're doing.

-When you lose something you pray to St. Anthony.

These are fine customs and we ought not to lose them. And we can make up some of our own to help point us in the right direction during the day. Just as Moses needed help to hold his arms up in prayer, we need the help of customs like these to pray during the day.

We turn toward God, set ourselves in the right direction most of all during the Mass. When the bread and wine are brought forward to the altar, they represent us –food and drink and our living. We place them on the altar which represents Christ, and together with Christ in the Eucharistic prayer, we give it all to God.

Jesus did that on the cross and this is made present to us so that we can enter into it with him. We give today, tomorrow, our whole life to God and commit ourselves to do what God wants us to do in our life. It is our greatest act of prayer.

My brother, my sister, we just need to keep praying, trusting and doing our part. Your community, the Christian Community, is helping you hold up your hands in prayer. When we turn toward God, then we're on the right track. We're pointed in the right direction, and a lot of good things happen ■


[1] Sunday 17th October, 2010, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time; readings: Exodus 17:8-13. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth—Ps 120(121). 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2. Luke 18:1-8 [St Ignatius of Antioch].

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris