Homily Seventeenth Sunday Year C Be persistent in prayer

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Homily: Seventeenth Sunday Year C

Reading 1: Background. Sodom and Gomorrah are cities in which sin is rampant, especially the sin of sodomy. But living in the city of Sodom is Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family. God is angry with the inhabitants of these cities and tells Abraham that he intends to destroy them.

Abraham, mainly because of his nephew and family, intercedes with God persistently for mercy upon the inhabitants. He basically bargains with God. That is how his persistent prayer is seen by the author. Knowing the extent of sin present, Abraham pleads with God to spare the cities, if at least 10 righteous persons are found there.

We know what happened. The cities are destroyed because of the lack of even ten. But because of the persistent prayer of Abraham, Lot and his family were rescued and spared before the destruction.

Abraham shows boldness and persistency in prayer before God. He became a model for generations afterwards. Moses interceded before God for the Chosen People, who sinned continually against God during the Exodus journey. The prophets interceded for the people who broke the covenant, while expecting God to look the other way. Jesus teaches, as we see in the Gospel, the necessity of prayer but also to pray with persistency and certainty.

Gospel: Last week in the story of Martha and Mary, we saw a glimpse of contemplative prayer: Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, gazing at him and listening to him. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us specifics on prayer, based on his own personal prayer. He was a man of prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer we heard was different from what we are accustomed to, but Luke’s version has the same basic elements. Jesus says to begin our prayer not with petition but adoration, praise and thanksgiving for who God is and all that he has already done in our life. Then, as if by the way, bring our petitions and intercessions for ourselves and others.

Then Jesus shows that one’s prayer should be spoken with confidence that God wants the best for us. Therefore, we need to be bold and persistent. He expresses these aspects in the parable and in the teaching that follows.

In the midst of our persistent prayer we realize that what we ask for might seem best for us in the moment, but there may be a higher good that God desires to give us. This greater good is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is given to us to dwell within us, to reveal the love of God to us, to lead us to the truth, to be our advocate, to sanctify us and to empower us as witnesses of Jesus Christ.

This gift of the Holy Spirit must be activated by us, first by being aware of his presence and purpose and then yielding ourselves, by following his lead and the movement of his grace within. Just as we have been given muscles at birth, if we do not develop them and use them properly, what good are they? So too with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only are we to ask for a fresh awareness of the Holy Spirit, but we are to exercise the gifts he has given us.

Reading 2: Besides prayer of intercession, there is also the need to pray in thanksgiving for what God has done for us. Paul reminds us of the mercy we have already received from God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. When we were dead because of our alienation from God as a result of original sin, we experienced reconciliation and redemption in the waters of baptism through faith in the power of God.

And when we returned to sin afterwards, he reconciled us and forgave us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On the cross Jesus showed us mercy. In legal terms he paid the debt due to our sins; he tore up the bond against us; he removed the barrier between us and God by embracing the cross. For all this and more we should give thanks to God.

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