Pastoral Sharings: "Perseverance in Prayer"

WeeklyMessage Father Alex McAllister SDS
October 20, 2013
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time

It is clear that the main theme of our readings  is perseverance in prayer.

Moses stretched out his hand in the desert and 
the Israelites gained the upper hand in the battle. When 
he drooped through tiredness the Israelites began to lose the battle. Aaron & Hur had to prop his hands up on a rock so that they would not droop.

What a wonderful symbolic way for expressing something that we have all experienced. We go to mass and often enthusiastically take part, at other times however, we droop. We lose interest and sometimes begin to feel despondent about our faith.

We still go to mass but we can’t pray, we sit there depressed but prayer goes on around us. It is as if the others are holding our tired arms up. The tide of prayer which goes on around us carries us along with it. Maybe it takes us a very long time to regain our energy but eventually we get there carried along by the others.

One of the questions associated with today’s readings is that, if we take the gospel story as a straight analogy of God’s dealing with us, why does God not answer our prayer straight away. Why does he so often let things drag on, why does he let horrible and cruel situations go on when we know he has the power to intervene?

Why does God allow suffering to go on for so long when the poor cry out to him for justice? Is he as heartless as the judge in the story who only cares for his own comfort and dispenses justice only when his own peace is being disturbed.

This is one of the most difficult problems that faces us Christians, and we do not have any ready answer.

In my view the best way to tackle this problem is to look at it from another angle. If God is with us all the time then surely he knows our needs better than we do ourselves. We know that he is constantly pouring out his blessings on his beloved even while they sleep. If this is the case, then he already knows all our needs without being told them by us. So what is it that we are doing when we are praying?

Are we asking God to change his mind, to do something that he wouldn’t do anyway? I don’t think so. So then what is our prayer doing? According to me it is opening up the channel of communication between ourselves and God. It is us that is tuning into God’s way of thinking not him being dictated to by us and the way we see things.

When we ask God for something we are showing that we trust him, we are showing that we depend on him. I think that the most important thing is that we are letting him know that we acknowledge that he is already doing so much for us and that he has so much more up his sleeve for us.

What happens then in prayer is not that we are pressing a button on a vending machine hoping to get a bar of chocolate and if we get nothing then keep pressing the button again and again until something eventually does come out.

No, when we pray we open up a dialogue with God and the longer we pray the deeper the dialogue gets. Often we forget what it was we first asked for, because it doesn’t matter anymore, we become caught up in the mysterious ways of God himself. We begin to understand the meaning of some of the suffering and difficulties we are undergoing and we begin to see the hand of God in them.

I think that we need to turn the parable on its head; it is not the judge who gives in to the suppliant woman. If the judge were God, then through the dialogue of prayer which she would embark on it would be her who would change and grow and develop and begin to live a life of love.

Let us look at a marriage and particularly about the mutual support that is an essential element of any good marriage. Think of the relationship with you have with your partner in your marriage as an analogy of your relationship with God.

The important thing in a marriage is to be always communicating with your beloved. We do this in a myriad different ways, actually using words only occasionally. The important thing is not the content of the communication but the fact that there is a constant dialogue going on. This is what keeps the marriage healthy and vibrant. In time we realise that what we are actually saying to each other doesn’t matter very much as long as we are constantly communicating.

It’s like a man going into a shop to buy a pair of shoes and having a lovely chat with the girl behind the counter. He invites her out and leaves the shop elated only to realise later in the day that he forgot to take the shoes with him. Praying for our needs is only the starting point of our relationship with God. There is so much more to it than asking for things.

There is a story about an old Russian peasant who was tramping the long road home on a wintry afternoon when he came across a small bird that had not quite learned to fly properly. The little bird was almost frozen to death, the peasant took pity on it and looked around him. He saw a fresh cow pat and had an idea. He made a hole in the dung and put the bird in it, then pushed the warm dung up around the little bird so that it could slowly thaw out.

A while later another peasant came by, this one saw the bird picked it up and cleaned off the dung and very carefully put it in his inside pocket next to his skin and his own beating heart; it was the warmest place he could find. When he got home he pulled the bird out, plucked it and put it in the pot!

The moral of the story is that it’s not the one who drops you in it who means you the most harm.

Although we often might feel that God has dropped us in it, we know that he has won the victory; we are certain that in due time divine justice will be dispensed. For the outstretched arms of Moses are the outstretched arms of Christ.

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 20, 2013

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 18: 1-8
Gospel Summary

The classic way to stay in touch with God is prayer. Small wonder then that Luke writes so insistently about prayer when he shows us how to accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. Although the ideal prayer for Christians is praise and thanksgiving, there is also a place for prayers of petition, as today’s gospel parable makes quite clear.
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Ask and You Shall Receive- The Gospel of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
I’ve often heard people say that they don’t want to trouble God with their petty needs and concerns.  After all, he has more important things to attend to, like running the universe.
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29th Sunday: Persistence in Prayer
The opening reading and the Gospel reading for this Sunday present the theme of persevering in prayer.  The first is a scene full of adventure. The Gospel reading is humorous.  The message is the same.
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The Church: Rooted in Apostles; Looking Toward Future
After considering the unity, holiness and catholicity of the Church, as defined by the Creed, the Holy Father today addressed her apostolic nature. During the catechesis of the Pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, he stated that “to profess that the Church is apostolic means underlining her constitutive bond with the Apostles, with that small group of twelve men whom Jesus called to Him by name one day, to ask them to stay with Him and to send them to preach. Indeed, ‘apostle’ is a Greek word meaning ‘messenger’, ‘envoy’.
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Mary, Mother of God
The most common objection I get to Mary as Mother of God, especially from Fundamentalists, but not limited to them, is, “The words ‘Mother of God’ are nowhere to be found in the Bible. Therefore, I will not accept it as true.”

This line of reasoning fails in dramatic fashion when carried to its logical conclusion when we consider the central mystery of the Christian Faith, the Trinity, is not found in Scripture verbatim as well.
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Remembering Blessed John Paul II’s Devotion to the Rosary
As today, October 16th, marks the 35th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s election and October is the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary, it’s a fitting moment to recall his devotion to the Marian prayer and his much loved apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary).

Promulgated exactly 11 years ago, John Paul made a special point of underlining the importance of the Marian prayer in response to the many crises affecting the world, in particular the need to implore God for the gift of peace, and to protect the family.
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Pope: Guard against deceit of the devil
Christians must always guard against the deceit of the devil, said Pope Francis at Friday’s morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta. The Pope underlined that Christians cannot follow the victory of Jesus over evil “halfway”, nor confuse or relativize truth in the battle against the devil.
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Fear of the Lord: Servile (Bad) or Loving (Good)
The last of the sanctifying gifts given in the sacrament of confirmation is the fear of the Lord. It’s a gift that, these days, often tends to inspire, well, fear. And not the good kind.

“There’s a good kind of fear?” asks the average postmodern.

Yep — and there’s a bad kind, too. And the odds are pretty good that when it comes to fear and God, most people, including an awful lot of believers, are imagining God wants us to live in the bad kind of fear.
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Married Life: A Path to Heaven – What is Marriage?: Part VII
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh and final in a series of articles to explore the American Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.” Read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here, Part V here, and Part VI here.

“He who loves his wife, loves himself, for no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church” (Eph 4:28-29).
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Final Lap in the Year of Faith
The Year of Faith will terminate on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov.24.  As it comes to a close, we should remember that this ought be a year of graces and blessings for not merely the whole world, but for all of us individually.
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Is Anger Always a Sin?
Some one wrote in the following question:

How would you respond to a someone who (in Zen like fashion) states that anger is always counterproductive? Is anger always a sin?

The simple answer is “No, anger is not always a sin.” In fact, in some situations anger is the appropriate response. If anger were always a sin, the Jesus never got the memo since he displays quite a lot of anger in the Gospels. We’ll look at that in a moment.
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Why do Catholics Practice Fast and Abstinence?
Our bookstores are filled with books written to help us advance in prayer and the spiritual life. The “secret” we all look for is really no secret at all.  At its heart, the gospel message is one of self-denial and detachment from all things that are obstacles to our growth.  Jesus tells us that if we are to be his disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him (cf. Matthew 16:24). That is why Catholics practice fast and abstinence as a form of self-denial intended to lead us to perfection. So stick with me here and learn how self-denial will satisfy your deepest hunger.
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How Can I Forgive When I Can’t Forget?
While many people believe forgetting an injury is part of forgiveness, Fr. Justin Waltz, pastor of St. Leo’s Church in Minot, ND, suggested just the opposite. In fact, he stated that forgetting is not even possible. “The only type of forgetting I have heard of is stuffing,” he said during a retreat presentation and added, “The hurt is not gone, it is just buried deep within.”

Since forgetting is not an option given our memories, Waltz said that God has provided an even better remedy—the divine transformation of a resurrection within our souls. He pointed out that Christ himself retained the wounds of his crucifixion. “Had he wanted to, Jesus could have healed his body so completely that even the scars did not exist,” he explained. “Christ is not ashamed of these scars, rather he wears them as his testament to his victory over sin and death.”
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On humility in prayer
I, perhaps like you, have to see folks I love and care about through some difficult periods in their life. One neighbor and parishioner just lost her eight year old daughter to cancer. A number of parishioners are seeking work and praying daily for it, but no work offers seem forth-coming. Still others cry out for the alleviation of any number of different crosses. I too have lots of things for which I pray, and sometimes I get discouraged or even angry when God seems to say, “no” or, “wait.”
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Lesson One in Prayer
Let’s get very, very basic and very, very practical about prayer. The single most important piece of advice I know about prayer is also the simplest: Just do it!

How to do it is less important than just doing it. Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.
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Standing Naked Before God
Pope Francis visited the room where St. Francis famously stripped naked to renounce all and follow Jesus Christ. The new Pope is known for dramatic gestures himself, and some Catholics were wondering whether he might follow St. Francis’s example and strip off his clothes.

That would have been a soutane too far, but Pope Francis referred to St. Francis’s prophetic gestures by saying that we need to strip away all our attachments to worldly vanity, materialism, and greed.
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Longing for the Face of God – Navigating the Interior Life – Part IV of IV
In our first post of this series we covered an introduction to the concept of the three ways of the interior life. In part II and part III we covered the first and second of the three ways. In this post we will finalize our exploration of the ways. Before we jump into this final post and close out this series, I want to provide one last opportunity for you to join an online interactive webinar on this topic that I will provide on the evening of November 1st. To learn more and to REGISTER, click HERE.
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Holiness is more than being “Nice.”
We live in a time that has tended to reduce holiness to merely being nice and agreeable. In this manner of thinking holiness tends to be variously thought of as: getting along well with everyone, being kind, agreeable, helpful, likable, generous, pleasant, mild mannered, amiable, good humored, middle of the road, even tempered, placid, benevolent, friendly, forbearing, tolerant, thoughtful, and the like. It can all be summed up by saying that “so-and-so” is “basically a nice person.” And thus the goal seems more to be nice than holy.
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3 Tips for the Rosary Challenged
I have a love-hate relationship with the rosary. In fact, I consider myself Rosary Challenged.
 
I used to think that being Rosary Challenged was a legitimate reason for not praying the rosary. “It’s just not the devotion for me,” I’d think, after another unsuccessful run at trying to pray it regularly. “I’ll try [insert any other devotion] instead.”
 
Inevitably, after weeks or months or, in one case, years, I would find myself feeling a loud, unmistakable call to pray the rosary.
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Question About Fatima and Hell
A reader writes:

One issue I keep struggling with has to do with one of the Fatima message: “many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.”

Why would an all loving and merciful God let souls be lost forever because of the lack of charity from others?

I realize God wants to share the credit for salvation with everyone of us, but to let souls go to Hell because of our inaction is difficult for me to reconcile with God’s infinite love for all souls.
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Why I Hate “Faith Alone”
Expounding on the importance of our actions for salvation is, I suppose, my primary “thing.” I have been in so many informal debates over the issue that I have started to lose count of them. I have written about the topic many times. And often, I become angry (like God in 1 Kings 11:9-10) at the mere thought of sola fide (“faith alone”), because I know that it is completely contrary to “what the Lord [has] commanded.” But why?
 
“Faith alone” was, without a doubt, the primary reason that I left Protestantism. Even though I was ill-educated in theology at the time, I knew that it was illogical.
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49 Questions on the Sacrament of Confession
Baltimore Catechism No. 3 – Lesson 19

LESSON NINETEENTH: On Confession

Q. 776. What is Confession?

A. Confession is the telling of our sins to a duly authorized priest, for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness.

Q. 777. Who is a duly authorized priest?

A. A duly authorized priest is one sent to hear confessions by the lawful bishop of the diocese in which we are at the time of our confession.
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Scrupulosity: A Little Bit of Hell
Do you never feel forgiven no matter how many times you confess your sins?

Do you obsess over blasphemous thoughts that invade your mind against your will?

Do you agonize about whether or not something you’ve done is sinful, even when other faithful Catholics and even your priest assure you that it’s not?

Is your conscience so hyper-sensitive that you cannot find peace with God?
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Gain the Courage to Evangelize
We are called to witness. Every baptized Catholic must share the Gospel message with others. Yes, even those who are afraid of public speaking are called to bear witness to the joy of living a life for Christ.

Before you dismiss the Great Commission, before you tell yourself that the mandate to give witness to the faith is only for those who like to stand up in public and hold a microphone, you need to know something.

We are all afraid of public speaking
…more
 
                                      SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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