Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

posted Jul 23, 2016, 12:48 PM by Church Office   [ updated Jul 23, 2016, 12:48 PM by Michelle Massung ]

A man walks into a bar and says to the bartender, teach me how to pray.  The bartender replies, why me?  There are several good pastors here in Philipsburg and I am sure any one of them could help you to learn how to pray.  All I do each day is stand here and listen to all my customers as they tell me about their problems and what is bothering them.  The man replied that’s exactly what I need to learn, to be a better listener so I can pray better.

            Prayer is simply communicating with God and the goal of all prayer should be to grow closer to God.  Those of you that are married or in a serious relationship know the importance of communication in that relationship.  Communication allows a person to express their feelings, emotions, concerns, joys, and sorrows. Without open and free communication on a consistent basis, the relationship will start to deteriorate and may eventually dissolve completely. 

            Our relationship with God, especially with Jesus needs the same level of communication. And this type of prayer is more conversational in nature much like the conversation that Abraham is having with God in the first reading.  To some, this conversation may seem a little comical, or to some, pretty bold on the part of Abraham, trying to negotiate with God.  Imagine the nerve of him trying to negotiate with God.  Yet we are called to communicate with God in a similar manner that we communicate with our spouses or significant friends.  He wants us to bring our joys, triumphs, cares, concerns, requests, and our emotions to him in a similar manner.  This is the easiest way to develop a personal relationship with Jesus, to talk to him, like you would a close friend. 

            In the Gospel, Jesus encourages us to ask for what we need, our daily bread, and not so much for what we want. Too often, we get caught up in our wants instead of our needs.  I think our lives would be simpler if our needs and the needs of others were the focus of our lives and not so much on our wants. Jesus then asks us to forgive others as God forgives us. This forgiveness on our part is the fundamental action in showing that we love our neighbor because forgiving them may be the hardest thing for us to do.  Lastly, he tells us to ask not to be put to the test.  Now, how many of you think that all the trials and tribulations you are going through are a test from God of your faithfulness to him?  Stop thinking that way!  It states here in the Gospel that we should not be put to the final test. 

            A few years ago, I read a book by Ronald Rohlheiser called the Holy Longing and in this book, Fr. Rohlheiser talks about how God answers our prayers.  His idea is that when we ask God to grant us something in prayer, such as healing someone that is sick, or for someone to get a job or for relief from financial difficulty, we need to help God answer our prayers, or in his words, we need to put some skin in our prayers.  For instance, if my sister-in-law Melene is sick and I pray that God heals her, yet I do not call her or visit her to bring her some peace and comfort, I am not truly helping God to answer my prayer.  Or if a friend needs a job, and I pray to God for them to attain employment, but don’t take the time to meet with them to discuss job possibilities for them in the area, then I am not helping God to answer my prayers.

            God wants us to talk to him just like we talk to a loved one or a friend. He wants us to communicate with our hearts as much as with our heads. He wants to be engaged in our lives on a consistent and active basis so that our relationship develops more fully. Prayer is sharing our life with God and not to compartmentalize God into the one hour time slot on Sunday.  We don’t do that with our friends or loved ones and we shouldn’t do it with God. This week, I encourage you to have some heartfelt conversations with Jesus just like you would with a friend.  In this way, your relationship with Jesus will grow into the loving friendship we all desire.