Monday, July 26, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Reflections on the Readings
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 25, 2010 - Year C
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis Hankins
I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. - Jesus
It is a mystery of prayer I learned in the Pentecostal Church; the Church of my youth. Today's readings emphasize this mystery as well, namely, you are not through praying until you have prayed through.
Importunity. Persistence. Abraham persisted, interceding for the people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; cities facing certain judgment for the gravity of sin approved there. Abraham starts his prayer with the hope that there are at least fifty righteous. Abraham presses the Lord to spare the twin cities of great evil for the sake of that sanctified fifty. The Lord agrees to spare the cities for the sake of fifty righteous.
It is one of the most dramatic scenes of prayer recorded in Scripture. The tension mounts as Abraham changes his request just in case there are only forty-five righteous. Then again if there are only forty, then thirty, then twenty. Every time I read this passage, I keep hoping the ending will change. I find myself wanting to whisper in Abraham's ear, "Keep asking!"
Then the final request. "Lord. Will you spare the cities if you only find ten righteous living there?" The Lord replies, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it."
We know the end of the story. There were not ten righteous.
But how instructive is Abraham's concern, heart felt hope and persistent intercession on behalf of the cities of the plain. We are a people, buried with Christ in our baptism. How much more should we who are heirs of the faith of Abraham, learn how to pray through. Raised with Christ in his resurrection, how much more might we understand this mystery of prayer. Pressing. Persisting. Not concluding our prayer until having prayed through.
Much like the woman with the issue of blood who presses through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus' garment. Or how about the blind man on the side of the road, not allowing the crowd to shut him up, as he cries out Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me?" Then there is the Canaanite woman seeking out Jesus for her demon possessed daughter. She responds to Jesus' mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel by saying, "Yet even we dogs will be satisfied with the crumbs that fall from the masters' table." O such great, persistent, pressing faith.
Jesus underscores the meaning of the mystery of prayer I'm discussing. Ask. Seek. Knock. A friend will open the store, not because his friend is knocking but because his friend will not leave without the bread he came for. Fathers give good gifts to their children. They put bread and fish on the family table.
And your heavenly Father, well, your heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! If we will but ask for this divine life, it will be given to us. If we will but seek for the divine life, we will find it. If we will but knock on heaven's door, we will find a welcome into the life and friendship of the Spirit.
Praying until. Praying through. Not through praying until praying through. Always finding more than we could ask for. Discovering more than we could have expected. Pressing into another height of spiritual life.
I remember my Mother being ill when I was a young boy. I'm not sure what it was, but I think she had a miscarriage. She was not feeling well, but she prayed. And an act of that prayer was a letter she wrote to a ministry of prayer asking for prayer for herself.
She handed me the letter with instructions not to do anything other than go straight to the Post Office and drop that letter in the mail box. I still remember the feeling that I was on an important mission. By the time I got back from the Post Office, mother was already feeling better. She asked me about what time I had dropped it into the mail box. I still remember the fact that the mail schedule for the day was past. The letter wouldn't even go anywhere until the next day.
Looking back, I understand it was her way of praying through.
Let us pray: Dear Father of mercies, look upon all of your children who are in prayer. Hear their prayers, and answer them from heaven according to what is best for them and for those for whom they pray. We make our prayers through the power of the Spirit in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Reflections on the Readings
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 4, 2010, Year C
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins
A New Evangelization - A New Pentecost
And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." - Jesus
"As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ's Kingdom, descend on all present" - Pope Benedict XVI, Papal Visit to the United States, April 19, 2008
Many recent Popes have exhorted the Church to embrace its calling to evangelize.(Blessed John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI) John Paul II spoke of a 'new springtime' in the Church. Both he and Benedict the XVI speak of a new Evangelization - a new Pentecost, interchangeably. And Blessed John XXIII convened Vatican II, seeing in it an opportunity for the Church to pray for and experience a new Pentecost.
Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in our Time) explains, "The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself." This connection to constant renewal in the Church is addressed by Pope John Paul II in Catechesi Tradendae. (On Catechesis in our Time) Here John Paul II speaks of the need to not only catechize but evangelize the faithful. Concerned about this His Holiness states, "A certain number of children baptized in infancy come for catechesis in the parish without receiving any other initiation into the faith and still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ"
There is left untapped, untouched, unevangelized, a great reservoir of faith in many of the faithful; it is a field ready for harvest. Some call this the under evangelized. Many do not know how to release the presence of Christ, to evangelize, because they do not personally know the presence of Christ.
Jesus sent out the seventy-two to evangelize; to heal the sick and preach the kingdom of God. Upon their return they exclaimed that even the demons were cast out in Jesus' name. Indeed, Jesus saw in their mission Satan's downfall, explaining, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." But Jesus invites not joy over exorcisms, but joy, great joy, "That your names are written in heaven."
Is yours? How about your children's names, are they written down in heaven? The neighbor or the coworker, do they even know that your are a Christian?
Paul's consuming work was to evangelize; to make Jesus known. Having met Jesus rather dramatically himself, Paul boasted in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Finding all of his life and destiny in the Christ of the cross he preached, the world, that is its passions and its idolatry held no attraction for him.
Jesus stopped Paul on his journey to persecute Christians. A great light shined upon Paul and falling from his horse while traveling on the Damascus Road, Satan's hold on his life fell also. And Paul's name was written down in heaven and the Church was never the same.
This past week, Pope Benedict XVI announced a new dicastery for the New Evangelization. Our Pope believes it is time to re-propose the faith, the truth of the Gospel. He wants the Church, especially in Europe and North America to be reawakened; a Church that is called to be salt and light to the world.
Indeed, the harvest is ready - a new Evangelization - a new Pentecost is at hand. Let us pray that we may be used to reach the world in this new outpouring of grace. Amen.