Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Times

July 24, 2016

Father Stéphane Pouliot

Our Lord Jesus has a special message for us today about prayer.  The Church, whom He has founded, is His ally in arranging the Scripture selections we just heard today, so He can teach us what we need to learn from Him.

Right off the bat, there are three things I wish to convey.  First, what does the story of Abraham interceding for the salvation of the inhabitants of Sodom have to do with prayer?  What does it teach us about the attitude, the mentality we should bring to prayer?  How does God want us to approach Him?  How does He see us and what attitude does the Lord particularly like us to display when we pray to Him?

Secondly, Jesus told us today the story of a man who arrived inconveniently at an indecent hour to knock on a friend’s door asking for a loaf of bread in order to feed his guest.  What does this story teach us about prayer?

Thirdly, I wish to answer our problem with unanswered prayers despite us persevering for years in sending them God’s way.

Let us begin with the story of Abraham interceding for the salvation of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham is a friend of God.  The tone of Abraham’s plea is that of one who has an awesome respect, reverence and awe for His Divine Friend, but who nevertheless addresses Him with boldness and familiarity.

Abraham’s attitude is the kind of attitude we have with our best friends: willing to push their boundaries, because we trust that our friendship can survive straight up talk.

Look at Abraham’s way of transitioning from saving fifty people, and negotiating a deal for forty-five.  He minimizes the potential difference of opinion he has with God by highlighting a difference of only five people.  It is the kind of negotiation you have with a friend who know you well and is able to handle your gutsy challenge.

Abraham does have a purpose in negotiating with God: he wishes to save from destruction his nephew Lot who lives in those towns, Lot’s wife, their daughters, and their daughters’ husbands: all in all six people.  But notice that Abraham does not barter all the way to six, but stops at ten.  There lies the beauty of Abraham’s heart for the lost, which exceeds his immediate concern for his extended family, while including it.

God wishes us to consider Him a friend, and therefore speak to Him as a friend, never forgetting that He is above us, but wishes to be with us.  God loves gutsy prayers, where we are not afraid to reveal to Him how we really feel about something, since we know that He wishes to help us and awaits our permission to let Him bless us.

The second point I wish to discuss has to do with this story of a man who shows up at an uncivilized hour at his friend’s house to get a loaf of bread for a passing guest who is hungry.  I have heard that good etiquette usually implies no phone calls or visits after nine at night, and yet here is the guy, showing up at midnight, to get enough bread to make sandwiches for his friend.  Jesus even hints that we are to identify ourselves to the man showing up unannounced, not taking no for an answer.  Let us imagine the scene in our world today.

Here we are, trying to get into the building of our friend, but not being buzzed through via the intercom.  Our friend has put all his kids to bed, and is already sleeping under the covers, finally having rocked the baby to sleep.  Bam, we ring the door bell, the baby wakes up, and we are surprised to find our friend in a bad mood?  Having been put into our place, we ring the doorbell a second, then a third time, and when being ignored, call the cell phone of our friend, and if that does not work, message him on Facebook.  Half an hour later, our angry friend has given us what we wanted: he must sleep, and we needed a loaf of bread.  We get what we came for, because we would not give up and our friend realized that at last.

The implication is clear: God wants us never to give up on praying, because if dysfunctional dads know how to give good things to their children, our Heavenly Father who was never not a Dad, is the perfect dad who always delight in us and wishes us to give us the best gift of all: the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to pray.

 

It is here helpful to appreciate that God does not pay attention to us because we behave, but rather because we are His kids and He loves us.

Here we come at last to the final section of this homily.  “If what you said is true Father…”, you might tell me, “… why is it that I have been praying for so long, maybe decades, and still God ignores my prayer?”  The Gospel of today gives us the answer.

“Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2), Jesus taught us to pray.  When praying, we must adopt Jesus’ standard, and therefore, we cannot just focus on what we want, because it may not be what we need.

Would it not be good for us to ask Jesus regularly: “What do you want me to do Jesus here?  What do you think about this?  Do I really need this Jesus?”

Some people ask Jesus for prosperity, and since they are already mismanaging their money, how would they be doing if they had more?  Some have what they need, and do not share it.  What would happen if they had even more of what they don’t need?

If we ask our Heavenly Father to give us the wrong thing, isn’t it like asking our dad to give us a snake instead of a fish, and a scorpion instead of an egg?  Is it any wonder then that our prayers go unanswered since God is a Good Father, the Best Father Ever?

Sometimes we think that the other person is the problem, and Jesus tells us that the problem either lies with us, or lies with both of us.  So, we will say to Jesus that we will change only if our spouse, child, friend, roommate, boyfriend or girlfriend, boss or co-worker changes first.  But it does not work that way.

Jesus also teaches us to pray: “… forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).  In plain English, it means: “Treat me Lord the same way as I treat others.”  Ouch.  Let us think about this one.  In other words, if we treat others harshly, without mercy, we are asking God to treat us harshly, and mercilessly.  Do we want to reconsider what we may be doing to others now?

Here is now one final take on this Gospel as far as unanswered prayers.

We ask the Lord to take over something which we cannot handle.  We are not as soon finished completing that prayer, and we have already made a list of how we will fix it, in case the Lord does not come through or does not do it our way.  Can we leave it alone?  God is saying to us: “You want me to take it over.  Then let me help you.  Stand back.  Watch me work.  Give me time.  Free will is hard to handle.  This is a difficult conversation you are asking me to give you the right words to say, therefore can you give me an hour to teach them to you?”

Or: “This is a difficult appointment you are preparing, can you give me a week to do what must be done to prepare your heart and hers?”

Or: “This is a difficult relationship you are dealing with, can you give me a month to bring you both back down from your mountains of pride?”

Or: “What you just asked me is border line impossible, can you give me a year, and not interfere with my work?”

Let us pray that we may put into practice the lessons of prayer the Lord just taught us this Sunday.

 



The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.
PROCEDURAL NORMS FOR
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Brevity
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.