Homily – Fr. James Conner – Prayer – 10/20/19

29th Sunday of Year – Cycle C

The readings today speak to us about the importance and necessity of prayer. Like Moses, we are to pray for the needs of the world. But his arms grew tired, and so he was assisted by Aaron and Hur who supported his arms raised in prayer. Our vocation as monks is also to support the active arms of those who minister to the needs of the People of God. Our vocation is one of prayer. Like the widow in the gospel, we are called to  trust in God for all of our needs. She persevered in asking for justice, and was finally heard. However it was not her repeated asking that was granted, but her continued humbling of herself before the unjust judge. Each time she came back was a further demeaning of herself before the judge. Our prayer is made to a Just Judge who is ready to hear us. But he grants our request only when we have true faith.

The gospel ends with a sentence which might seem not to follow from the parable. And yet in fact it is the key to all that was said. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Like Christ on the Cross, faith is that total abasement of ourselves before God. In a sermon, Meister Eckhart speaks of the danger of seeing prayer as something which we DO, which is heard by God and granted. Such prayer he calls that of the businessman. He does his good work in order to receive the goods that he needs. But prayer is not a business transaction. It is simply our self abasement before God in faith alone.

Even the prayer of Jesus was granted only when he had totally abased himself before the Father by hanging on the cross. His arms were held raised, not by other people, but only by the nails of the cross. And in that total self abasement before the Father, he gained a hearing for all of us before God.

We are called to follow in his path. As Paul says in the second reading, “remain faithful in what you have learned, because you know from whom you learned it.”  We have learned the lesson from Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross, and yet in that total emptiness He was heard and we have been saved. Hence Paul also reminds us to “have that mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.

Prayer, then, is that emptying of our self before God with total trust in His mercy because the prayer of Jesus on the cross was heard, and we have been saved – not by what we do of ourselves, but by what He has done for us. This is the faith which God will look for when the Son of Man comes. It is a faith which must be activated each day and each moment of our life. It is such faith, such total surrender of ourselves to God, which will open the way that God “will see to it that justice is done for all speedily”.

In celebrating this Eucharist we are called to enter into that mind and heart of Christ Jesus as He renews His offering of Himself and of all of us to the Father. Like the poor widow in the gospel and like Christ Himself on the Cross, we are to come before the Lord with total surrender, total faith in His prayer for us and for all the world, knowing that we will be heard by the Just Judge so long as we come before Him with full awareness of our poverty, our emptiness before God, that He may fill that emptiness for ourselves and for the whole world.