Sunday, 20 October 2013

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Shaftesbury

Lk 18:1-8; Ex 17:8-13; Ps 120
Who do we turn to when we have problems?
Mum? Dad? A trusted friend? Ourselves?
Today's first reading and gospel remind us that we should turn to God, especially in prayer, when we have problems. In our first reading we heard how the Chosen People were in peril in battle against the fearsome Amalakites, but then prayer of Moses was powerful enabling them to triumph.
Our gospel text, however, closed with what might seem a puzzling text, with the Lord Jesus suddenly talking about the End of the World. To make sense of that, we need to know the verses that preceded this section: It describes Jesus warning His disciples about the trials and tribulations that will come at the end of time.
And, how then are they to behave in the build up to that time? That is the question today's Gospel text addresses: in the midst of those trials, they are to pray continually and not lose heart.
So, when the Lord closes this passage by lamenting that few people will actually respond with faith when the Son of Man comes, it's a tragic comment that even in the midst of difficulties, even when it should be all the clearer to us that we need to pray and call on God's help rather than feebly replying on our own strength, EVEN THEN few people will respond in prayer.

For example, if I've had a tough week this week, at what stage did I bring that to God in prayer? Did I wait till I'd sorted the problem, wait till I had 'time' for God, and only then come to Him?

I was thinking about this from another angle this week, reading a newspaper article about the declining living standards in Britain. It was something that some old school friends and I talked about when we were at our annual get-together (about half a dozen of us met up once a year), the hard fact that our living standards will be less than those enjoyed by our parents: only being able to afford to live in smaller houses than an older generation when houses were cheaper; higher fuel costs, and so forth –I know that I’m cushioned from much of this myself because I live in the Church’s property, and don’t pay the fuel bills.
But I also know that such worries beset many members of this congregation.

Well, at what stage do we turn TO GOD in our worries? Do we only 'find time for God' when things are sorted already? Do we only get to Sunday Mass when life is easy and steady and we 'have the time'?
Or, do we turn to Him 'constantly, and never lose heart' (Lk 18:1) -as we heard Him say in today's Gospel text.

The point is this: we NEED God ALL the time, and we must pray to Him continually, and go to Mass each and EVERY Sunday.
The danger is that we live as if we were, by behaviour, functional atheists: we live as if God didn't really exist, as if we didn't really depend on Him, as if whatever we do in our problems (and we ALWAYS have problems in 'this vale of tears') depends on us rather than depends on HIM!

To close by returning to our Lord's point in the gospel: even at the End of the World, even when the trials and catastrophes that accompany it are falling down, even then people will be failing to turn to Him in their need, 'When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?'(Lk 18:8)
Yet, He is worth having us put our faith in Him. He is kind, and caring, and listening, and, if we bring Him our needs, then, as we heard the Lord promise, "He will have justice done for [us], and done speedily" (Lk 18:8).

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