Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23, (R/. 7a); 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Luke 18:9-14
“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds,” Sirach teaches. Indeed, it touches God’s heart. The prayer of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable certainly does not fall into this category. It is not necessarily a bad prayer, as the Pharisee stands before God, expressing gratitude for God’s many blessings. But notice the frequency of “I… I… I… I,” in contrast to the simple prayer of the tax collector, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus concludes by saying, “The latter went home justified.” To be justified is to be in right relationship with God. Recognizing our need for God’s mercy and asking for it puts us in right relationship with God.
Luke offers many prayers in his Gospel: the Canticle of Mary (the Magnificat), “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…” (1:46-55); the Canticle of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist (the Benedictus), “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel…” (1:68-79); the Canticle of Simeon in the Temple when he takes in his arms the Christ Child (the Nunc dimittis), “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace…” (2:29-32), and the Our Father. Each recognizes God’s mercy, God’s loving-kindness. Each calls us to bow our heads humbly before God.
How have you known God’s loving-kindness this week?
Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 (R/. cf. 2); 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2; Hebrews 4:12; Luke 18:1-8
“Persistence pays off,” proclaims today’s parable, one Jesus tells with some humor. Even though widows were among the most powerless people in the ancient world, here we have a widow who makes a judge cower, a judge described as having no fear of God or anyone else. The judge himself says that the only reason he finally decides in the widow’s favor is that he fears she might come and haul off and strike him. The story would have gotten a laugh in Luke’s community, not only for its incongruity, but possibly because some of his listeners would be able to think of someone in their own family like this widow. Maybe you can as well?
Jesus encourages us to be like this widow and persevere in our prayer, not to give up calling on God. We can help one another here, just as Aaron and Hur helped Moses to keep praying by holding up his arms. When we come to mass, we help one another to persist in prayer by praying together in word and song. By our very presence we “hold up the arms” of others, as they do for us.
Who in your life needs your support to keep praying?
2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 (R/. cf. 2b); 2 Timothy 2:8-13; 1 Thessolonians5:18; Luke 17:11-19
It is a shame we only hear the ending of the story about Naaman, the foreign general with leprosy whom Elisha the prophet heals. When the prophet sends word to jump in the river seven times, Naaman is incensed. “The Jordan! The Jordan?” he mutters. But, after some prodding, Naaman trusts in the prophet’s words as God’s word. Result: skin like a baby’s! Believing that a God could only work on his own turf, Naaman asks for two mule-loads of earth so he may worship Israel’s God after returning home.
Trusting in the word of Jesus brings about the cure of ten lepers. Only the Samaritan returns to day thank you. Notice that he begins by falling on his knees before Jesus, signaling that he recognizes God at work in Jesus.
In both of these readings, faith reveals itself as trust and obedience to God’s word. Paul reminds us that this word cannot be chained, held down to any one place or time, but it will work its way in the world and in the lives of those who listen for it, and then respond wholeheartedly.
How has God’s word brought healing in your life?
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; 1 Peter 1:25; Luke 17:5-10
All three readings focus our attention on the gift of faith and the strength it brings. After Habakkuk cries out to the Lord for help in the face of violence, ruin, destruction, and misery, the Lord responds by sending a vision and then calling him to wait patiently for its realization. “The just one, because of his faith, shall live,” the Lord concludes. Faith brings life.
Paul writes to his timid protégé Timothy, encouraging him to “stir into flame the gift of God,” a spirit of courage, energy, and action. This gift is rooted, Paul assures Timothy, in the faith that lived in his mother and grandmother and now lives in him. This gift will help him remain faithful to the gospel.
Jesus tells us how we get faith – by asking, and we do not need much of it to get results. Luke tones down Matthew’s moving a mountain to his own moving a mulberry tree. Then Jesus tells us how faith should flow into life: by our willingness to serve him in others. In short, ask for it, and then act on it.
How “on fire” is your faith? What can you do to get faith?