Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time | Homily at St. Jude Catholic Church
Prayer. It’s probably the most important thing that we do as Christians. We hear throughout Scripture to pray always, to turn to the Lord in our need, to cry out “Abba, Father.” And yet, so many of us don’t really know how to pray. We don’t know how to turn to the Lord, share our hearts with Him, and ask Him to be with us always. Our readings today give us a kind of blueprint to prayer. They give us examples of what prayer could look like and how we should not only bring the Lord our requests but ask Him to grant the needs of others as well.
In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, the Lord sends angels to Abraham to confirm that Sodom and Gomorrah are as bad as he has heard. And he knows what that means, he knows what the Lord will do to that place and those people in response. It means that they will be totally annihilated. What is Abraham’s response? Prayer – having a conversation with the Lord.
In that conversation, the Lord says that He has heard the outcry over Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, He has heard the many prayers that have already been lifted about the evil taking place there. Who knows what those prayers were or who was lifting them? But, nonetheless, the Lord has heard them. Abraham adds to those prayers. For him though, he had a vested interest in what he was asking of the Lord.
Abraham’s nephew Lot lived in Sodom and Gomorrah. He knew that his nephew was a good man, that he was faithful and followed the commands of the Lord. Because of that, Abraham feared that Lot and his family would be wiped out along with those who were committing these evil and wicked acts. So Abraham asks the Lord for mercy toward the good men and women being struck down with wicked ones. He questions whether the Lord will do the just thing or not and he is persistent with those questions.
Through it all, the Lord is patient with Abraham; He listens to his request, but also says He will spare the city if good people are still there. The Lord is as good as His word, but He doesn’t spare the city. Instead, what does He do? He rescues Lot and his family before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah.
In a sense, Abraham’s prayers seem not to be answered. But ultimately what is at issue here is that the Lord knew what Abraham was really asking. The Lord knew that Abraham was truly concerned about his nephew surviving the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And so, in actuality, Abraham’s prayers were answered. The Lord was able to see deeper into what Abraham requesting.
Abraham’s example not only shows us the importance of intercessory prayer – praying for the needs of others – but it also shows us something much more poignant. It shows us that the Lord knows our hearts. He knows our deepest desires, He knows the thoughts on our minds, He knows what is most important to our souls. And He wants to give us those things, He wants to meet us in that place. He knows what we truly need before we even ask Him for it. But we have to turn to Him. He wants us to turn to Him. Why? Because He is our Father.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives us the ultimate example to follow in prayer. He shows us what true intimacy and connection with the Father looks like. The disciples see Jesus praying and something about the interaction between Him and the Father puts a desire on the hearts of Jesus’ closest followers. They were deeply moved by witnessing that interaction and they wanted that for themselves. That’s something I think all of us can relate to.
Deep down, all of us have a desire for God on our hearts. We all want to be in relationship with Him. We all want to experience that intimacy that Jesus shows us. We aren’t the only ones that desire that though. The Lord desires it as well. Intimacy with us is the deepest desire of His heart. And yet, that can only happen if we put in the work; that can only happen if we meet Him halfway.
The Lord desires for us to give Him our hearts. He does everything He can to stir up that desire within us. He constantly surrounds us with beauty – in nature, in culture, in other created beings. A beauty that points toward Him. He sent us His Son to be our Savior, to bring us the greatest gift – salvation. And He sends Him over and over again in the Eucharist to remind us of that gift. He also gives us the Church that walks with us on our journeys of faith and guides us, together with the Holy Spirit, along that path toward Heaven. He does all of this and much more just to try to reach us. The Lord will settle for nothing less than relationship with us. All we have to do is respond.
This week, I encourage each of us to respond to the Lord’s invitation to deeper relationship. Start by saying a simple prayer in the morning when you first wake up. Ask Him to send the Holy Spirit to guide you throughout the day. Thank Him for the gift of another day. Instead of binging your favorite series on Netflix, open the Bible that is collecting dust on your table or bookshelf. Pray with Scripture. Take in the Words that He speaks in the daily readings. Share your heart with Him throughout the day. If there is something you’re struggling with, tell Him. If there is something that made you laugh, thank Him for that gift, a gift that filled your heart with so much joy.
Prayer doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be something that is so complex. It’s a conversation with the Lord, just as you would have a conversation with your best friend. All we have to do is put in the effort. May we all start to do that today.