Monday, October 18, 2010

Prayer is Omnipotent, Sermon of October 17th

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
October 17th, 2010
Luke 18:1-8, The parable of the widow and the dishonest judge

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

In heaven or on earth, there is nothing more powerful than prayer. In all the created order, there is nothing more powerful than prayer; and so there is nothing more necessary than prayer. I took occasion in a homily this past summer to mention this fundamental point of the spiritual life; but, in light of our Lord’s exhortation that we should persevere in prayer, we must once again re-affirm the true power of prayer.
As I have meditated on prayer over the past months, I have realized that it is not enough simply to affirm that prayer is all-powerful – what is more, everything else has power only because prayer has power. Everything else makes a difference only because prayer makes a difference. Ultimately, we must affirm that only prayer really makes a difference – and that all else depends upon prayer.

Does this seem a bit too pious and devotional for you, a bit sentimental? Perhaps it is pious (and there is nothing wrong with being pious) but I assure you that true prayer is not the least bit sentimental. True prayer has nothing to do with sentimentality. Prayer is not some warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Consider our reading from Exodus – by the prayer of Moses the Israelites mowed down Amelek and his soldiers by the edge of the sword. By the power of prayer, the sons of Israel destroyed nations, annihilated peoples and, ultimately, took possession of the Promised Land. There is nothing sentimental here. This does not give rise to a warm fuzzy feeling. I would dare say that prayer is dangerous, prayer is violent – for the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent bare it away!
Perhaps we need an example a bit closer to our own day. Consider, then, the great and immense power of the Rosary. On October 7th, we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formally known as Our Lady of Victory – it is the commemoration of how the prayer of the Rosary saved Christendom from Muslim onslaught in the 18th Century.
Or again, consider how Russia was converted and Communism destroyed…all through the power of prayer – just as our Lady had promised at Fatima, she was victorious through the Rosary! No, let us never doubt the power of prayer.

Yet we might wonder why our prayers do not often have such visible effects. Ordinarily, prayer is hidden. Still, I hope that you all have seen (in either small miracles or large) the effects of prayer in your own life. Nevertheless, it is true, prayer is generally invisible.
Two weeks ago, our Savior told us that faith can move mountains, and so we may wonder why it is that mountains are generally rather stationary. Some will say that the Lord was speaking in a hyperbole here, they will say that he was exaggerating. I say that it is not an overstatement at all, but an understatement. Prayer is far too powerful a reality to be wasted on something so small as moving a mountain. Even human powers can move mountains – at least we can mine into them and harvest their resources – and even human powers can uproot trees and plant them in the sea; but only prayer can move hearts, only prayer can uproot a soul from a life of sin and plant it firmly in salvation!

Do not think that merely because prayer is hidden, it is weak. After all, the most powerful beings in the created order are invisible and hidden – I speak here of the angels. They are invisible, and yet they are far more powerful than the whole of the material world. Think also of the human soul – though invisible and hidden, we all know how much more powerful the soul is than the body. While the body grows tired quickly, the human will (a faculty of the soul) presses on and does not weary.
Prayer belongs to that particular order of created reality which is invisible and hidden and mysterious, and therefore most powerful. Precisely because prayer is invisible and hidden it has immense power!

And now we consider the Savior’s parable in today’s Gospel. The widow knew that the unjust judge was a wicked man, that he did not care for her at all; and yet, she continually begged him for a just judgment. Though that judge was unjust, the woman persevered in asking for justice.
Now we all must know of our Lord’s infinite love for us. He has loved us so much that he died that we might live. And shall we not persevere in petitioning him for blessings? He himself is all just and all merciful, and shall we not ask him for justice and mercy? When we recognize the power of prayer and the infinity love of God, we are driven to pray and we are compelled to persevere.
But perhaps prayer is difficult, perhaps perseverance is hard, perhaps we do not even yet fully believe in the power of prayer. What then? Never become discouraged, never despair. Simply turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Lord I believe that prayer is powerful, help me to believe it more fully. Lord, give me the grace to pray today. Lord, by the power of this prayer I offer now, grant that I might persevere in prayer throughout my life and especially at the hour of my death.
And may the reward of our perseverance in this life be the blessed joy of life everlasting.