Homily 17th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C July 24, 2016

Fear of the Lord is a great virtue to have. Fear of disappointment is not. Fear of God is to be in awe of God; to have a degree of understanding of who we are before God. How big he is and how small we are. Try standing next to the guy who plays Center for the Boston Celtics. He’ll make us feel small.

But fear of disappointment fears that God is One who potentially will not answer a request we make in prayer. That we will possibly be rejected, ignored, humiliated, refused outright, maybe even laughed at because of the petition we make. “Did she just really ask me to do that? Oh, that’s a good one!”

If there is anything impossible for God, it’s making light of any prayer request we can make. However, I would say the more serious our request, the more sincere our request, the more serious it will be taken in heaven. Pardon the phrase, but God is dead serious. All we need to do is look at the Cross to accept the truth of just how serious God is about us.

Praying the Our Father is serious business. We’ve recited those words 10,000 times if we’ve done it once. The Our Father is part of every fiber and bone in our bodies. It was the one and only set of words my mother with Dementia never forgot. She would forget her own children’s names, and it wasn’t because there were too many of us to remember. But the Our Father was entrenched in her so deeply, that even a disease of forgetfulness could not do away with it.

The Our Father is a prayer where the virtue of fear of the Lord is at the heart of it. The awesomeness of God is contained in the prayer from start to finish. St. Augustine wrote 1600 years ago that every prayer request we can make is contained somewhere in the Our Father. It is the Mother of all prayers.

There are many who fear disappointment when seeking a favor from the Lord. That God won’t hear, won’t listen, he’s too busy for me, I’m not good enough to be considered by the Creator of all, and so forth. None of that is true in the eyes of God. God will not give us a snake when we ask for a fish. The Devil will do that. God won’t.

What is necessary in prayer is the virtue of persistence, which we heard with Abraham in the 1st reading. Abraham is interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, asking God to hold back his righteous anger against them if 50 righteous people are found in the city, dwindling that number down to just 10 righteous people. In this amazing conversation, there are two things that stand out; Abraham’s persistence, and God’s patience.

We are not to be one and done people of prayer in all our prayer requests…”I asked God, he heard me, I’m finished asking.” That’s a defeatist attitude and approach toward prayer. One and done may happen; I’ve had that happen, and I hope you have also. But persistence is necessary in prayer. If it’s missing, then it’s like trying to drive through Kelly Square with your eyes closed and expect not to hit anything. Good luck!

The Our Father is a prayer that reveals the awesomeness of God, his generosity and bounty, no trickery or false promises. But persistence must be ours, to the point where even a disease of the mind cannot take it away from us.