These reflections are the leftover fragments from my homily at Sacred Heart this morning. Sunday October 27, 2013. Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Luke 18:9-14.
I cringe when I hear the cries of vulnerable people.
I want to turn away when an old man first admits that he cannot remember his wife.
Or when a young mother tries to protect her three children from the brutal streets.
I sit in silence when a talented man explains to me he wants to take his own life.
I do not know what to do with myself when a father admits his infidelity and neglects his children who live in a car.
The cries of people in pain go straight to God.
The tears of a mother who miscarried a child and the broken heart of a lonely grandfather are sure situations on earth that rise to God’s door in heaven.
I want desperately to be in the flow of grace when the vulnerable pray and cry and pound their fists in desperation.
Psalm 34 refreshes our memory that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. The reading from Sirach also reminds us that the Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan and the complaint of the widow.
We overhear the prayers of two men in the gospel today.
I suspect we can identify with both of them.
We overhear the self-assured prayer of a Pharisee who has kept all the rules.
These rules and obligations have kept him from being like those “other people”.
He fasts, he prays and he is grateful that he is not like the greedy and the lustful.
The other man collects taxes and is considered dishonest by his neighbors.
He knows his life is not on the right track to God’s favor.
He arrives humbled by the temple atmosphere.
“Please God, be merciful to me a sinner,”
I suspect our prayer is a combination of these two men.
We are taught as children to keep rules, to be good, to turn away from sin.
The problem is that we can drain our hearts from ever needing God just like the Pharisee.
We can firmly believe that we can live our lives all on our own.
Self-sufficiency can become our deepest sin.
We also live real lives. We are not sure where they will lead.
Sometimes we slip into greed, lust and become blind to others, like the tax collector.
The sheer circumstances of our lives are not black and white.
Sometimes life itself just humbles us when our actions are out of control.
Self-reliance can become our deepest sin.
When God bends his ear to our prayer, I wonder what he hears?
For those of you raising children, how do you pray when you are afraid for them?
For those of you getting on in years, how do you look back on life without regret?
For those of you who have given up on God, how do you learn to trust again?
For those of you who are filled with rage, how will you learn to love again?
Every time we come to the Eucharist, Christ pours out his love for us.
Like Timothy in his letter today, we too, pour out our lives to God in return.
The gut wrenching experiences of our daily lives teach us to pray.
We become more reliant on God who comes to feed us in the Gospel and at the Altar.
We rest together in the healing love of Christ Jesus.
Here in this holy assembly we humble our lives and come before God as we are in life.
We bring our bashful prayer into God’s bold love for us.
We come to God with our entire beings, totally reliant on God’s grace.
Once again we celebrate the love God has for our humble hearts.
We learn from people who need God the most, that God bends his ear to our very needs.