17th Sunday of OT Cycle C

What Is A Prayer? How Would We Pray?

Joke: One day, little Johnny asked his mom for a new bike. In response, she asked him, “During Christmas you send a letter to Santa to ask for what you want, don’t you?” “Yes, but it isn’t Christmas right now, and I want the bike now,” replied Johnny. His mother then said, “Then you can send a letter to Jesus and ask him.” Listening to his mother, Johnny went to his room, sat down with a pen and paper and started his letter: “Dear Jesus, I’ve been a good boy. I want a new bike. Your friend, Johnny.” He thought about this and decided to start over: “Dear Jesus, sometimes I think about being a good boy. I need a new bike. Your friend, Johnny.” He thought some more and tried again: “Dear Jesus, someday I might be a good boy. I want a new bike. Your friend, Johnny.” Johnny didn’t like that letter neither. Finally, he got a small statue of Mary from the front yard and started his letter again saying: “Dear Jesus, if you ever hope to see your mom again, send me a new bike! Your friend, Johnny.”

Prayer, prayer, and prayer. How should we pray? This is was also a question for Jesus when one of his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray.

The first word of the prayer Jesus taught was Father. Who is our father? What can our father do for us? I have a father. You have a father, and we all have a biological father. What can a father do for his children? The father is everything and many things, a being that provides shelter, food, clothes and everything else for us. He teaches us how to be a good person. He’s there when we fall, and he’s there when we cry. He laughs when we laugh, and he’s sad when we are sad. He’s there to wake us up in the morning and fix breakfast for us before school. He’s there to pick us up after school and to give us a shower before bed. Our father is the best, and he can do many things for us. When we need anything and everything, we always begin by saying, “Father, you are an awesome father. Can I have this, have that?” This is exactly what Jesus taught his disciples how to pray by saying, “Father, hallowed be your name.” God the Father is Holy and awesome Father when we come to ask him in prayer.

Father, hollowed be your name, your kingdom come or rather saying, Father, you are holy and awesome, please bring your kingdom to us. A sweet way of approaching God the Father before we ask for anything and everything. Let us see how our father Abraham talked to God reported in today’s first reading which was taken from the book of Genesis. When God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their grave sins against the Lord, Abraham interceded for them asking the Lord, or rather, bargaining with the Lord saying, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?” From fifty innocent people, Abraham bargained down to only ten innocent people, and the Lord accepted saying, “For the sake of those ten [innocent people], I will not destroy it [the city].” Abraham did not only sweet talk to the Lord, but he also persisted in his bargaining. Have you and I come to God to honor and acknowledge the need for God first and foremost in our prayers or have we just come to ask for what we want and what we need only?

Recalling my childhood, when I heard the ice-cream truck’s song in the neighborhood, I often asked my dad for an ice-cream. He went out and got me one, but not two nor three but only one. When I asked for two, he said “no.” I could have only one. “Why?” I asked. Perhaps, when I ate this one, the other one would melt. If I ate two or three ice-creams at the same time, I might waste some of the ice-cream. Also, I couldn’t enjoy the ice-cream at best since I’m busy to catch up with one ice-cream to another. The Lord Jesus continued to teach his disciples in asking saying, “Give us each day our daily bread.” He didn’t teach them to ask for a month or a year or many years of bread in one prayer, but for the daily bread only. Would you imagine, if whatever we asked God, and he granted to us? We asked not only for one day but for years to come. We then didn’t have to work. Would you imagine what this world would be with nobody working? In other words, he taught his disciples to learn to depend on him each day in their prayer.

The story of a friend who came and asked his friend to borrow three loaves of bread, reported in today’s Gospel, reminds us that in our prayer, we are invited not only to depend on God and to acknowledge the need for God, but also to be persistent in our prayer. What we asked in prayer today might not be the right time to receive what we asked for today, but we might be given in one month, one year, or maybe longer than that. Don’t let what we asked in prayer today that discouraged us when we haven’t received what we asked for. Prayer teaches us the virtue of patience. The Lord Jesus reminds us that, “Everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Let us persistently come to God in our prayers and do not be discouraged when we have to wait.

Not only persistent in our prayer to God the Father and dependable on him in our need, he also taught his disciples and to all of us to learn to forgive one another so that God the Father would forgive us our sins. Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel saying, “Forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us.” We would only be forgiven for our sins when we reconciled and forgave one another. When we have difficulty to forgive one another, at least, do no harm to one another.

Today’s Gospel is rich. We are invited to see who is God the Father? Who is God the Father for you? In calling God the Father, how would he want us to come to him if not to acknowledge that He is a loving and awesome God that we are invited to depend on him, to persistently come to him, and to learn to forgive one another for the sake of his forgiveness to us? As our biological father provides us many things and everything, how much God we called Father would give to us what we ask for? Would you believe that our very instant existence that comes from God the Father? What have we done to deserve it? Would you pray to God with your lips only, your reasoning only, or out of your habit only? Or how would you pray?


Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen

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