HOMILY – JULY 23
We all recall what happened when the Apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Our Lord and Savior gave us the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father.” No Christian worthy of the name lets a day pass without joining Jesus in that prayer at least once. That in itself would be a good examination of conscience: Since my last confession, have I let even a single day go by without at least once praying as Jesus taught us? How can I call him my Lord and Savior if I don’t bother praying as he taught? And it shouldn’t be just a matter of rattling it off thoughtlessly, just to say I said it. Imagine a wife asking her husband’s reassurance, “Honey, do you really love me?” only to be answered with a brusque, “Yeah, yeah, I love ya, okay?” as he’s running out the door for his third night in a row out with the boys.
What Jesus did in teaching us to pray is nothing new. God’s own Word in the Old Testament instructs us in prayer many times. The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 song-prayers that have easily assisted us believers in our prayers for 3,000 years. We have marvelous examples of heartfelt prayers of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, and petition in nearly every book of both the Old and New Testaments. From St. Luke’s Gospel, the Benedictus of Zechariah and the Magnificat of the Blessed Mother, respectively, adorn the official morning and evening prayer of the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours. And in our first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, we have an excellent example of God teaching us even while we’re using his own divinely-given words to worship him.
Mt dear friend, Father Charles Dautremont, has long been the premier theologian in our diocese. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Father Charles, no matter how brief, in which I didn’t come away having learned something, and usually a great deal. Scripture, theology, philosophy, Church and world history, languages, you name it, he has truly been a lifelong professor for many of us. Psalm 37, verse 30, describes him well: “The mouth of the just man murmurs wisdom.” MURMURS, that is, even his casual mutterings are worthy of note. If we can say that about an esteemed scholar, what about God himself? Every page, every LINE of his Word in the Scriptures has SOMETHING to teach us, and this prayer in the Book of Wisdom is no exception.
Listen to that one line again from the prayer in the first reading: “You taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are JUST must be KIND.” Did you ever wonder what God means when he says in Deuteronomy 32, “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord”? God knows that we don’t know how to use vengeance, or revenge. So he says, “Leave it to me, I’LL take care of it.” If we complain (and we often do) that God’s justice is too slow for us, too weak for us, too little for us, not effective enough for those whom we think need it, that’s simply proof that WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE IT!! Leave it to us, we’ll always go overboard, always go to extremes. When we get a thirst for revenge, we won’t rest until we see one who has offended us ground into the dust. That’s why God says, “Leave it to ME!! Those who are JUST must be KIND.”
Look at the parable in today’s Gospel. Having discovered weeds sown among the wheat, the slaves go to the landowner, who calmly surveys the situation. He recognizes the enemy’s hand at work. The slaves are anxious to obliterate every trace of the enemy’s work, but the boss wisely warns, “No, right now, they’re all intertwined. Pull up the weeds and you’ll lose the wheat as well. Wait. Wait till the harvest. Then it can all be sorted out.” And there is our lesson for life. If those words were heard in our hearts, would we ever be estranged from family members? Would we ever have any FORMER friends? Would we ever write off anyone who can’t overcome some sin or shortcoming in their own life, and won’t even admit that it’s a problem? Would the streets of Chicago, or of ANY neighborhood or country, be running with blood if people heeded these words of the Scriptures? “Those who are JUST must be KIND.” What a recipe for life! What a PRAYER to teach us how to behave in a godly way! What a work of the Spirit, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, from Romans, as “the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness,” interceding for us who do not know how to pray as we ought. Lord, again and again, TEACH US TO PRAY!