17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 27, 2019
Installation of PLC at St. Patrick Parish, White Haven
Listen again to the words of Jesus: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened to you.” Sounds pretty easy – this relationship with God that is outlined in today’s gospel passage from Saint Luke.
Yet, every one of us in this church today has likely struggled with prayer – communicating with God – haven’t we? Nonetheless, most of us do believe that there is a power in our lives that’s bigger than ourselves that we need to tap. We call that power God!
That’s why often, even if our heart is not in it, we pray. … That’s why we hang on in prayer, even when it seems like our conversations with God are a one-way street.
I’d suggest, however, that the real tension that seems to lie at the heart of our struggles with prayer is not found in God’s disinterest in our needs but, rather, is rooted in how we see ourselves in relationship to God in the first place. Simply put, most of us approach prayer as if we’re in control and it’s our responsibility to get God’s attention. … “I have a problem here Lord, which you may or may not know about.” … Worse yet, sometimes we feel it’s our responsibility to wriggle things out of God and we yield to the “let’s make a deal mentality.” “Lord, if you do this for me, I promise that I’ll do that for you!” … We’ve ALL been down these roads at some point or another, haven’t we?
If we’re honest enough to admit our struggles with prayer – which I hope we are – it would be well for us to look at another portion of today’s gospel in which Jesus teaches us how to pray. Essentially, it’s Saint Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. It puts so much of our struggles with prayer in perspective.
Jesus teaches us that the first thing that we need to do in our prayer is to begin by saying, “Our Father in heaven, holy be your name.” … In other words, right out of the gate, we acknowledge that God is concerned with all of our lives – the lives of those we love, the lives of those who are different from us, and the lives of those we may not even like. We are bound to one another, at least from God’s perspective. And in that reality, the first movement on our part in prayer is to praise God for his holiness, mercy and love for all people.
Then we continue, “Your kingdom come.” Your will be done – not my kingdom or my will or my way – but yours. For you, O God, who put this entire creation in place and have given us life. That’s good enough for us!
Finally, we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” … Give us what we need this day – not ten years down the road or when we retire. Give us today what we need to be your faithful followers. … And Lord, forgive us our sins. But keep us mindful of the fact that if we are bold enough to ask for forgiveness, we must be generous enough to forgive those who have hurt us.
Do you see anything unique about this prayer? Do you sense what lies at its heart? Prayer is not about manipulating or convincing God to respond to what we need or want. … Prayer – as Jesus experienced it and taught it – is all about trust – trusting that the God who has given us life and loved us through his Son, Jesus, all the way to the cross, is not about to let us go. … Nor is it up to us to keep our world patched together. It’s up to God!
And this message that lies at the heart of today’s gospel couldn’t be more appropriate for what we celebrate today as a parish community. When we really begin to trust in the wisdom and power of God and live out the great prayer that Jesus both embraced and taught us as his followers, we begin to build the Church – and in our experience, building the Church translates into building the community of believers that we know as Saint Patrick’s Parish in White Haven.
It’s quite apparent that your lives are deeply rooted in the faith that was given to you and that you, in turn, have generously passed on to others. … It’s also evident that you understand that all we believe and profess must be given life as we are called to be the voice – hands – and the heart – of Jesus in service of our brothers and sisters. … In short, my friends, in your willingness to build Church, to live your faith, and to trust in God’s providence, you provide hope to many – more than you might realize. And that, my friends, is really all that the Lord asks us to do!
I have no doubt that as you begin a new chapter in your life as a parish that the future will continue to be filled with God’s grace for each of you and for countless others. You’ve prepared well for this moment. With Mary Ann Malone, who will lead this faith community, and with Father O’Rourke, who will celebrate the sacraments with and for you, and with the support of Father Piccola, recognize the merciful care of Jesus all around you, sustaining you and responding to your needs … and give thanks for God’s presence in your lives and in the blessed members of this community of faith that we know as Saint Patrick’s Parish.