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Bishop's Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 24, 2022

[Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Honolulu (Confirmation & First Communion)]

If you watch TV for a couple of hours, I bet you would see a particular commercial repeated several times during those two hours.  Yes, companies do refresh their commercials from time to time, but for weeks or months, they will use the same one over and over again.  I suppose they figure that if you are not sold on their product the first time, maybe you will be by the fifth.  Their persistence must pay off, otherwise they would not pay to have the same ad repeated repeatedly!

So it is with prayer.  God knows what we need before we ask him, but the very act of asking, sometimes over and over again, can deepen our own desire – and hopefully our gratitude once we receive the gift we are seeking.  Of course, God can respond instantly to a prayer, but we must never have the notion that we just snap our fingers and God will jump.  What he wants most of all is a relationship with us.  He wants to give us gifts, but most of all he wants us to be in communion with the Giver.  This is why, when Jesus teaches us to pray, he teaches us to first address God as our Father and to acknowledge his holiness and his kingship.  The relationship if key, and very often it takes time and effort to nurture a relationship.

I think of the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, that ruling that made abortion legal throughout the United States.  Many knew it was a legally flawed decision from the beginning.  Almost fifty years of prayer and work have finally led to its overturn.  Of course, there is much more pleading to do to convince people that abortion is simply wrong because it take the life of an innocent child, but we can see that persistence can pay off.

Another lesson in today’s Scriptures is that we should never be afraid to approach God with insistence.  We should never fear that he will tire of our prayers or be angry because we ask for the same thing again and again.  Abraham was very bold in almost arguing with God, that he should be merciful, only if for the sake of a few.  God did not lose patience with Abraham.  Here I think of St. Monica, who prayed for decades for the conversion of her worldly and self-centered son Augustine.  God did not tire of hearing her, and in his own time, he granted her prayer, making him a great saint and a teacher of the faith.

This is also one of the reasons we need to come back to the Eucharist -- every single Sunday of the year, and more often, if we can.  God wants us to nurture our relationship with him by offering us the greatest gift of the Body and Blood of his Son, who laid down that body and poured out that blood to show us his undying love.  He wants to remind us over and over that he calls us to be members of his Body, so that he can continue to live in various places through us.  He wants us to tell others about the love of Jesus that we have experienced.  It may not make any difference the first time or the twelfth time, but if we are persistent, hopeful, and loving, perhaps by the fiftieth time someone will accept the message.  We should never say, “What’s the use?  It’s just not working.”  We never know just how much sowing the seed year after year will finally yield a rich harvest.

God never tires of hearing from us, and even if we do not immediately receive the answer to our prayers, he wants us to keep asking so that he can purify our intentions, help us realize what we really need, and most of all, build a relationship with him.

It the Holy Spirit who guides us to know the difference between selfish pestering and persistent petitioning, and we rely on this gift of the Spirit, given to us in Confirmation, to give us the strength to never give up asking our heavenly Father for what is good.