Pray every, every, every day

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Old Testament reading we are told that the Lord’s house is a house of prayer and a house for all peoples. Foreigners are welcome to join themselves to the Lord. And in the Gospel passage it is a pagan woman, rather than a Jew, who comes to Jesus and asks for healing for her daughter. She is persistent in her request, willing to engage the Lord in banter, which Jesus uses to display the foreign woman’s great faith. He goes so far as to invoke the Jewish cultural view of her: she is the equivalent of a dog. Jesus did not view this woman as a dog. We know better. If anything, during this exchange, Jesus has repudiated the Jewish cultural notion of looking upon others as less than human or not worthy of God’s love and mercy. The epistle sheds a some light on this: God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Jesus breaks cultural barriers and customs, showing that we all have a claim on God’s love. In yesterday’s reading the “outsiders” were the children, who were annoying the disciples. The adults wanted to push them aside, get them out of the way. In today’s reading, the outsider is both a pagan and a woman. Jesus has come to elevate and acknowledge the worth of each and every one of us, regardless of our heritage, our gender, our age, or any other aspect of ourselves that may differentiate us from others.

When it seems that God is not answering our prayer, we must not go away defeated, but engage him all the more.

Quote of the Day
Into the Deep: Finding Peace Through Prayer by Dan Burke

Some time ago my youngest brother, who is a bit baffled by my faith, asked me an important question: “Dan, do you pray every day?”

I replied, “Yes.”

He asked, “Every, every day?”

Again I said, “Yes.”

He then asked again but with an emphasis in his tone that reflected some measure of disbelief and a demand for an absolutely honest answer. “Every, every, every day?”

A light went on in my head, and I realized what he was really asking me. “Dennis, you don’t understand—I don’t pray because I am holy; I pray because I am not.” I continued, “I am not capable of living a life without God. This is why I pray every, every, every day.”

The idea of my own incapacity to live even a single day without prayer is not new or unique to me. One of the most oft-quoted sayings in the history of Christianity is St. Augustine’s line in his Confessions, “…our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The reason this is cited so often, even more than a thousand years after it was written, is that it rings true across all cultures and throughout all time. Any heart open to God says “yes” when it hears this beautiful expression. We know in the depths of our being that this is true. The reason it is true is revealed in the full quote, which reads, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

St. Augustine recognizes that our hearts are restless to the degree that we fail to orient all that we are to God. Our restlessness comes from a disorientation of our hearts. To the degree that we give ourselves  to God in prayer, the restlessness will begin to subside. To the degree that we give ourselves to God, we fulfill the purpose of our existence; we know union with God and thus know the peace and joy that enable us to face and overcome whatever comes our way.

If your heart is restless like mine, there is a path to peace and joy available to you. This path can only be found in and through prayer.

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament: Isaiah 56:1, 6–7

Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm: 67:2–3, 5, 6, 8

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

Epistle: Romans 11:13–15, 29–32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Gospel: Matthew 15:21–28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Prayer

May  Jesus heal us individually and collectively as a nation of wrong notions about our brothers and sisters, and unified in Christ, may we live in peace and joy. May all find welcome in our houses of prayer.

Question of the Day

So how is your prayer life? Do you pray every, every, every day?

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