แผนกคริสตศาสนธรรม  อัครสังฆมณฑลกรุงเทพฯ



29th Sunday of the Year
Exodus 17:8–13; 2 Timothy 3:14–4:2; Luke 18:1–8

The faded note
Prayer has power; but to tap that power, we must
persevere at it and not look for overnight results.
Some years ago Guideposts magazine
printed a remarkable story.
It was about a young high school teacher
named Mary.
She wanted so much to succeed as a teacher.
But a student named Bill
was turning her into a nervous wreck
and turning her class into a three-ring circus.
One morning, before school began,
Mary was sitting at her classroom desk
writing something in shorthand.
Suddenly Bill appeared at the door.
“What are you writing?’’
he asked as he approached her desk.
“I’m writing a prayer to God,’’ she said.
“Can God read shorthand?’’ he joked.
“He can do anything,’’ said Mary,
“even answer this prayer.’’
Then she tucked the prayer inside her Bible
and turned to write on the chalkboard.
As she did, Bill slipped the prayer
from her Bible into his typing book.
Twenty years later
Bill was going through a box of his belongings
that his mother had stored in her attic.
He came across his old typing book.
Picking it up, he began to thumb through it.
Lo and behold, he found the shorthand prayer.
It was yellow and faded with age.
Bill stared at the jottings on the paper
and wondered what they said.
He took the prayer and put it in his wallet.
When he got to his office,
he gave the prayer to his secretary to decipher.
She read it and blushed.
“It’s rather personal,’’ she said.
“I’ll type it out and put it on your desk
when I leave tonight.’’
That night Bill read the prayer. It said:
“Dear God, don’t let me fail this job.
I can’t handle my class with Bill upsetting it.
Touch his heart.
He’s someone who can become
either very good or very evil.’’
The final sentence hit Bill like a hammer.
Only hours before,
he was contemplating making a decision
that would commit him to a life of evil.
He took the note and put it back into his wallet.
During the next week Bill took the prayer out
several times to read it.
To make a long story short,
that prayer caused Bill to change his mind
about doing what he was contemplating.
Weeks later
Bill located his old teacher and told her
how her prayer had changed his life.
That story brings us
to the two points about prayer
that we find in today’s Scripture readings.
First, prayer has enormous power.
Second, to experience the power of prayer,
we must persevere in praying.
Let’s look briefly at each of these points.
First, prayer has enormous power.
It can influence the outcome of events,
and it can change the lives of people.
Commenting on this enormous power,
Nobel prize winner Dr. Alexis Carrel says:
“Prayer is the most powerful form of energy
one can generate.
The influence of prayer
on the human mind and body
is as evident to us as secreting glands.
Prayer is a force as real as gravity.’’
The second point is this:
To experience the power of prayer,
we must persevere in praying.
For example, today’s first reading
shows Moses persevering in his prayer.
It is interesting to note
that when he grew tired,
he persevered in prayer
because he got help from his friends.
Some time ago
a high school student told his teacher
that he was able to persevere in daily prayer
because he got help from his mother.
They agreed to get up each morning
at the same time and pray privately
for 15 minutes in their rooms.
Then, after eating breakfast together,
she went to work and he went to school.
The boy said it helped him greatly to know
that while he was praying in his room,
his mother was also praying in her room.
Besides persevering
in our daily period of prayer,
as Moses did,
we must also persevere
from day to day and from week to week,
as the widow in Jesus’ parable did.
To do this,
it helps to have a regular time to pray,
as the boy and his mother did.
Commenting on a regular time for praying,
Ralph Martin says in his book Hungry for God:
“A real estate man I know
gets up early in the morning to pray;
an aerospace engineer
prays and reads Scripture on his lunch break;
a production manager of a computing firm
prays after his children are in bed at night.’’
Martin goes on to say
that the demands of modern life are such that
unless we schedule a regular time to pray,
we probably won’t pray at all.
Here we should keep in mind
that when something becomes important to us,
we schedule it right into our daily life.
We don’t leave it to chance.
For example,
if we want to deepen a friendship
with someone,
we schedule times and places
to meet with that person.
We don’t leave these things to chance.
The same is true
if we want to deepen our friendship with God.
We schedule times and places
to meet him in prayer.
We don’t leave these things to chance.
And so,
if we are to experience the power of prayer,
we must persevere
not only during the period of prayer,
as Moses did,
but also from day to day and week to week,
as the widow in Jesus’ parable did.
One final point should be noted about prayer.
Besides persevering in prayer,
we should not look for immediate results.
This is clear from the opening story.
God responds to prayer
in his own time and in his own way.
And sometimes God’s time may be years later,
and sometimes God’s way
may be far different from what we expected.
In conclusion, then, prayer has enormous power.
But to tap that power,
we must persevere in praying.
And, finally, we must not expect
immediate results from our prayer.
These will come in God’s own way
and in God’s own good time.
Let us close
with a reflection on prayer:
I pray because I am a Christian;
and to do what a Christian must do, I need help.
I pray because there is confusion in my life;
and to do what is right, I need light.
I pray because I must make decisions;
but the choices are not always clear,
so I need guidance.
I pray because I have doubts;
and to keep growing in my faith, I need help.
I pray because most of what I have
has been given to me, so I ought to give thanks.
I pray because Jesus prayed to his Father;
and if he considered it important, so should I.

29th Sunday of the Year
Exodus 17:8–13; 2 Timothy 3:14–4:2; Luke 18:1–8
Persevere! Persevere!
Perseverance is one of the most powerful forces at our
Winning the Tour de France
in the sport of cycling
is like winning the World Series in baseball.
It’s like winning the Super Bowl in football.
It’s like winning the Academy Award in acting.
The Tour de France is a bicycle race
in France that lasts about a month.
The more than 2,000-mile-long course
twists and turns over mountainous roads.
Only the world’s best cyclists compete.
In July 1986, 26-year-old Greg LeMond
became the only American
ever to win this grueling competition.
His victory was amazing.
He was wined, dined, and eulogized in America.
Greg was on top of the sports world.
Then tragedy struck.
In April 1987,
Greg was accidentally shot at close range
while hunting with his brother-in-law.
Thirty shotgun pellets broke two ribs;
put holes in his back, legs, arms, and hands;
and pierced his liver, lungs, and heart lining.
Miraculously, Greg survived.
A painful stint in the hospital followed.
After persevering through it,
he returned home.
Now another painful stint began.
Greg persevered through long hours
of therapy and recuperation.
What happened next
caught the sports world by surprise.
Greg began workouts on the bicycle.
Sportswriters couldn’t believe
that he was serious about racing again.
But LeMond was serious.
Dead serious!
The grind of retraining was long and hard.
But once again Greg persevered through it.
Almost a year to the day
after the accident,
Greg entered the Nissan International race
in Ireland.
His battle to keep up with the other riders
was so pathetic
that it was almost embarrassing to watch him.
But Greg wouldn’t give up racing.
He persevered in following his dream.
And with each succeeding race,
he grew stronger and stronger.
Then came the 1989 Tour de France.
Greg entered the race.
His goal was to finish somewhere
among the top 30 contestants.
But few people gave him much of a chance
to realize this goal.
As the race got under way,
sportswriters and fans were amazed
to see Greg up with the leaders.
But they figured he would fade.
Greg hung tough
throughout the entire grueling race.
Then came the unforgettable last day
of the race.
The cyclists had entered the city of Paris
for the final leg of the race.
Tens of thousands of fans
lined the streets to watch the finish.
Greg was in second place,
nearly a full minute behind the leader.
One sportswriter said,
“LeMond rode like an arrow
winging its way to the target.’’
He narrowed the gap second by second.
As the riders approached the finish line,
Greg caught the leader, passed him,
and won the Tour de France
in the closest finish of its 76-year history.
Sportswriter Phil Hirsch
spoke for the entire sports world when he said,
“There may be no superlatives adequate
to assess the magnitude
of what American cyclist Greg LeMond did.’’
If we wanted a story
to illustrate the point that Jesus is making
in his parable in today’s gospel,
we could do no better
than to select the story of Greg LeMond.
The kind of perseverance Greg showed
is the kind of perseverance
Jesus exhorted his followers to have
as they worked and prayed
for the spread of God’s kingdom on earth.
Greg is living proof
of the old adage that says,
“There is no power so mighty in the world
as perseverance.’’
And if Greg could harness this force
to win an earthly prize,
how much more should we strive to harness it
for a heavenly prize.
This brings us to a very practical point:
How do we go about
harnessing the mighty power contained
in perseverance?
More specifically,
how do we go about persevering
in our following of Jesus?
The answer is contained in Jesus’ own words.
He said,
“If you want to come with me,
you must forget yourself,
take up your cross every day,
and follow me.” Luke 9:23
That statement contains the answer
to how we should go about persevering
in our following of Jesus.
First of all, we must forget ourselves.
We must take the focus off ourselves
and put it on our goal.
Second, besides forgetting ourselves,
we must take up our cross every day.
In other words, we must learn to do
what recovering alcoholics learn to do.
We must learn to take every day as it comes:
one day at a time.
Jesus says,
“If you want to come with me,
you must forget yourself
[and] take up your cross every day.”
An example will illustrate the importance
of taking every day one day at a time.
A little girl had broken her leg badly
and was in traction in a hospital.
She said to the doctor,
“How long do I have to remain like this?’’
The doctor smiled and replied,
“Thank goodness! Only one day at a time.’’
Finally, besides forgetting ourselves,
and taking up our cross daily,
we must follow Jesus.
This means
that we must walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
Walking in the footsteps of Jesus
consists not so much in never falling,
but in rising again each time we fall.
Again, an example will illustrate
the importance of this point.
Somebody asked a little boy,
“How did you learn to ice-skate so well?’’
The little boy replied,
“I just kept getting up when I fell
and trying again.’’
And so the key to persevering
in following Jesus
is to do what Jesus said we should do.
“If you want to come with me,”
Jesus said, “you must forget yourself,
take up your cross every day, and follow me.”
This is what Greg LeMond did
to achieve an earthly reward.
This is what we must do
to achieve our heavenly reward.

29th Sunday of the Year
Exodus 17:8–13, 2 Timothy 3:14–4:2, Luke 18:1–8
Pray with perseverance
Prayer is a question of faith, not feeling.
Jesus told his disciples . . . [to] pray
and never become discouraged. Luke 18:1
Not long ago a mother called
the pastor of a parish.
She had just made a mother-daughter
retreat and was all excited about it.
In the course of the conversation,
she said to her pastor,
“How I’d love to have my daughter’s
deep, intense faith—
the kind of deep faith that I once had
when I was her age.”
The pastor replied that she did, indeed,
have a deep faith.
It’s just that, perhaps, she doesn’t have
the deep feeling of faith she once had.
In other words, her faith was maturing
and growing in a new direction.
Keith Miller
makes this same important observation
in his book The Taste of New Wine.
He tells how he became depressed
when he couldn’t feel God’s presence
during his prayer.
Then one day
he suddenly saw how wrong it was
to want to feel God’s presence in prayer.
If that is why he was praying,
then he was turning prayer into
just another form of sophisticated
self-indulgence. He writes:
I realized that so much of my life
I had been a spiritual sensualist,
always wanting to feel God’s presence
in my prayers
and being depressed when I didn’t. . . .
So I tried praying . . .
whether I felt spiritual or not
and found for the first time in my life
that we can live on raw faith.
Moreover, I found that often the very act
of praying this way brings later
a closer sense of God’s presence.
Keith not only discovered the error
of always wanting to feel
God’s presence in prayer;
he learned something equally important.
He learned the great spiritual truth
that the “grace of prayer”
often comes outside the time of prayer.
In other words,
we may feel that nothing is going on
during our prayer.
In reality, something very important
and beautiful is going on.
We are planting the seeds
that will take time to germinate,
grow, and bear their fruit—
later, outside the time of prayer.
And that brings us
to each one of us in this church.
No doubt there are times
when we also wish we had the kind
of intense faith of the high school
daughter in the opening story.
We may even have given up praying,
because we felt it was no longer
doing us any good.
Today’s Gospel, therefore,
has a special meaning for us.
It tells us to persevere in prayer,
as the widow in Jesus’ parable did.
And the reason we need to persevere
is the very reason we have been talking about.
God is deepening our faith,
taking it beyond the feeling level
to the faith level.
Therefore, the worst thing we could do
is to fail to persevere in prayer,
because that would abort the process
that God has begun and
is carrying on within us.
That leads us to the story
that I would like to close with.
It sums up what we have been saying.
A group of Chicago businessmen
had been meditating for three years
and meeting once a week
to support one another
and to share the fruit of their prayer.
One morning one of the men said
to the others:
“I’ve got to share something important
with all of you.
When we began three years ago,
I figured that in a year or so,
I’d become a kind of expert or guru
in meditation.
Just the opposite has happened.
I’m worse now than when I started.”
There was a kind of awkward silence.
Then another said:
“Bob, I’m really glad you said that;
I’m much the same way.
I find it a lot harder to meditate now
than when I first started.
At times I feel really dry and empty.
If it weren’t for this group,
I’d probably not have persevered.”
At this point,
another man, Joe Cramblit, said:
“I grew up in Wisconsin.
Let me tell you about
the corn planting season there.
I think it says something about
our prayer status.
“After planting corn,
the first thing we always did
was to pray for rain—lots of rain.
The rain came down;
the corn came up.
It was such a beautiful sight
that you just wanted
to go out in the field and dance.
“Then we did something strange—
I mean really, really strange!
We prayed for a period of stress and dryness.
We did this to force the roots
of the corn—especially the taproot—
to grow downward in search for water.
“If the corn got too much rain,
the roots of the corn grew out horizontally
and the taproot wasn’t forced
to go down in search of water.
“If this happened,
the crop would be inferior,
because the cornstalk wouldn’t know
where to find water when the dry season set in.
“Now here’s my point.
God does something similar with us
in our prayer life.
At first, God makes meditation
an exciting experience for us.
Then God gives us a period of dryness.
Its purpose is to force our taproot down
through the feeling level to the faith level.
Unless this happens,
we will not bear much fruit.”
Not one man in that group that morning
ever forgot that explanation.
One of them spoke for all when he said,
“I’ve been a Catholic for 50 years
and no one has ever explained
that important spiritual truth
about the spiritual life to me.”
Let’s conclude our reflection
on God’s word with a prayer:
Lord, we thank you
for the inspiring stories
of the mother of the high school daughter,
of Keith Miller, and
of the businessman’s insight
into how our spiritual life
develops, grows, and matures.
Help us open our hearts
to the grace of the Holy Spirit
that we may persevere in prayer,
mature spiritually,
and bear fruit, as they did.