To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:
When tragedies occur like the recent violent attacks in Nice and Orlando or the murder of the priest in France, they’re usually followed by demonstrations of concern. People place flowers or notes or lighted candles near where the attacks occurred. A Mass was celebrated for the priest. Muslims as well as Christians came.
We need to pay attention to things like this. As Christians we say we need to pray.
I notice recently, though, that some question the response of prayer. They want action instead of prayer. “Don’t say you’re going to pray, do something,” they say, as if prayer were a waste of time and did nothing.
Now, let’s admit sometimes that accusation is true. Sometimes we promise to pray and it’s just a gesture meaning nothing at all. Prayer, though, is more than a gesture. It’s a way of getting through life and knowing what to do.
Our second reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews describes the faith of Abraham, but it also describes his prayer, because prayer along with works are expressions of faith. We can learn about prayer from the great Jewish patriarch. Abraham’s prayer is a constant prayer, a faithful prayer, a daily prayer.
God called Abraham to “ go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. “ Not knowing where he’s going from day to day, he lives in tents. Abraham prays as he goes; he prays each day, because God must show him the way, day by day.
We’re like him, aren’t we? On our way each day, and each day’s different. We need God to show us the way. We’re people who live in tents. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Abraham also has to deal with things he doesn’t understand, the Letter to the Hebrews says. God originally promises him and Sarah his wife a child as they begin their journey, but they don’t have a child until their old age when having a child seems impossible. Listen to the way it’s described:
By faith Abraham received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age—and Sarah herself was sterile—for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. So it was that there came forth from one man,himself as good as dead,descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
There are a lot of things we don’t understand, especially the promises of God. They come in God’s time and not ours. We question the trustworthiness of God. Prayer is a way of accepting God’s time. “Your will be done.”
Finally, God commands Abraham to take his son Isaac up upon a mountain and sacrifice him. What a disturbing example of violence, like the violence we saw at Nice and Orlando and the murder of the priest as he ended Mass.
Why did God permit it, we ask? Things like that make life itself seem absurd and meaningless. They make us lose hope in the world in which we live.
And so we look at the mountain where God sacrificed his Son. Why did God do it, we ask? “He rose again on the third day and will come to judge the living and dead.” We need to pray before the Cross of Jesus, who tells us suffering and death are not the final word. God’s final word for us and our world is life.
“ Abraham reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,and he received Isaac back as a symbol.”