God Answers Prayers – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily October 20, 2019

“Jesus in the Gospel today certainly exhorts us to pray with persistence and he uses that very simple image of the widow who was continually pestering the judge in order to get a decision and that the judge finally gives her a decision and how that perseverance pays off and he says even with God perseverance pays off that we are called to be persistent in our prayer in asking God for truly the important things within our life.  You know as far as maybe an image that I would suggest to us is the image of the people of Hong Kong. The people of Hong Kong who, week after week after week now, have gone out in protest in order to try to secure their rights that they have as citizens of Hong Kong as opposed to being totally subject to the Communist regime in Beijing and so those people give a true sense of persistence as week after week even with the possibility of violence and of retaliation.  Nevertheless they are so persistent in their efforts because they know what their life is about. They know what they want and they know that they must be willing to sacrifice to witness for that and I think they’re a great example of persistence, of persevering even within the midst of great difficulty and challenge. Jesus invites us to be persistent in our own prayer, to persevere in doing good, to persevere in doing those things that are truly right and just, those things that truly build up our world and so he enjoins us to certainly to pray with a perseverance with a persistence placing our needs before the Lord, but sometimes I think the things that we pray for may not be exactly the things that God wants to give us and that’s one of the challenges I think that is there because sometimes our prayers don’t seem to be answered and yet I believe that they are.

I’m always reminded of Johnny who wanted a bicycle for Christmas and he prayed and prayed and prayed for a bicycle for Christmas.  Christmas came and he didn’t get his bicycle and so someone older in his family said, ‘Well look Johnny, you prayed for that bicycle and God didn’t answer your prayer.’  And Johnny said, ‘Yes, he did. The answer was no.’ And sometimes that answer is no, that it’s not really for our good, it’s not really for our eternal good maybe for our temporal good, but not for our eternal good and so Jesus does invite us to recognize that sometimes our prayers are answered in ways that we hardly expect them to be answered.  I’m reminded of a piece and the author of this is anonymous.

‘I asked for health, that I might do greater things, but I was given infirmity that I might do better things.  I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for a power that I might have the praise of men.  I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things.  I got nothing that I asked for but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all people, most richly blessed.’

All of our prayers are answered, but maybe not in the way in which we would hope or the way we would expect, but nevertheless to know that God always seeks our good and Jesus in the Gospel, in Luke’s Gospel talks about the one thing that God will always give us.  He says he will always give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for it. If we truly pray for the Holy Spirit, if we pray for the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, fear of the Lord, if we pray for those gifts of the Spirit that truly transform our lives that make us new people, Jesus promises God will always give us that gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit and those seven gifts that the Spirit brings and how important it is for us to recognize that those are probably the most important things that we need because they bring about a transformation of our mind and our heart and it is that life of the Spirit that wells up to eternal life itself and so to be persistent in praying for the Holy Spirit that if we pray not so much for things that we may want, but pray that we might have the grace that whatever comes our way, God through the gift of the Holy Spirit will strengthen us, will be with us and make all things work for his good and for our own eternal good.  That’s the challenge that is there.

There’s another line there in the Gospel though that I’d like to reflect on for a moment and it almost seems out of context the very last line of the Gospel.  Jesus says, ‘When the son of man returns do you think he will find faith on the Earth?’ It’s an interesting question that is posed there. When the son of man returns, do you think he will find faith?  Faith obviously is trust in God. Faith first of all I believe that there is a God and that God truly is the source, the origin from which we come and the ultimate goal for our life is eternal union with God, but Jesus asks that question, ‘Will there be faith on the Earth when the son of man returns.’  You have heard me say that they Church in any particular culture is only one generation away from extinction. That’s a sobering thought, but it’s true and I think we really need to admit that there’s a concerted effort among secularists within our own age to undermine the faith of our young people. It’s amazing to me what’s happening on College campuses and our schools as the faith of so many young people is being undermined and challenged.  I’ve had college students say that they really can’t even admit that they’re religious because of the ridicule, because of the ostracisation that goes on there as well as from attacks from the professors from the classroom so often, so it’s incumbent upon us as parents as leaders to make sure we are talking to our young people that we’re nurturing that gift of faith within them within their life.

One of the things that may bring a little more awareness to this is a talk that was given by the attorney general, William Barr, to the law school at Notre Dame just about a week ago and in there, the Attorney General talks about what he sees as all of the attacks upon religious not just freedom, but upon religious life in particularly within the academia, within the entertainment media, within the social media, how so often there’s those attacks upon faith, upon the very foundation of our life and even the foundations of our nation and so I would encourage you to read that.  I’ll send that out in an email blast on Thursday that reference to that, but I do encourage you to read that because I believe that the Attorney General issues kind of a wake up call for all of us and finally in terms of perseverance, the people I admire in perseverance are those who for the last almost 50 years have really been strong in promoting life in defending life particularly of the unborn, those who have reached out to those who have suffered from abortion, men and women who have also worked so hard in order to provide assistance so that women are not exploited through abortion and that they have informed consent and also sanitary and health respecting conditions as well as trying to do away with those more gruesome approaches to abortion like live dismemberment or partial birth abortion, those horendous proceedures that are so offensive to humanity, but also so painful to those children.  Well all of that is really at a perilous state within our own state of Kansas and that’s because of the Supreme Court decision of Kansas last April that suddenly after 150 years of having our constituon they discovered a right to abortion within our constitution and they put it under the right to liberty and personal autonomy and that is the basis for that and this jeopardizes anything that has been done to try to respect the life of the unborn, so there is an effort not to reverse the ruling and I’m sure you’ve read about this in the Leaven. You’ve seen things in the bulletin about it, but just very briefly the purpose of this is not to outlaw abortion. It doesn’t criminalize abortion. It doesn’t eliminate abortion. All this amendment will say is that there is nothing in our constitution that gives an inherent right to abortion. That’s what it is about and the reason that this was preemptively done by six judges was primarily to ensure that even if Roe V. Wade were overturned or modified on the national level it would return to the states and then there would be nothing we could do here in Kansas and so really this effort is to return to allow Kansas to determine their own future, for Kansans to determine their values rather than six judges who were not elected who were appointed, but those judges do not really I believe represent all Kansans and so this reverse the ruling is an effort first of all to let our state legislators know that there is support for this effort to say that there is no right to abortion within the constitution because it’s going to require a ⅔ majority in both houses of the legislature in ourder to get that on the ballot and then once it’s on the ballot there will be a general election by all the citizens of Kansas and that needs to be determined by a simple majority and so it’s very very important for us to let our legislators know that we are supportive of this, supportive of doing something and right in front of you in your pew pocket you’ll find these little cards.  I’d ask you to take those out please and I’d ask that everyone who is 18 and older, you can fill out one of these cards. It’s not for one per family it’s for every person 18 and older to be able to fill out one of these cards and then these will be given to our legislators to allow them to know that there is support for this throughout the state of Kansas. The ushers have pens, so just put up your hand if you need a pen and we’ll take a few moments to fill this out. It’s not necessary to put your email or phone number there unless you want to continue to be notified about the progress of this, but the other information is very important. This is one of the times when we’re asked to stand up as citizens of the state as well as people of faith to make this statement known.”