Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

True Prayer Always Answered

What would you do when your prayers are not answered by God?  I have had an experience in my ministry where I doubted the fruitfulness of prayer.  It happened before I came to Australia.  With all the enthusiasm of a first-time Parish Priest, I went to a place to start a new parish.  I already knew that there was no proper building for the church services or my residence, and that was ok.  Something else I observed in my new parish shocked me; most people lived on illicit marijuana crop. Drinking overproof spirit from the home distilleries was a cause for concern.  I knew that I had a big responsibility.  As their pastor I was concerned about the welfare and moral integrity of my flock.  Offering Mass and dispensing Sacraments wasn’t enough.  With no fund or other resources, I thought the best thing I could do then was to get them together under the banner of prayer and instruct them.  But no one turned up to the first prayer gathering I announced.  It was disappointing.  My plans did not work  Now let me seek God’s plan.  Therefore, I commenced a meditation prayer by myself for about 20 minutes before Mass each morning.  After a couple months it happened.  The Lord sent a lady parishioner to me requesting me to lead a Bible prayer at her home, a one hour exercise.  From then on more and more parishioners asked for the same.  At each of those home gatherings, I read a Bible passage, commented on it, sang hymns.  In between, the participants made extempore prayers.  In a few months miracles of conversion started to happen.  Marijuana and illicit distilleries started to disappear. Happiness and a new life started to blossom there.

What did I learn from it?  First, when I announced a prayer program, it was my own plan and it did not work.  But when I was prepared to wait for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, God initiated a fruitful prayer.  Miracles happened, though nothing happened overnight.  I had to be persistent in my prayer, which included a positive attitude and an openness to God.

I see it happening always, including here in Berala.  After my first Mass here, I waited at the front of the church to greet the congregation as they came out.  Hardly anyone bothered to greet me or say a word of welcome.  Most people ignored their new pastor and walked away.  And that was not all.  The parish fund was inadequate for the much needed maintenance work, including the profusely leaking church roof.  But I prayed for you perseveringly.  Miracle happened here too.  Now Berala is one of the most friendly parishes.  The value of the development works so far exceeds the expectation from the financial resources that was available.  It happened because God, to whom I was praying persistently, sent charitable people to help us.

So my dear friends, God always grants your prayers, as long as you are persistent.  But do not think you can buy God with heaps of prayers for your own selfish interests.  Therefore, do not expect God to grant all your whims and fancies.

Learn from the prayer Jesus taught (The Lord’s Prayer).  Have you noticed, there is no ‘I’, ‘me’, or ‘my’ in this prayer?  The basic character of this prayer is that it is ‘other’ centred.  It is all about the Father in heaven and our fellow human beings.  In this prayer we praise God, present our needs to Him, and declare our willingness to forgive others.  Prayer is not asking God to do what we want, but just opening our lives, heart and ears to Him.

True Christian prayer demands readiness to forgive others.  It does not mean that one must forget what was done.  Nor does it mean to give up rights to justice.  It is the ability to deal with the hurtful experiences in such a way that it would not brood into anger or revenge.  Forgiveness is the ability to continue to see God’s goodness in the offender in spite of the offence.  One would require spiritual maturity to forgive others.

Our God never lets us down. Your true prayers will always be answered.