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THE GOD WHO FREED HIS PEOPLE ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS

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Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9 & Lk. 18:1-8

Today's reading from the book of Wisdom was very precious to the Israelites for it recalled God’s care for His people when He delivered them from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The angel of death came from Heaven to slay the first-born of the Egyptians as punishment for their continual enslavement of the Israelites and their refusal to release them after Moses had confronted Pharaoh. The rabbi who authorised Wisdom described this angel of God’s “all powerful Word” (Wis. 18:15).

To this learned and devout rabbi, the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt was analogous to the creation of the heavens and the Earth described in the book of Genesis. Even nature, in the form of a pillar of cloud and the splitting of the Red Sea, joined forces to protect the Israelites, God’s own children, during their flight from Egypt (Wis. 19:6-8). In gratitude for God’s deliverance, the Israelites praised God with enthusiasm.

So central to Hebrew worship is the Passover that Jewish people all over the world recount God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt as if it happened to them personally. God’s pastoral care for His beloved people is what the author of Wisdom wanted the people to remember and treasure.

This particular reading from Wisdom is used by the Church at Christmas time when God’s Word, Jesus His Son, came to our world to deliver us from Satan and death. There is no greater gift than to know that God loves and rescues us. He brought us new life in His Church. Our freedom from servitude to sin and fear of death should lead us to worship God with thanksgiving for His deliverance of us.

How often have we heard people say, 'God never answers my prayers'? This implies that He is deaf to our cries for help – but is He? Far from it! He is a loving Father who cares for us when we need Him most. Sometimes the things we ask God for may not be for our good. It is like a youth on leaving school who begs his parents for a motorbike. They are not prepared to give him one. They have good reasons. They know he is reckless, and they can see that a motorbike in his hands would be like a lethal weapon. They refuse his request because they love their son.

Sometimes the things we ask God for are very good. We may pray that there will be no more starvation in the world and, of course, God doesn’t want to see any of His children starving. But many are hungry as the result of civil war, and because money that should have been spent on feeding the people is spent on arms. God has given those who are in power free will. It is they who tie His hands.

There are times when we ask God to cure a sick relative or to have a successful operation, and this doesn’t happen. Why not? What we must remember is that God is in charge and He cannot do anything wrong. He has His own good reasons why the sick person is not cured and the operation not successful. When we pray we should take all our problems and worries to God but our attitude should be like the leper in the Gospel, “Lord, if it is your will, you can cure me”. And we should add, 'I know Your will for me will be best'. A plea like that has to be the right approach to God!

The Church following the dictate of Jesus always concludes her prayers, “Through Jesus Christ Our Lord”. That is how we too should pray. Our Father in Heaven will always grant whatever we ask of Him when it is according to the mind of Christ.

In the parable of the persistent widow Jesus teaches us that His Father listens to our prayer, but He may not grant it straightaway for, often, our hearts are not ready to receive His gifts. That is why persistence is so important. If we pray without giving up, we should become more convinced that God will answer our prayers, which is a necessary condition for God to answer them.

Lord Jesus, may we be persistent in our prayers and may our hearts be ready to receive whatever You send us, which will always be for our good.

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