Sermon for July 28, 2019

What does Saint Christopher protect you from?

Though many people wear Saint Christopher medals in their daily life, others don them for long journeys because Saint Christopher is known as the patron saint of travelers. Not only do people wear Saint Christopher medals, statues are also placed in front of homes, churches, and bridges. Those who wear his medal are paying respect and hoping for his blessing on their travels.

In addition to being the patron saint of travelers, Saint Christopher is believed to protect people from epilepsy, lightning, storms, pestilence, and floods. Many soldiers also pay tribute to Saint Christopher by wearing his medal or carrying a prayer card with them. As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, this medal carries the promise of health and well-being.

Life can sometimes produce dilemmas for which we have no right answers. Take the case of the parents of the 5 year-old girl Juliana Snow who had incurable neuromuscular disease. Juliana sparked an international conversation about wrenchingly difficult decisions for terminally ill children. Her parents who faced with a painful dilemma consulted her about whether she would want to go to hospital or stay home. With only little precious time left, Juliana chose to die at home. In her own words, she chose heaven over hospital. She had full support of the doctors and nurses but died shortly after in her mother’s arms. Despite the ordeal, Juliana’s story touched millions of people around the world. Her legacy is that she lived life to the full, marked by courage and surrounded by love.

Today’s scriptures call us to a life oriented to the Kingdom in spite of all things to the contrary. The faith-filled disciple is committed to live by the values of the Kingdom and to witness to its power in his/her life and relationships. In the first reading, Abraham found himself in a difficult situation. His nomadic journey had taken him to Sodom where he had settled with his clan. However, because of the evil done there, destruction was inevitable. Strange as it sounds to us, the book of Genesis tells this episode of Abraham bargaining with God.

He kept haggling and badgering: “Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner?”

God showed his patience. Ultimately, though, Abraham had to flee Sodom and move to another town. But through it all, he himself learned to live by the will of God. He himself was formed by God’s mercy and justice.

This is also the teaching of Jesus concerning prayer. It is not so much about getting the results we want. Neither is it a matter of saying a set prayer or reciting a written formula, in the way that the Scribes and Pharisees relished in doing. Rather, for Jesus, prayer has to do with our relationship with God our Abba and how that relationship is oriented and nurtured. In other words, like Abraham who was changed by his prayer to God, prayer puts us at God’s disposal. It changes our minds, our attitudes and the way we live. The biographer of St Francis wrote that he became one with Christ. He did not merely pray as much as transformed himself into a living prayer. That is the essence of Jesus’ teaching on prayer.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus situates our concerns in the larger context of the Kingdom and its values. This is not to dismiss our intercessory prayers and petitions as unworthy and unnecessary. Jesus teaches us that God is the God who cares for the whole of life, even its minuscule detail. God is the God of goodness who knows and gives what his children need. However, it is by being in symphony with the mind of God and having God’s expansive vision that we can bring all of life to its proper end.

“The pagans pursue all these things and your Father knows that you need them. But you must seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you”.

The Lord’s Prayer is a model upon which our personal prayers should be made, as prayer is in its pure essence, as all of us must realize, is an intimate form of communication between God and us, much like how Abraham communicated in private with God as shown in our first reading today. A true communication is two-way between the two parties, and not unidirectional. That was why, in prayers, we must open our hearts and minds to God just as God listens to us.

Even with all of our concerns and petitions that we wish to make in our prayers, first and foremost we must understand and realize that everything will ultimately be in God’s hands, and His will shall be done. And we must make our petitions with the openness in mind and heart at all times, allowing God to make known to us what His will is for us, just as we pray and ask Him to intervene for our sake, whatever it may be.

Can we trust in God and believe in Him wholeheartedly from now on? God will never abandon us, and He will always provide for us, as the Lord Jesus Himself assured us all. If an evil person, or any ordinary person, or any fathers know how to do good and take care of those who are dear to them, what more will the Lord will do for us, as each and every one of us are truly dear to Him? Remember all that He had lovingly done for His servants throughout history, and what He had done to Abraham and in rescuing Lot and his family from destruction.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God is always listening to us, and in truth, we do not even need to say anything at all. Of course, God Who knows everything, has already known everything in our hearts and minds, even our deepest secrets and thoughts. But are we opening our hearts and minds to listen to God? Are we allowing Him to speak to us just as we speak to Him? Let us all reflect on this, and strive to improve our prayer life, so that we may truly spend the time in quality prayer with God, our loving Father.

Let us be ever more faithful from now on, and do not let the business of our life in this world, all sorts of worldly concerns and temptations to distract us from God. Let us all be open to God’s grace and be willing to listen to Him, by being ever more prayerful in our daily living. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us all in faith, and may He empower us all to live in accordance with His will, as Abraham, our father in faith, has done. Amen..

May we follow Christ in the nurturing and realizing of God’s reign of universal love and comprehensive justice, even in the midst of doubt and uncertainty. May Christ’s victory on the cross be our guiding light and our inspiration at all times.

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