On this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear three great passages from the scriptures. A homily could be preached on each one and still we would not be able to grasp the fullness of the passages. The first reading from Sirach (35:12-14, 16-18) continues the theme of prayer from last week. Paul’s letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18) reminds us that we are like athletes competing in a race. The parable about the righteous Pharisee and the penitent sinner (Luke 18:9-14) illustrates the kind of attitude that we should have before God.
We must constantly pray. All prayer is good, because it is conversation with God. However, we not only need to speak, we also need to listen. As Sirach points out, God always hears and always responds. Yet, God responds on His terms, not ours. That is why we need to listen very carefully and not lose heart when the response we want is not forthcoming.
St. Paul reminds us that we are in a competition and we must be faithful throughout that race by keeping our faith and acting upon it. Those who are athletes know that in order to maintain their competitive spirit, they need to train. One cannot slack off because to do so would undo the training and preparation that has gone before. Just as athletes train and musicians practice, Christians also need to exercise their faith. We can never shirk our responsibilities of being a Christian.
Finally, in our prayer and in our fidelity we must always remember to be humble. God is the one who will raise us up. There is no need to compare ourselves to others or worse, to boast of how good we are while at the same time putting another person down. Ultimately, God is the one who will exalt us. But again, it may not be in way in which we hope to be exalted.
As we enter into these final few weeks of the Church year, may we be more open to listening attentively to the voice of the Lord. God always hears the cry of the poor, but do we hear the response of God?