Deacon Steven M. Johnson – St. James, Belvidere, IL
Homily for the 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 6-17-21, Year B
READINGS: 1st 2 Cor 11:1-11; Gospel Mt 6:7-15
Theme: True Person, True Prayer
Years ago, I met a person who was all about hiking. He bragged about how much hiking he had done. How he had all the gear and would be ready to make any trek.
So, I set up a hike in the mountains of New England with my two brothers and him. We drove to the mountains for a two-day hike across the range. My friend had all the gear and looked impressive.
Early the next morning, we started the uphill climb along the train North. It was not long into the hike when my friend, the pro hiker, began complaining, “My feet hurt,” “I need a break,” “Can we take a different way?”
He was slow. One of us had to stay behind to follow him to be sure he stayed on the trail or did not fall over or get his foot stuck in the mud. When we finally made it back to base camp on the third day, he had had enough and without much of a goodbye, left us.
We realized then that he was not everything he said he was. He talked of a strength and willingness he did not have and was never really prepared for the real hiking he had boasted about. It was a reversal of the character from what he portrayed, and it left us with a less than favorable view of the hiker he said he was.
Both St. Paul and Jesus allude to this outward show of falseness to make ourselves appear to be one thing rather than who we really are. God knows who we are and what is in our hearts. There is no fooling Him.
In today’s world there are many people speaking of things they never intent to follow through on yet expect others to do. We can be misled by their example, their charismatic speech, the cunning dialog that provides a convincing argument on the surface but is nothing but a wet napkin that ears the minute any weight is put on it. Do not be fooled or misled.
And mostly, do not mislead others by false boasts that make you appear to be anything other than who you really are.
This is especially true in prayer. We should not be praying to impress others with our perceived holiness. Pray with sincerity and conviction. Pray as if there is no one else around. Pray in private, at work, or in your car when you are alone. Make your prayer about thanksgiving to God for all He has done for you. That I what the Lord’s Prayer is all about. It speaks of love and devotion to who God is and what He can do for our salvation. Frivolous, repetitive prayers that follow rules and ordinances and done in public view are not what God wants. He wants a true, personal conversation in our own words and for real things that matter to both us and God together.
It is important to note, however, that Christ differentiates this personal private prayer from that of our communal prayer with others in adoration and reverence for Jesus’s sacrifice on the altar at Mass, which is necessary and proper.
I will leave you with this thought:
As the Bishop says to the newly ordained Deacon when he conveys the faculties of reading the Gospel at Mass on him:
“Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”