God answers: The cry of those in need
Years ago when I worked providing pastoral care in a psychiatric hospital, I learned about healthy and unhealthy behaviors that were observed by the hospital staff as markers of a patient's progress or regression.
One of the more unfavorable signs was "attention-seeking" behavior. Usually it meant that the patient, insecure and fearful, would eschew desirable tools of self-reliance for more manipulative means to get his or her emotional needs met by the staff, often at the expense of other patients.
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
in Ordinary Time
(Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007)
Psalm 34:2-3, 17-19, 23
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Outside the confines of the hospital, there's a maxim that's frequently used to describe complainers who persist until they eventually get their way: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."
When employed by those who believe that silent suffering is preferable to whining, the saying implies that relentless complaint and protest are devices used by the selfish, the immature, and the egocentric. It also implies that attention and service are in short supply, so one should compete for them in any way one can.
But sometimes the squeaky wheel really needs greasing. There are people whose situations are dire and whose complaints are truly justified. And - as indicated in today's readings - those complaints are heard, and answered, by a God who "knows no favorites" but nonetheless responds with justice to the cries of widows, orphans, and the poor. And there doesn't seem to be any shortage of God's attention to those in distress; there's plenty to go around.
In today's Gospel, Jesus offers a parable that illustrates two kinds of attention-seekers. The Pharisee, taking the more conspicuous position in the Temple, trusts in his own devices by pointing out at the expense of others what he has done to deserve God's notice. But the tax collector, admitting his sinfulness and trusting in God's compassion, prays in a way that truly gets God's attention.
In his plea for mercy he avoids both extremes - he neither boasts of his virtue nor suffers in silence, but he approaches God with an attitude of confident humility.
When was the last time you truly complained to God about something?
When taken with Luke's previous story of the complaining widow and the dishonest judge, this parable teaches the importance of meek but persistent prayer. To God's ears, a cry for help from a contrite heart is heard. In God's world the squeaky wheel really does get the grease.
This column is offered in cooperation with the North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.
This week's readings
Week of Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I: Sir 35:12-14, 16-18
Reading II: 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18
Gospel: Lk 18:9-14
Monday, October 29, 2007
Reading I: Rom 8:12-17
Gospel: Lk 13:10-17
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Reading I: Rom 8:18-25
Gospel: Lk 13:18-21
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Reading I: Rom 8:26-30
Gospel: Lk 13:22-30
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Solemnity of All Saints
Reading I: Rv 7:2-4, 9-14
Reading II: 1 Jn 3:1-3
Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a
Friday, November 2, 2007
The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Reading I: Wis 3:1-9
Reading II: Rom 6:3-9
Gospel: Jn 6:37-40
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Reading I: Rom 11:1-2a, 11-12, 25-29
Gospel: Lk 14:1, 7-11
Pope's Prayer Intentions
October General Intention
Minority Christians. That Christians who are in minority situations may have strength and courage to live their faith and persevere in bearing witness to it.
October Mission Intention
World Missionary Day. That World Missionary Day may kindle a greater missionary awareness in every baptized person.
A Prayer in Autumn for Country Living
GOOD and generous Lord, You have once more brought the year full circle, through planting and growing and ripening to harvest time, and autumn.
We thank You for the sun and the wind, the rain and the dew, the minerals of the earth and all the plants that grow and all the beasts and birds of farm and field. We marvel at Your wonderful ways of bringing food from the earth for the good of us all.
Dear God, help us to use Your rich gifts as You want us to. Teach us to share them with our neighbors when they are in need. Make us see, in the marvelous succession of seasons and in the growth and ripening of our crops, the merciful, generous hand of Your divine providence.
Help us to realize, too, that if we keep Your commandments and live according to the inspirations of Your grace, we shall also reap a plentiful harvest in the autumn of our lifetime: a harvest that we will be able to enjoy for ever and ever, where no rust can destroy, nor blight spoil any least part of it.
Prayer courtesy of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference