Archbishop Lori’s Homily: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time; St. Bernardine

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 23, 2022
St. Bernardine Parish; Blessing of Restored Dome and Bell Tower

A Standing Invitation

Edmondson Avenue, as you know, is one of Baltimore’s busiest streets. Every day, thousands of motorists pass by St. Bernardine’s Church, situated as it is in the heart of the City. Many people live in neighborhoods surrounding this church, and far too many experience poverty and violence. Others come back to this church for Sunday Mass from the suburbs, attracted by its sense of belonging, its vibrant liturgy, and its ministries.

To one and all, the restored golden dome that graces St. Bernardine Church reflects the light of Christ, the light brightly visible, the light that shines in every human heart. This brilliance of this dome shines as a sign of God’s Kingdom: it is a beacon of hope, a witness to faith, and an invitation to prayer, and the bell tower rings with the joy and gladness of the Gospel. I congratulate Msgr. Bozzelli and all of you, the parishioners of St. Bernardine, on the completion of this important restoration of the bell tower and the dome, and I am delighted to return to St. Bernardine’s to bless it.

Even as the golden dome and the bell tower stand as an invitation to prayer, so too today’s Scripture readings lead us in the pathways of prayer. In Luke’s Gospel, it is Jesus himself who teaches how to pray – not only the words to say but the attitudes we must bring to prayer and the persistence with which we must pray. Let us together open our hearts to what the Lord wishes to teach us.

“Lord Teach Us to Pray”

As we encounter the Lord in this morning’s Gospel reading, we find him at prayer. Not only is Jesus praying, he is absorbed in prayer to his heavenly Father. Jesus prayed deeply and frequently, often in a secluded place, often on his knees, sometimes rising early, sometimes spending the whole night in prayer. For Jesus, intimacy with the heavenly Father was his lifeblood.

The disciples often found Jesus deep in prayer, but on this occasion they asked him, “Lord, teach us how to pray” – for they were attracted by his example. They wanted to pray just as he did, and they wanted to encounter in their prayer the One to whom Jesus was praying, namely, his heavenly Father.

In response, Jesus taught his closest followers the prayer we call “the Our Father”. As you noticed, the version in today’s Gospel is shorter than one we typically recite, but essentially it is the same prayer that you and I pray every day. Whatever the version, the Our Father is a short prayer, for Jesus warned against multiplying words when we pray, but in this prayer’s brevity are found all the essentials . . . allow me please to explain.

In the first words of The Lord’s Prayer, we address God as our Father. After all, as those baptized into Christ, God’s own Son made flesh, we are, by adoption, the sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. Through Christ, the door has been opened to a beautiful intimacy with God the Father of Mercies, with the God who is love. Nothing in our lives should be more precious, nothing more “golden” than our relationship with our heavenly Father . . . As Psalm 73 puts it, “Whom else have I in the heavens? None beside you delights me on earth.”

After calling on God our Father, we address to him a number of petitions. First, we say, “hallowed be Thy name”, and then, “Thy kingdom come”. Perhaps we have wondered what those petitions mean. After all, isn’t God’s Name holy in and of itself – how can I make it holy? And won’t the Kingdom of God come with or without me? Well, God’s Name is holy, from all eternity and for unending ages – yet Jesus teaches us that his Father is pleased when we ask that God’s Name might be hallowed in us and in our lives – in other words, that we might reflect more clearly God’s holiness. So too, the Kingdom of God will indeed come with or without us, but Jesus teaches us that God is pleased when we ask that his Kingdom dawn upon us. When we say, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are seeking the graces we need to bear credible witness to the living presence of Christ in the world, and to work together for a world of justice, love, and peace … fit for God’s Kingdom.

In the remaining petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Father for what we need. When we ask for “our daily bread”, we are referring to all of life’s necessities, but it is more accurate to say that we are seeking the “superabundant” bread of God’s Word and the Eucharist. This is the “bread” that nourishes inwardly more than any ordinary food. This is what draws us into the orbit of God’s Triune life and love and gives life to our bodies, our souls, our parish communities, our world. How could God the Father not be pleased when we ask for such a gift?

So too, Jesus instructs us to ask his heavenly Father to forgive our sins, just as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Here we remember Jesus’ teaching that the heavenly Father will not forgive us ‘unless each of us forgives our brother and sister from our hearts.’ He also taught us that we must forgive those who wrong us 77 times… or as we used to say, 7 X 70 times, in other words, endlessly and sincerely. Isn’t this one of the most challenging of the Lord’s teachings! Finally, Jesus taught us to say, “Put us not to the test”, or as we typically say, “Lead us not into temptation” – not as if God would entice us to sin but rather that he now allow us to be tried beyond our strength.

Beyond That…

Having taught us the Our Father, a prayer we must always learn anew, Jesus gives us good advice on the attitudes we should bring to prayer:

First is a disposition of loving trust in God’s will. If you’re like me, you present God with many specific requests, and God invites us to share with him what we think we need. Yet, even when God seems unresponsive or we facing something catastrophic, we must trust that the Lord will not abandon, and that he knows better, than we do, what is truly good for us and for our eternal salvation. Sometimes, all we can do is ask the Lord to help us trust him!

Second, we must pray with persistence, like Abraham in our first reading who did not hesitate to haggle with God. When the chips are down, we too might try to strike a deal with God. More often, though, we may find ourselves giving up on prayer, especially when it fails to console us or to produce the results we seek. Today, Jesus advises us not to give up, to keep on praying, to keep on asking, aware that the Lord may answer our prayer in ways other than we expect, namely, he will pour out the Holy Spirit upon us more abundantly.

Third is an attitude of humility – the humility of Abraham who admitted to God that he was ‘but dust and ashes’, or the humility of Jesus who knelt in prayer before his heavenly Father. In humility, we confess our weakness and our need for God’s blessings. In humility, we open our hearts to the gifts God wishes to give us.

Among the saints, St. Bernardine of Siena, our patron, stands out in his ardent love of the Holy Name of Jesus. From Jesus, he learned the art of prayer and he teaches us the power of prayer – its power to make us the voice of mercy in our world. Through the intercession of St. Bernardine, may the golden dome of this church stand as a shining witness to the light of Christ and a standing invitation of prayer, an invitation to ourselves, to our fellow believers, and also to our city and our world. And may God bless us and keep us always in his love.

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.