William Holman Hunt, “The Light of the World,” 1851-56
First reading Exodus 17:8-13
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 120(121)
Second reading 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Gospel Luke 18:1-8
“When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” What do you think, boys and girls, when he comes again, do you think Jesus will find any faith left on earth? That’s a question for each and every one of us and it’s a question for us to answer with regard to ourselves – in other words, when the son of man comes, will he find that I have faith? Will he find that you have faith, boys and girls? Only you can make that choice. But I’ve got a little secret to share with you, which not many people are aware of: The coming of Jesus is not just an event somewhere down the track, sometime in the future… No! Jesus is coming to you right now. In fact, at this very moment he’s standing at the door of your hearts, knocking. And he does so in every single moment of our lives. Did you know that? So again, each of us, right now and in every moment of our lives, has a choice to make. Do I open the door and let him in and attend to him; or do I ignore him and carry on with all the little things that keep me busy? However we respond, boys and girls, will decide the answer to Jesus’ question. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” You see, faith is not just believing something. Anyone can believe anything. Believing in something is nothing extraordinary. Even the devil believes in God. Faith is much more involved, it is more of an attending to the presence of Jesus in our lives, a real connection with him that transforms everything. This is why Jesus tells us the parable we’ve just heard.
The Gospel says, “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart.” How is it we can pray continually? Does that mean we have to be here in the church reciting prayers at every moment of every day? Of course not. We know that we have to eat and sleep, work and play. And yet, Jesus tells us there is a need to pray continually. This is interesting. The Gospel doesn’t just say that it’s a good thing to pray continually, or that we should pray continually, but that there is a need to pray continually. What could this mean? We know that we need to eat, we need to drink, we need to sleep – in order to live. Well, this is telling us something about prayer. That it is necessary to pray always in order to truly live. Without prayer, the most inward part of us begins to die, and eternal happiness escapes us. But what is this continuous prayer? As I said before, we don’t have to be here reciting prayers in every moment. You see, boys and girls, prayer in its truest sense is not just words that we say to God. The things we say to God are important, and they do lead us to prayer, but prayer in its most pure sense is an attending to the presence of Jesus in our lives, a real living connection with him that unites us to him. “But hang on Fr Tom, isn’t that what you said about what faith is?” Yes! Prayer in its purest sense is faith in action, faith at work, faith being used, faith fulfilling its purpose of uniting us to God. St Thérèse of Lisieux, whom some of you took for your Confirmation saint earlier in the year, had a very beautiful definition of prayer. She said, “for me prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love… it is a simple glance directed to heaven… which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” This is very simple. Prayer is not just a whole bunch of words, but the lifting of our heart to Jesus, recognising his presence and loving him. In other words, it’s when we open the door to him and pay attention to him who is knocking at the door of our hearts in every passing moment.
When we do this, boys and girls, we become so close to him that we are united to Jesus and he comes to live inside our souls. Jesus says we need this continually because he is the life of our soul. While we cannot be saying prayers in every moment of our lives, we can learn to live with the door of our hearts open to him, we can learn to live always with an awareness of his closeness to us, with a connection to him and with a continual desire to be united to him. We can learn to do this together with everything we do in our lives such that we are never separated from him. But, boys and girls, this takes practice. We can be forgetful of Jesus’ presence with us. We can get busy with other things. So, we must learn to stop often in whatever we are doing and turn our minds to Jesus in a short moment of prayer – To “practice the presence of God.” The more we do this, the more aware we will become, and the easier it will become to automatically connect with Jesus among all of our daily activities, such that our prayer can become continuous.
Boys and girls, before I finish, I just want to say this. In just a moment, Jesus is going to knock at the door of your hearts in a very special way. He is about to come to you in the Holy Eucharist, which you are going to receive for the very first time. The Holy Eucharist is the greatest prayer of all time, because it is Jesus himself becoming one with us. We need this prayer, the Eucharist, continually in our lives to give us true and everlasting life. So, boys and girls, while this is your first Holy Communion, don’t let it be your last! Make sure you come and receive him as often as you can so that you can answer the question that Jesus asks you even now: “When the Son of man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”