Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 10, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Ez 33:7-9 / Ps 95 / Rom 13:8-10 / Mt 18:15-20
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
The other day I was called to give the Last Rites at Smith Mountain Lake. The location was one of the few places at the Lake that I have never been, but with the assistance of the GPS I didn’t have any difficulty finding it. However, what this device didn’t know was that I was going to a group of apartment buildings, and this made my search more challenging.
I stopped to ask a company of walkers if they could help me locate the particular number of the building I was looking for, but they apologized saying that they weren’t familiar with the place either, because they were actually from Florida. I believe we can pretty much guess why they were here. And please, by the way, continue to pray for our brothers and sisters there, especially for those that will be directly in the path of Hurricane Irma.
They noticed my collar, and they asked if I were a Catholic priest. I told them that I am, and their faces lit up because they were all Catholics. One of them asked me if I was there for the wedding, as there was a wedding reception there at the time. I told them, no, that I was there to give the Last Rites. Well, that simple declarative sentence made them exclaim, “Oh, my God!” while at the same time making the Sign of the Cross, which proved that they were, indeed, Catholics.
Eventually I found the apartment. When I arrived, the whole family was there waiting for me as their loved one prepared himself to receive the last sacrament. I could feel the intensity of their love and prayers. All of us will eventually enter into everlasting life. It is such a beautiful experience if the people who are close and dear to us are there to hold our hands and help us pray when we embark on the last leg of our journey in this world.
In today’s gospel Our Lord Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them.” This tells us the power of praying together as members of God’s family. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our prayers have no power if we pray alone, because every prayer is always powerful, whether done alone or in a group. But the Lord Jesus emphasized a special significance when we do it as a community.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He didn’t say, “Well, this is how you should do it. You say, ‘My Father who art in Heaven…’” No, we all know He didn’t say that. He taught them to pray: “Our Father, give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us.”
St. John Paul II, commenting on the last verse of today’s gospel said, “The prayer has for its own object the family life itself, its joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, births and birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries, departures, separations, and homecomings, the deaths of those who are dear to us – all of these mark occasions for God’s loving intervention in the family’s history. They should be seen as suitable moments for trusting abandonment of the family into the hands of their common Father in heaven.”
My dear friends, all the angels and saints in heaven are rejoicing today as we gather together as one big family in this Eucharistic celebration. As we all go back to our homes after this Mass, may we grab every opportunity to pray with our friends, relatives, and family members. St. John Paul II, while addressing a group of families in 1984, said, “The family that prays together, stays together. And the family that prays is a family that is saved.”