We meet every Wednesday, pray, reflect on scripture readings, discuss its implications in our lives, and share fellowship. However, there is one more thing that we need to consider. I have often heard various priests say that small prayer groups are what will preserve the faith. The many other prayer groups throughout the world and in particular, our prayer group, will ensure that when the Son of Man comes He will find faith on earth.
Image by Wolfgang Eckert
By Lou Occhi
A number of authors wrote the books of the Old Testament. Some of the authors are well known while others are unknown. We do not know who wrote the Book of Wisdom. The author is generally accepted as a member of the Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote in Greek and patterned his writings on the style of Hebrew verse. We also know that he had an extensive knowledge of earlier Old Testament writings. Almost every verse of this book refers to scripture previously written. At the time of his writings, the religious Jews had experienced suffering in part from the persecution of apostate Jews. His purpose was to enlighten his co-religionist Jews.
The first part of today’s first reading comes from Wisdom 18:14-16. It says, in the stillness of the night an all-powerful word leaped into the doomed land and filled every place with death. This refers to the Angel of Death that killed the firstborn of the Egyptians.
The second part from Wisdom 19:6-9 refers to the Lord saving His children from peril. “A cloud overshadowed their camp and dry land emerged from what had been water. Out of the Red Sea, a road and grassy plain appeared. The whole nation crossed over the road and was saved by the Lord, their deliverer”. This is obviously a recounting of the crossing of the Red Sea.
As a side note, Carl Drews, a professor at the University of Colorado, determined that a strong wind from the East as described in Exodus would not be able to part a huge body of water such as the Red Sea. The Red Sea has an average depth of 1,640 feet and is 190 miles at its widest point. However, it could definitely part the waters of the Sea of Reeds.
Psalm 105 for this day follows the same lead as the readings from Wisdom. It tells us to “Remember the marvels the Lord has done”. It goes on to praise the Lord and reminds them how the Lord struck down the firstborn in their land and led them forth.
The gospel from Luke 18:1-8 tells His disciples to pray always without becoming weary. He then tells the parable about the widow who would continue to pester the judge to render a just decision for her against her adversary. Eventually, the judge relented and rendered a decision for her so that she would go away.
At this point, I wondered what in the world does this have anything to do with the first reading and psalm. Then I recall that the Lord said He heard the cry of His people and delivered them from slavery. That perhaps is the link.
Well, that is an important lesson for us. When we are in serious trouble and need help, we need to pray to the Lord for guidance or some form of intervention. In this case, we are not talking about minor everyday problems, and we are not talking about a quick Glory Be. Our prayers should come from the heart. In addition, we should persevere in prayer for the help we need.
At this point, the usual story of prayer is about the Battle of Lepanto. I am not doing that. Instead, I will talk about the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Andrew Jackson was stationed in New Orleans. The British planned to invade New Orleans by sea and extend their reach into the new world. The British forces heavily outnumbered Jackson’s forces. Jackson set up canons on land and placed barricades to protect them from British canons. According to Louisiana legend, the bishop instructed the residents of New Orleans to pray the rosary throughout the night. In the morning, a heavy fog rolled in. In that part of the country, the fog is very thick. Andrew Jackson could not see the British ships. The British decided to use the fog and sent their forces out in landing craft to begin the invasion. Just as the landing craft were within canon range, the fog lifted and Jackson’s canons destroyed them. If you tour the St. Louis Cathedral, they will tell you that after the battle Jackson came to the church and knelt in front of the altar. The Battle of Lepanto is a similar story. I prefer the Andrew Jackson story.
This past September we did a retreat on Hope. With wars in the Ukraine and now in the Middle East, we need to hope that it does not spread further. There are many innocent people on both sides in these wars. We need to pray for them and that the opposing sides negotiate a peace agreement. If these wars escalate then we will need to step up our prayers. Divine revelation tells us that prayers from the heart can stop wars. We must not forget that.
The last part of the gospel says, “Will not God then secure the rights of His chosen ones who call out to Him day and night? Will He be slow to answer them? I tell you, He will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”
This brings us to the question, why are we here? We meet every Wednesday, pray, reflect on scripture readings, discuss its implications in our lives, and share fellowship. However, there is one more thing that we need to consider. I have often heard various priests say that small prayer groups are what will preserve the faith. The many other prayer groups throughout the world and in particular, our prayer group, will ensure that when the Son of Man comes He will find faith on earth.