July 17, 2020
by Tom Quinn
Creighton University's School of Medicine - Emeritus
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 393

Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8
Isaiah 38:10, 11, 12abcd, 16
Matthew Mt 12:1-8

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Praying in Times of Crisis

Hezekiah, the King of Judah, the thirteenth king to succeed King David, had a multitude of troubles.  He was planning fortifications, fending off the Assyrians, and to the dismay of everyone who depended upon him, he suddenly became desperately ill.  It fell to the prophet Isaiah to tell the king that God said: “Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.”  No one wants to hear this; Hezekiah wept and prayed as if he needed to remind God that he had always been a good and faithful man.  In so many words, he prayed, “why me, Lord?” God heard his prayer, and again, Isaiah acted as intermediary to tell the King good news, “You will be cured of your illness, and will live another fifteen years.”
Rather than immediate faith in God’s words, Hezekiah wanted a sign that he would recover.  Isaiah told him that God would cause the shadow on the stairs leading to the terrace of Ahaz (part of the temple) to retreat ten steps. This was likely akin to the shadow on a sundial reversing its position.

Many (all) of us are now enduring the effects of the pandemic. Some of us may become ill, have been ill, may even die from the viral infection.  If we feel that God is telling us, “put your house in order, you will not recover,” we may pray, as Hezekiah did, to remind God of our goodness and faithfulness.  We rather need to dwell in our prayers on the fact that we have a merciful and understanding God. He heard Hezekiah’s tearful plea, and even heeded his need for a sign. Most of us will not require an elaborate or miraculous sign that God hears our prayers.  Since the time of King Hezekiah, we have learned from Jesus’ toleration of suffering, humility, and obedience that surely help us to pray.  Jesus tells us that the Our Father is the way to pray to the Father. The Hail Mary is a comforting prayer anytime, but may be especially so, if we find ourselves “at the hour of our death.”  Even Jesus had the solace of his mother as he hung suffering on the cross.

The response psalm today certainly conveys a preferable alternative prayer; “you saved my life, Lord, I shall not die.” Accept God’s mercy. Praise God.  Even when we feel that we may be in danger of death “in the noon time of our life,” we should remember, and be thankful, that “those live who the Lord protects; yours is the life of the Spirit. You have given me health and life.”

The gospel today reminds us that love, concern, and mercy for each other, are more pleasing to God than sacrifices.  Jesus and his followers were criticized by the Pharisees for picking grain on the Sabbath when they became hungry.  Jesus used this opportunity to point out that King David and his companions were hungry and had eaten sacrificial food at the Temple.  His point was to show that love, compassion, and care for one another, the spirit of the law, were more important than the letter of the law.  More important, perhaps, was the statement to the Pharisees that “the Son of Man (the Messiah, Jesus Christ) is King of the Sabbath.” 

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