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25 Pentecost, Year B: Prayer in Crisis and Confidence

SUNDAY’S READINGS | November 14, 2021

1 Sam. 1:4-20 or Dan. 12:1-3
1 Sam. 2:1-10 or Ps. 16
Heb. 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Whenever we read Holy Scripture, no matter how challenging or confounding the passage, we read it “that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life” (Collect).

We listen to Scripture patiently: we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. “The letter kills,” says St. Paul, “but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). “The Advocate,” says Jesus, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). “It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). As we read Scripture, we come to realize our union with Christ more deeply, and we grow in our desire for everlasting life.

It is not to frighten us that Jesus speaks of trial in this age. He tells us what we can plainly see, and he warns us not to be led astray. “Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must first take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs” (Mark 13:6-8).

Jesus is describing every era of human history. There has never been peace on earth, though we are summoned to work for it every day of our lives. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” to be sure, but their blessedness resides not in a placid hope but in their tenacious effort to build peace where there is bitterness, conflict, and war.

Jesus says the sufferings of the world are birth pangs, the pain of something new coming into the world. Similarly, St. Paul writes to the Romans, “I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom. 8:18-20). There is a glory about to be revealed, but in this present age, we have tribulation and trial. The world is simultaneously in a state of suffering and on the threshold of new life.

In this condition, the Church resorts to prayer and looks to God for help. The Church prays in pain but also in confidence. The story of the barren woman Hannah praying for a child illustrates this deep prayer, this groaning and waiting. She pleads in her misery, silently moves her lips, and so the priest Eli, observing her, thinks she is drunk. She defends herself, saying, “No, my Lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time” (1 Sam. 1:15-16). Her distress gives force and conviction to her prayer. Indeed, the whole Church is called to this deep prayer from the heart.

While the Church prays in a state of birth pangs, she also prays in the confidence of new life. “We have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way he opened for us through the curtain” (Heb. 10:19). We pray in vexation and yet with “a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).

Look It Up: Daniel 12:1-3

Think About It: In this time of anguish, may we shine like the brightness of the sky.


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