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You Are My Rock, My Fortress

First Reading: Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18

The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.
Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.
The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan,
nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.
The one who serves God willingly is heard;
his petition reaches the heavens.
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Beloved: I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well;
I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.
At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,
but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and
will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced
of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity
–greedy, dishonest, adulterous–or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not
even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

NAB

oct-23

God shows up. Many of us can point to moments of Divine Intervention in our lives or our families. It could be a series of perfectly synchronized events or someone who spoke precisely what we needed to hear; Heaven came down to touch our little portion of the Earth and forever changed it.

As a member of a religious order, my sisters and I have the amazing gift of being able to make an annual eight-day silent retreat. One of the life-changing insights I received on one of these annual retreats was, as most spiritual keys, very simple: expect God to answer.

You and I are reading this devotional because we want to hear God. That’s what prayer is for. Prayer is the practice of learning to listen to God. It’s allowing God to calibrate our hearts to know and love Him in every present moment. It’s allowing God to tune our hearts to hear the song He is singing. What does the song sound like? It sounds like our First Reading today. It is that consistent, gentle yet strong assurance God speaks throughout Sacred Scripture, “Behold, I am with you.” The spiritual life, then, with all of its varied practices (lectio divina, rosaries, litanies, meditation) aims at enabling us to hear again and again, “I am with you” and “I am listening to you.”

Shortly after I entered the convent, the Lord powerfully underscored this lesson in my life. I had been devastated by something that happened to someone I admired in the Church. I pleaded with God, How could this happen under the gaze of the eternally good, knowing God?” Even though I spoke with my formators and friends, I was waiting for God. I wanted Him to speak to the situation. One evening, while again praying through tears, I heard the His clear and gentle response: “I am with you.” I felt His nearness and realized that He was also mourning.

This is a moment in which Heaven reached down and saved me, and it will forever be a source of strength for me. It’s not a thousand-page theological treatise, but I know it was Him because He pierced dissipated the clouds of my heart. God is near, and we can rest assured our sincere prayers pierce the clouds of Heaven.

Let us together pray today, “You are my rock, my fortress, my deliverer . . . I stand firm.”

Sister Maria Kim Bui is a Daughter of Saint Paul, women religious dedicated to evangelization in and through the media. She is originally from Tempe, AZ, spent most of her fourteen years in religious life in the northeast, and is part of a bilingual evangelization team of sisters serving in Texas. Find out more about her here.

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