I Pray For Them: A Homily by Deacon Jim Hyatt

Has anyone here ever done an escape room? Did you find your way out? Escape rooms are challenges where groups have to solve a series of riddles or puzzles to get clues and the “key” to get out of the room.

I’ve done one as part of a team building exercise at work. The riddles were complex; we had to work together to get the key so that we could get out and win. They’re not easy, but they are fun.

While today’s readings may not be about an escape room, they tell us something about faith journeys and how we can get the key to win. Let’s take a look.

In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus praying to his heavenly Father in front of the disciples right before they leave to go to the garden. Jesus prays to the Father and recognizes the faith journey the disciples have been on and how they have come to believe. And in coming to believe they will be saved – they have the key for eternal life.

This got me thinking about my own faith journey. Our faith journeys can be difficult, we take the wrong side roads, get caught up in the busyness of our lives and the world, and we try to solve life’s riddles by ourselves. For me, when this happened, I used to pray to Jesus to show me the right path I should follow, and I promise to follow it. Those prayers often went unanswered, and as I thought about that, I think Jesus was probably rolling his eyes at me and saying, like in last week’s Gospel, “Jim, have you been with me so long and still you don’t know?” I felt as though I was stuck in an escape room of my own making.

Could finding and staying on the right path actually be a lot easier than we think? What if instead of looking for the path, we thought differently about our journey? When presented with life’s riddles or those pesky side roads, what if we instead measured that choice against what He says to do throughout scripture?

Jesus tells us what the keys are to not just a happier life here on earth, but to an eternal one. He says the keys are to:

  • First, trust in me. In the Gospel today, Jesus defines the key to eternal life when he says, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent.” The disciples trusted in the divinity of Jesus and that firmly set them on their faith journey. For us, we need to do the same.
  • A second key is to not be enamored with things of the world. You have heard me say before how easy it is to get caught up in chasing what the world tells us we need. We see it on TV, online and in people we meet, and it can feel like an escape room. But Jesus wants us to instead focus on Him as the one thing we worship in our lives.
  • And third, keep his teachings in our hearts. Throughout scripture, we hear what the Father reveals to us and teaches us. This is our life roadmap, a way to solve those riddles, a way to walk the path He wants us to follow.

OK, trust in Him, ignore the distractions the world throws at us, and stick to his teachings. Great, but how?

If you are not reading scripture, you are missing out. In scripture, He tells us what to do, how to act in life’s circumstances and how to make right decisions. I would also say, if you are not praying, you are missing out. Cast your cares and worries on Him because that’s what he wants us to do. In any relationship we have with a loved one or our best friends, we can pour our hearts out to them and we feel better. Do the same with Jesus. Imagine how much more that will help us!

If we do that, if we follow those teachings, if we pray, if we ignore the lures of the world, He will do something for us that we may not even be aware of, and it is right there in the Gospel today in just four words. When Jesus is praying to the Father, he says something that proves His love for each of us as we journey to Him. He says, “I pray for them.” So, we know that Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand to intercede for us, but I guess I hadn’t really thought about that intercession as a prayer! I mean, when we love someone, we pray for them right? Well, he is praying to the Father for us also! I always think that I pray to Him and here he is praying for us! Wow.

So, the moral of the story is the more you read, the more you pray, the more you trust, the clearer our path becomes. We don’t have to pray to be shown the path, it is right there in front of us, in fact we are already on it. It is our choice whether we are moving forward, standing still or wandering off. When we move forward, our decisions become easier, we solve life’s riddles and we get the key to eternity. And Jesus will say, “I pray for them.” I like the sound of that!

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