TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – SEPTEMBER 8, 2013 – WHAT DO WE PRAY FOR?
What does God want of us? How do we know? Do we find out while praying like King Solomon did as recorded in today’s first scripture reading? What are Bashar al-Assad and Barack Obama praying for? What about us? How do we seek the counsel of God?
Solomon was asking God about his duties as the King of Israel. He then prayed for wisdom and a holy spirit. The book of Wisdom was written by a Jew who was encouraging other Jews to take pride in their faith. The central figure in the book is Sophia, Woman Wisdom who is presented to us as a symbol of “God’s power and glory.” 
What a time we live in. There are so many issues to wrestle with not only in our personal lives but in our communities and around the globe. Where is God’s power and glory to be found?
This weekend we have been asked by our bishops to pray and … take action on both the situation in Syria and immigration reform in our country. It would be easy to push these issues aside or ignore them altogether and carry on in our own worlds. Why should I care about the human rights of Syrians or Egyptians in distant lands or the human rights of women, migrants and minorities here in our country?
What did Martin Luther King Jr pray for fifty years ago? A couple of weeks ago we remembered his “I have a dream” speech. We now know that that historic march on Washington was about freedom and equal rights for people of color and dignity for all human beings regardless of race, creed, gender or income. Things still are not right.
The recent anniversary of the 19th amendment on Women’s Equality is another reminder of an elusive dream. It is hard to believe that some big department stores today will not pay women the same wage that they pay men for doing the same work.
And now this weekend we are asked to pray, to seek counsel and the wisdom of God about the conflict in Syria and our broken immigration system. What are we going to do? What do we pray for?
The gospel for today is about discipleship. What does God ask of us? The text attributed to Luke, who never knew Jesus personally, includes two brief parables about the cost of going to war and starting something we cannot finish. The wisdom of this text may be interpreted in this way. It makes no sense to engage in war without first trying to negotiate lasting peace. It makes no sense to start a project without having a way to complete it.
And so it is with the collective wisdom about Syria, a foreign land, and the immigration laws in our land. Regarding Syria, Pope Francis, bishop of Rome, asks us to fast, pray and act wisely so that all efforts to promote clear initiatives for peace in Syria, are always based on dialogue and negotiation. 
Regarding immigration. The American bishops  and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious also are asking us to fast, pray and act wisely to bring about a change in our attitudes about migrant workers, to foster moral courage among elected leaders as they prepare to vote, and to advocate for migrants in our own communities. 
It is still not too late to contact your elected leaders in the Senate and House to let them know what you think on both of these issues.
To be a disciple of Christ is to make a commitment to work tirelessly for the common good. Last Wednesday evening here in our church Bishop Howard Hubbard inspired and challenged us.  He said the role of the laity, and the clergy, is not only to be involved in their own parishes but to be proactive in the larger community. This is what it means to live as a Christian, he said. That is Bishop Hubbard’s wisdom, his prayer for the church. It is ours as well.
That is why “St. Vincent’s on a Mission” is such an important program — just three weekends away. It is an invitation to spread our ministerial wings into the larger community … beyond the walls of our church buildings. We can make a difference!
For fifty years we have been saying that liturgy is the source and summit of all we do. So … we gather here every week to bless God and become mindful of each other’s needs. We do so in a spirit of humility and justice. In his prayer King Solomon wanted to know what he should do as king of Israel. Our collective prayer is a source of wisdom and power that gives us strength to make the right decisions in our lives and the lives of others. What does God want us to do?
1 Tobin, Thomas in Attridge, Harold W. (Ed.) The Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV (San Francisco: Harper) 1989, p. 1350
2 Vatican Information Service 9/6/13, Year XXII, No. 168
5 Speaking at the St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry Convocation, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Albany, NY