Cycle c 29th Sunday
Poverty, Immigration, Abortion, Health Care, Social Security, Terrorism, Economic Security, Rights Protection …Yes we are at a point where we must act to ‘Form our Conscience’. Education on each is important, but to gird our efforts IN THIS EXERCISE we must PRAY. We can’t stick our heads in the sand, for the list goes on and on… Affordable Housing, Employment Opportunities, 3rd World Poverty, Protection of Marriage, and ending Racism.
And PRAYER is not just for enlightenment or action on ‘Political Issues’. For the Christian, Prayer MUST also include items from Health issues to those Dying, (Priestly) Vocations, our RCIA Candidates and Confirmation Students and even our Heelan Building Project. We have a PLETHORA of serious needs to PRAY FOR.
From our Exodus reading, the Israelites were on their long journey from Egypt to Canaan. And they had to pass through territories occupied by aboriginal tribes. Naturally, some or most of such tribes objected to letting them pass through their territories as they feared that they might take over or plunder their lands. The first tribe to attempt to prevent the transit of Israel through their territory was the Amalek who inhabited the desert as far as Sinai. They rose up in arms against Israel and would have annihilated them were it not for Moses’ INTERCESSION, Moses PRAYER with God.
The lesson from this incident in the history of Israel is evident. Although this EVENT occurred about thirty-two centuries ago, it is as true today as it was then, for neither God nor human nature has changed. The LESSON IS that God wants us TO PRAY for the very GIFTS he wants to give us or CAUSES He wants us to champion. He is ready-willing and able to help us. He certainly didn’t want the Amalek to prevent his Chosen People from getting to Canaan, the land he had promised them. Amalek was resisting by force of arms. Israel must overcome him by force of arms. But as their fighting force was much smaller, God WILLED to give them extra strength on condition that they ASK him for it.
Moses represented the Israelites. He was their intermediary with God. When HE PRAYED, ISRAEL PRAYED. While he prayed all went well with Israel’s fighting men.
A Big Question: if God willed they would reach Canaan, which he definitely did, why should they have to ask him for help whenever there were obstacles to overcome? The reason was that he was still training them. They had to learn that ALL that they WERE and ALL that they HAD, they owed to him. He was not ONLY their CREATOR and LORD, but he was their BENEFACTOR as WELL. They must learn to appreciate this and they must therefore turn to him in all their needs. Whenever they turned to God, all through their history, God befriended them; he answered their prayers. Whenever they forgot this lesson, or refused to see its meaning, and trusted in their own strength and wisdom instead, they fared badly.
To teach his followers the need for perseverance in prayer and the effectiveness of such perseverance, our Lord told his disciples the parable of the UNREIGHTEOUS JUDGE.
Every town and large village of Palestine had a man appointed by the central authority in Jerusalem, whose duty it was to settle all local disputes brought to him. A pagan Roman would not be expected to respect the God of the Jews. But this Jewish Judge had no respect for his God or HIS ten commandments. Public opinion likewise had no effect on him. He, like many people, portray themselves as the law,
So the woman, tagged with the very name “widow,” would be known as one who had lost her bread-winner and had to be “father and mother” to her family. This then implies she is one who has a special claim on charity not to mention justice. Since the Judge refused to hear her claim against some unjust neighbor or relative, she kept coming back seeking that Justice.
It was not fear of God’s punishment or fear of public opinion that made him hear her case at last. It is unlikely that a poor widow would hit him or beat him up, but her continuous knocking at his door was as unbearable and as injurious as a physical beating. This was because he was a selfish, self-centered man. So he decided to give judgment in her favor—mainly due to her PERSERVERANCE.
The lesson of the Gospel is: If a CORRUPT, EGOISTIC judge can be eventually moved by the PERSERVERANCE of a helpless widow, HOW MUCH MORE so will the all-just, all-merciful God be moved to help his “chosen”, his friends, who prove by their perseverance that their approach to him is TRUE and SINCERE?
We are at PRAYER here in this Mass. But outside of it, do you have a PRAYER LIFE? The needs and problems are abundant. Do we realize how much God will take care of us if we but realize how much we owe Him? So just like the Israelites in the day of Moses or the Widow in the Parable, we too must PERSEVER in our entreaties or prayer. Jesus says in Luke 21:36 to ‘PRAY ALWAYS’. Together here as a child of God or citizen of this country, we must preserve in prayer for the NEEDS of all and the Right OUTCOME of all issues.
It is a Bitter Pill to take for some, that we each have an imperative need and Christian Obligation to ‘Form our Conscience’. Prayer can be even more essential here. God wants to change us and give each of us His gifts of FAITH and REASON. Only in these gifts can we live according to His decrees and then teach others to live in the light of the Gospel. The church teaches us that God wills to give us a Just, Moral and Peaceful World / America / City / and family to live in…but we must PRAY for a FORMED CATHOLIC CONSCIENCE to bring it about.
Lastly, if we continue to be LACKS about our prayer for that Plethora of needs, that prophecy of Jesus we heard in that last line of the Gospel may come true in our living; “When the Son of Man returns, will he find any FAITH left”?
On this 29th Sunday of the year, we are invited to consider the importance of perseverance in prayer. We even see in the first reading how Moses, by keeping his arms extended, with the help of Aaron and Hur, helps the Israelites to defeat the Amelekites in battle. Moses’ extension of his arms foreshadows how Christ would extend His arms on the Cross and win the battle of life over death.
In our Gospel today, we hear about the parable of the judge who gives-in to the persistent woman’s demands, not for fear of God but for fear that something bad may happen to him. His incentive is to avoid possible calamity. If the judge who has no fear of God listens to the woman, how much quicker is God to listen to the cries of his very children? He is not slow to answer.
We are always being encouraged to pray more, but it is often the case that we don’t understand the dynamics of prayer – how to enter and be sustained in prayer and what real prayer is all about. It would be helpful to consider the following:
- Prayer is not so much a technique or method. Yes, formal and set prayers like the Mass and Rosary give our prayer doctrinal content and form and these are the center of the Church’s prayer life, but what we’re considering today is personal prayer. In personal prayer, we’re not looking for a technique, as much as we should be trying to listen and rest in God. St. Teresa of Avila reminds us that prayer is when we look at the One who gazes upon us with love.
- When we pray, we need to take time to be still and quiet and prepare our hears and minds to enter into conversation with God. Prayer itself is a grace and so we need to beg God for the grace to pray as we should. We can’t expect to enter into prayer when we don’t take time to detach from the world for a few moments and listen to God trying to speak to us.
Although we acknowledge that prayer should be the very thread of our lives, we know that many people do not persevere in prayer. Here are four possible reasons:
- First, persons give up on prayer, often because they don’t perceive that their prayers are being answered. In fact, it may be the case that their prayers are answered but not always according to the way they like to see them answered. When people don’t get what they want, when they want and how they want, then there’s a strong tendency to give-up. It’s as if God becomes a good-luck charm who has lost his power. So, we ask, “When I pray, do I think of God as having a real relationship with Him or do we think of Him as someone that we can appeal to for favors but only when we need favors?” Job so eloquently states, “We accept good things from the Lord, why do we not accept evil? Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In other words, God knows what we need. Sometimes, He allows us to experience suffering so that we can draw closer to Him. Suffering is, after all, God’s megaphone. St. Augustine exhorts us not to pray for what we need or want, since God knows that already. Rather, we should pray to accept whatever God wants to give us.
- Second, persons give up on prayer because they don’t know what to say. Again, prayer is not so much a technique or method as it is resting in God. St. Paul reminds us that we know not how to pray but it is the Spirit that prays within us. Prayer is a conversation that begins with God, not with our laundry list of needs. Take time to listen to God. Ask Him how His day has gone and how He wants you to see the world. So, if you don’t know what to say, don’t worry. Real prayer begins when you get caught up in the conversation going on between the persons of the Trinity.
- Third, persons give up on prayer because they no longer feel the “warm fuzzies” or consolations in prayer. St. Teresa of Avila warns us that when we start praying, God gives us those warm fuzzies to entice us to come back to prayer, like candy. When we have reached greater spiritual maturity, he withdraws the feelings so that we approach God with pure hearts – not for what we can get but rather, for what we can give. The greatest saints all experienced arid prayer lives. Yet, they kept on praying because they wanted to adore and thank God and ask for His mercy. Christ’s greatest prayer was performed at Calvary – that didn’t feel good at all.
- The final reason I would cite for a lack of perseverance is related to the attitude, “I don’t have time to pray.” That is a sign of a subpar relationship with God. That’s like a parent telling their kid, or spouses telling each other, “I don’t have time for you.” We make time for the things that matter – TV shows, hobbies, vacations, work. How sad it is when God has to compete for our time.
Finally, we consider how prayer is linked to faith. In our Gospel today, Jesus spends 7 verses speaking about prayer and than at the last moment, sneaks in this idea that prayer is related to faith for He asks, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find any faith on earth?” Here is what St. Augustine says, “In order to pray, let us believe; and for our faith not to weaken, let us pray. Faith causes prayer to grow and when prayer grows our faith is strengthened.” My friends, if faith is necessary for salvation, then I would suggest that prayer is too.
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us to pray as she did – in humility, purity, perseverance and in deep faith. She will assist all of us, her children, to draw closer to the merciful and compassionate heart of her son.