Pastoral Message – October 16, 2022
“Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient…”
How often do we feel that God does not answer our prayers because things do not occur the way that we would like them to occur? How often do we feel angry, disappointed, or defeated because we assume that God doesn’t care or that He doesn’t exist at all? This week, we hear about overcoming those feelings and being persistent in our prayer regardless of the outcome.
In the first reading Israel ultimately wins the battle because Moses refuses to give up on his people. He was exhausted and needed help, but he did not give up. Instead, he asked Aaron and Hur to help him to hold up his arms. Doing something great for others often takes both commitment and the humility to seek help from others when we are tempted to quit. Our most important relationships involve persistently supporting others and being supported by them.
Paul tells Timothy to be faithful and to be persistent “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” This is the same message that Jesus gives us in the Gospel as He tells us about the woman who repeatedly approaches the judge and asks for justice even though he has no intention of helping her. She had no prospects of a job, or money, or someone to look after her so she refused to give up. He could have simply thrown her in jail for being annoying. She was willing to take that risk. On the surface, her cause was hopeless because the judge cares about no one but himself and she has absolutely no status. However, she recommits herself each day to her cause of justice and she forces him to care about her situation.
Jesus praises the widow for being relentlessly persistent. She will not let the judge off the hook. She insists on getting justice for her cause. She is so persistent, that the powerful judge is ultimately fearful that she will hurt him or at least hurt his lofty status. As a result, he agrees to her demands.
Just as the task of the widow required total commitment, Jesus is very clear with his disciples that following him is equally challenging. Jesus told this parable because he knows we are prone to lose heart. Jesus knows that we are weak and that when things don’t go the way we have planned or when we are laughed at by the world because of our faith, we give up on prayer. He knows that we feel discouraged because, from our limited human perspective, God is not answering or even listening when we pray because we don’t see things as He sees them.
Jesus focuses the parable on the need “to pray always and to not lose heart.” The purpose of the parable is to encourage us to persevere in faith despite fears, difficulties and failures. The widow put aside whatever fears she may have had. She was willing to challenge both the cultural norms of the day, which accorded her no real power, as well as the power and influence of the judge. In other words, she didn’t care what might happen to her as she badgered the judge. She was not going to stop until she got the just verdict that she deserved. As the widow discovers, even in the midst of injustice, justice may be done. Similarly, we must never give up hope, and never stop working for the greater good.
We teach our children to pursue their goals even if they fail at first to achieve them. We place high value on those who overcome adversity and failure. Even if someone does not achieve a goal, we applaud their effort and praise their persistence. We are markedly less impressed by those who give up easily. When we feel that God is not responding to our prayers as quickly as we would like, we need to remember that effective prayer requires persistence and faithfulness. We must learn that effective prayers are solidly rooted in absolute trust and faith in God. The Lord will answer when, where, and how He chooses. God expects us to keep on asking, seeking, knocking, and praying until the answers come. It doesn’t matter what happened or didn’t happen yesterday.
Like the persistent widow, we are needy, dependent sinners who trust completely in our loving and merciful God. We are called to be faithful, never-ceasing, persistent prayer. Answering this call requires that we fully give of ourselves, never give up hope, and never stop praying for the greater good. We are called to pray with all humility, without any agenda of our own, with a focus on God’s will instead of our own will. This requires the faith, patience, and persistence to pray constantly that His will be done. At the end of the Gospel passage, Jesus asks one final question: “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” We pray that we will obtain the strength to commit ourselves fully to being among the faithful that he finds.