XXIX SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
exodus 17:8-13; 2 timothy 3:14–4:2; luke 18:1-8
perseverance is a trait that is admired in society, and finds examples in scripture—from jacob (who wrestled with an angel until he received a blessing) to paul (who experienced persecution, imprisonment and shipwreck, and yet persisted in preaching).
at first glance, the gospel seems to be an example of the link between perseverance and blessing. the lesson in the parable of the persistent widow seems clear: persevere and you will be blessed.
there are two problems with this lesson!
first, we believe in a GOD who freely gives his people what they need. how can we assert that if we pray hard enough or pester GOD he will give us what we want?
second, it could create guilt in some (and pride in others). when we don’t get that for which we prayed, does it mean we haven’t prayed enough? how can we tell a person who is terminally ill or who has lost a child, those in haiti and parts of the usa affected by hurricane matthew, those suffering persecution in the middle-east… that they haven’t prayed enough?
persevere and be blessed is not «good news»!
what is today’s good news? jesus tells his disciples this «parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.»
jesus contrasts GOD and the judge: if a corrupt judge renders justice because the plaintiff is persistent, how much more will our loving and caring GOD answer us? jesus challenges us to pray always… refusing to give in to appearances, and trusting that GOD will act in his way and in his time to bring the justice we seek and the blessing we need.
in the first reading, we have the example of moses who prayed always (despite becoming weary) while the israelites battled the amalekites.
today, we have the example of mother teresa who «prayed always» despite enduring spiritual doubt, despair and loneliness for nearly fifty years; and of pope john paul ii who «prayed always» though he suffered greatly because of parkinson’s disease.
in moments of trial and tribulation, do i still trust GOD? do i pray always without losing heart? or do i abandon GOD and prayer when things don’t happen as i think they should?
we pray not because we have to beat a path to GOD’s door before he will open it, but because until we beat the path, maybe there’s no way of getting to our door (cf. frederick buechner).