Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 17:8-13
2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Luke 18:1-8

At first sight it seems that today’s Gospel is only about persistence in our prayer life. But it has a deeper meaning. It is important for us to remember what has happened just prior to Jesus telling the parable. A Pharisee had asked the Lord when the reign of God would come and Jesus instructs his disciples about the end of time. They were eager to know when and if their journey with Jesus would be seen as justified. This is a question clearly answered by Jesus after the parable: “Will not God secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?... But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

As the widow asks the judge to “get justice for me against my accuser,” the disciples plead with God for vindication against those who oppose and persecute them. Jesus promised his disciples that if they asked God for vindication against their adversaries God would certainly hear them.

But, we don’t often pray about the end of times. We pray our immediate needs and we want our prayers to be answered now. In fact, we know just how we would like them answered.

That reminds me of my friend Mary. Through most of her life she attended Mass every day. She is the sister of two priests and cared for her mother, both brothers, her husband and her little daughter through their last illnesses. Now all of Mary’s family is gone. Mary speaks of the divine with an intimacy that does not carry a trace of superiority. She fascinates me and we often speak about what I think of as her spirituality but she considers “just life.” Mary tells me that she is a “nag” who has no hesitancy reminding particularly the Holy Spirit of what she thinks the world needs, her friends need and she needs. According to her, every prayer is answered if she just keeps asking. She is quick to say that when the answer is not what she asked for, the Holy Spirit had a better idea.

The judge in today’s Gospel was unjust and the widow was desperate. The parable teaches us an important lesson that Mary has already learned. If persistence can change the mind of a dishonest judge, how much more it will influence God.

In the epistle, St. Paul enforces the theme by telling us to be persistent in our faith “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” While not totally certain of what we can learn from Joshua’s mowing down Amalek, we can certainly admire the persistence of Moses in keeping his hands raised. There is another lesson about persistence in this reading. Aaron and Hur supported Moses and kept his hands steady.

It is often not enough for us to stand back and admire the steadfastness of those who keep the faith—and even spread it.

We need to support them for both of us are most certainly vulnerable to the forces that oppose the radical concepts that lie at the foundation of our faith.