FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Exodus 17:8-13 | Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 | 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 | Luke 18:1-8
Prayer is both a battle of faith and the triumph of perseverance. This encouragement is at the heart of this week’s readings. Moses holds up the staff of God, his arms supported by Aaron and Hur, for hours, during a battle. Paul challenges Timothy to remain faithful to the ministry of proclamation, even in the face of resistance. And Jesus tells the story of a widow who persists in demanding justice from an unjust judge until she wears him down and is given her due.
San Miguel Parish strongly disapproves of drinking alcohol. It started a prayer campaign to prevent the bar across the street from expanding. Construction of the bar progressed right up till the week before the grand opening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. After the bar burned, the parishioners were rather proud in their attitude about "the power of prayer" until the bar owner sued the parish on the grounds that it was ultimately responsible for the demise of the building, through their prayers. The parish strongly denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise. As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, "I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and an entire parish that doesn't."
Today’s first reading, from the book of Exodus, provides a dramatic example of prayer as a battle and a victory of perseverance. The Israelites were being attacked by the Amalekites, who were descendants of Jacob’s brother, Esau. Moses sent his men into battle, telling them that he will stand before them with his staff in his hand. As long as Moses raised his hands and held aloft his staff, Israel prevailed; if he lowered his hands to rest, then the enemy prevailed. To keep the figure of Moses with hands raised before the army, his associates placed a seat for him to sit, while they held his hands up. With his arms and staff raised, Israel defeated its adversary. The word “prayer” doesn’t appear, but clearly Moses, the God-chosen leader of the Israelites, is upholding his embattled people in prayer and, when he tires, is helped by the high priest, his brother Aaron.
One stormy night, Ferdz Bautista was scheduled to speak to young people in the Manila Cathedral. His host Msgr. Nestor Cerbo attempted to dissuade him from going in the torrential downpour by telling him that everyone would assume it was canceled. “But was it not announced for tonight,” Ferdz asked. He then said, “I must go, even if there is no one but the doorkeeper.” The meeting was attended by less than a dozen people, but there was an unusual outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s power, and half of those present either became leaders of instrumental and vocal ensembles or teachers of liturgical music while the other half became music directors that put together the 1,000-member Papal choir during the 2015 Pope's Visit to the Philippines.
In addition to prayer, we must also be persistent in our discipleship as well. The apostle Paul, in his Second Letter to Timothy said: “Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching." The reminder Paul gave to Timothy is equally as vital for Christians today, as we are pounded on every side by twisted teachings, false doctrine, a sacrilegious 'spirituality' that has slithered into the Church today, and a compromised, watered-down gospel that is causing many to stumble in their Christian walk.In the face of these assaults, we must persevere in prayer and in our discipleship, both individually and in community, so that we remain faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings.
Jeremy wants a PlayStation 4 Console for Christmas really badly, but the kid is a real bad seed, and he knows it. He writes a letter to Jesus. "Dear Jesus, if I get a bike for Christmas, I'll be good for a whole week." He thinks about it, crosses out what he wrote, and says, "I can't be good for a whole week, I'll be good for five days." He crosses that out and writes, "I'll be good for four days." Then he thinks again and says, "Can't do that." He gets down to one day and says, "I can't even be good for a day." Then in frustration, goes in his mother's room and get the statue of the Virgin Mary, wraps it up in a blanket, puts it in a paper bag, throws it in the closet and says, "Dear Jesus, if I don't get a PlayStation 4 Console for Christmas, you'll never see your mother again!
In the Gospel reading from Saint Luke, Jesus told his disciples to, “pray always without growing weary,” and shared the Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unrighteous Judge. According to the social norms of the time, a male family member would have gone to plead her cause on her behalf before the judge. Most likely, she has no one to do this, so she confronts the judge herself. We can presume the dispute was to do with property or possessions, resources she needed to support herself and her grieving children. Jesus explains that the widow is an example of how to persevere in prayer, trusting that God will do justice. If someone, who is unrighteous, will respond to perseverance, how much more will God, who loves all, will respond to those who are persistent in prayer? So when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith in your heart? Don’t quit, don’t give up, don’t lose heart. Keep going. Keep praying. <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum