29th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 16 October 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 17:8-13; Responsorial: Psalm 121; II: II Timothy 3: 14-4:2; Gospel: Luke 18: 1-8
Sometimes it seems the words of Jesus are simply unrealistic if not impossible. In Luke’s Gospel reading we hear Christ telling his disciples of the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. (Emphasis mine). Our Lord then shares the parable of the woman who insists upon the unjust judge hearing her appeal for justice and his ultimate decision to answer her petitions. Jesus then concludes this lesson with the affirmation that God will always hear and respond to the prayers of those who seek his justice and grace. Then Christ ends with a question of eternal yet very personal significance. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” The lesson is quite clear. God’s people must be persevering, persistent, and weariless in prayer. But how realistic is that? How can it be possible to pray as God says must needs be?
Many are the lessons and powerful promises in Scripture about prayer. The necessity for real, persistent, powerful prayer cannot be denied. As we live in these times of great turmoil in politics, faith, the sacredness of life, environment, climate, family, and personal life there is a recognition of the followers of Christ that prayer is urgently needed on so many fronts. Yet for many our attention and energy are often focused on the debates, discussions, fears, and voices of the world about us. Whether it be in our actual conversations, social media, or our participation in worship at Mass all is often clouded in stress and doubt. These struggles of our faith are also intensified by lives oft beset with schedules of complex and time-consuming demands. In simple, honest reality we can well ask how this prayer-life called for by God is possible?
It is, I believe, necessary to accept this reality, to honestly admit that what God is expecting in our prayer life is not, and cannot happen. It is impossible. Without God.
From the place of our honestly confessing, before God, our inabilities, our failures, and sins, we are brought, by His mercy and grace to learn that He never calls us to be or to do the impossible without God with us. To grow in persevering prayer is to grow in prayer that is immersed in God’s Word and Truth. It is to grow in prayer with His Body, and with others. And it is to grow in the persistent love and passion of Christ.
Persevering prayer is prayer that actively seeks to LISTEN, to HEAR the Word of God. Too often we think of prayer as our voice, our words, our talking to God. And that is very valid. But we must learn to be quiet and let God speak. The ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina is rooted in the expectation and practice of allowing God to speak to us as we prayerfully read the Scriptures. The holy dialogue of Lectio Divina includes Lectio [Read a portion of Scripture], Meditatio [Prayerfully Reflect], Oratio [Respond to God’s Spirit], and Contemplatio [Rest] in the Living Word of God, The Truth who is Jesus Christ. This can be done in a quiet room or garden spot. It can be done by reading a verse or segment of Scripture before driving to work or errands. Then as you travel allow God’s Spirit to lead you through the steps. And it can especially be experienced during Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
Persevering Prayer will involve praying with others. The Old Testament lesson today shares the story of Moses praying for the forces of Israel as they battled the enemy army of Amalek. The battle went well as long as Moses kept his arms raised in supplication for the soldiers of Israel. But his human fatigue was prevailing in the long battle. It was as his arms were held aloft by his fellow servants that persevering prayer was realized. So it is for us. No Christian is called or created to be an island. We are each a part of the Body of Christ, the Church of God. Very often failures and sins are a result of persevering prayer that failed. Because it was not supported by the faithful. People may complain about the church worship, the Mass, or the priest (or deacon) as not being, doing, or leading as they should. It is essential to remember our liturgy, our shared worship is…shared. What might happen if we held up each other in prayer instead of complaining? In every church community, there are those seeking God as they struggle with temptation, sin, sorrow, or fear. Their struggles may result in failures before God and people. They may leave the church. But what if their community was a place where prayer could be shared in courageous love and faith?
Persevering Prayer will grow in us as our love and passion are shared with Christ. In our present world passion is often relegated to the appetites of the flesh. Sensual passion is, sadly celebrated as a source of fulfillment and happiness. To grow in true, powerful, persistent prayer may well involve self-denial. The graces of fasting (of many kinds) may be needed. Often persistent prayer may cause us to take the midnight or early hours to pray through. And often it may simply mean staying awake as we pray a rosary or other special devotion. How do we overcome these all too human weaknesses? It is as we seek to grow in the love and passion of Christ we are both freed and empowered to persevere. Our prayers are essential. But this is about so much more than problems, petitions, needs, or issues. It is about seeking and letting God immerse our hearts and minds, our wills for His Kingdom, and His will. The things, problems, and even the horrors of this world lose their magnitude when they are seen and encountered in God’s Presence. A great, consistent earmark of the saints has always been a growing divorce from the things of this world and a greater realization of God’s Kingdom, God’s Presence in creation and in each other. It is as we learn to seek and embrace Christ crucified we are brought into an holy embrace that impels us to seek, persevere, and grow in faith as we seek to honor and love our God.
Persevering Prayer. It is rooted in love. A love and faith that listens for the Word of the Beloved. It is love that would both allow and share in support of the prayers of each other. And it is a holy passion to simply grow ever closer to Jesus. It is a passion that would cause us to seek, when He comes, to have hearts and lives growing in faith for Him.