29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Exodus 17:8-13, Ps. 120:1-8, 2Timothy 3:14-42, Acc. Ep1:17,18, Gospel 18:1-8

All our readings today invite us to perseverance. Persevering in prayer, and holding on to the teachings and doctrines handed down to us.

Our first Reading describes the prayer of Moses in time of battle. As long as he kept his arms up, the Israelites were winning; if he let them down because of tiredness, they would begin to lose. Eventually his aides; Aaron and Hur helped with the support of stones so that they would have the final victory. This story must not be taken at face level in order to understand the lesson there in. It is an expression of total dependence on God: without him there would be no victory. All we need to do is persevere, knowing full well that our help will only come from the Lord who made heaven and earth as our responsorial psalm indicates.

In our second reading too, St. Paul exhorts Timothy to persevere. “You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true, remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the scriptures…”

Finally, our Gospel reading is a parable about a judge and a poor widow who is seeking justice. The point is that if even a totally corrupt person who cares neither for God nor man can be made to yield to the pestering of a totally defenseless and helpless widow, who had no influence or money to bribe, how much more will a loving and caring God take care of his own beloved children? Again, the lesson here is to persevere in our prayer of petition.

Today’s gospel reading reminds me of some government parastatals in our country Nigeria. Sometimes, when you go to look for favors, may be accreditation of a new school, or you are trying to get a land document, or a prepaid meter, just something from these offices, and you will see how they make you come over and over again, not because they couldn’t have done what you want easily, but they do not because they want you to wet their palm a little. In the face of this kind of trouble, how many of us really keep going until our need is met? Isn’t it the case that at some point we get wearied and tired and just give up, and give them a tip? At other times, we will even be the one to suggest that to them simply because we lack the virtue of steadfastness and perseverance. Well, our readings today invites us to cultivate the virtue of perseverance in prayerful waiting.

What does these readings hold for us? We must know that our prayer should be followed with actions. Our victory in life depends much on God. No doubt about that. But then, we are also reminded that the solution to our daily battles and struggles both have spiritual and the physical dimensions. Moses prayed in the first reading, but he also had to take action, he had to keep his hand up. The widow in the gospel reading didn’t sit down at home asking God to give justice she persevered and disturbed the judge.

The immediate implication of the above is that, we must know that prayer is no substitute for action. God wants us to do all we can in any circumstance and also to pray. As it is often said, “pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” In order words, prayer shouldn’t be an escape from life but a journey into the heart of life.

Again, if we examine the parable, we will find ourselves there. We are the poor defenseless widow. But God is not the unjust judge who neither feared God nor man. Rather, Jesus seized the opportunity to teach that; if a cruel judge can be won over through perseverance, how much more will God listen to his own Children who persevere in prayer. Please do not get it twisted, God cannot be manipulated by words. what we do in perseverance is to unite our will together with God’s. Perseverance will indeed win our heart desires for us. This is not the first time Jesus is teaching the importance of perseverance. Precisely our reading on Thursday of week 27, Jesus drives home this point. He compares God to a decent, caring parent. Would such a parent give a child a stone when he asked for bread? Would a parent give a scorpion to a child who asked for an egg? If even worldly parents will give their children what they need, says Jesus, how much more will a loving God see to the needs of his children? Luke 11:13, you can also confer Matthew 7:11.

(in other versions of the Bible, Jesus concluded his teaching by saying that God will always give good things to those who ask him. Luke’s version says that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.)

But the question is don’t we sometimes pray and work and yet nothing happens? Then the above read Luke 11:13. Only God knows what is good for us in the long run. That is why the lesson of the parable is to persevere and never give up. There is, of course, an important condition, that what we ask for must be according to justice and the will of God. Do we not pray in the Our Father: ‘Thy will be done’? That is why Jesus asks the question at the end of the parable. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” Jesus in asking this question was wondering if people’s faith would stand up to the long delay before the Son of Man would come again in his glory. Will you be patient enough till when God will answer your prayer? Will you accept that the answer God gives you as the best for you?

Shalom!!!

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