Praying with Faithful Perseverance, 32nd Saturday (I), November 14, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Providence
November 14, 2015
Wis 18:14-16.19:6-9, Ps 105, Lk 18:1-18

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In today’s first reading, which completes the one week we ponder the Book of Wisdom in the 104 week daily Mass liturgical schedule, we see the transformation God did of the Jews during the Passover, which is a foretaste of what God’s “all powerful work, from heaven’s royal throne” would do when he came for the new and eternal Passover. If on the first he could transform the Red Sea into an unimpeded road and grassy plain, he could do so much more in the second.
  • One way he wants to change us is through our prayer. He wants to transform us into existences made prayer so that our who lives may be lived in faithful communion with what God is seeking to do in us.  Jesus asks us what I think is perhaps the most haunting question in Sacred Scripture: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” It’s not a rhetorical question. He was asking it because the answer wasn’t obvious. He had a serious concern as to whether when he comes for each of us or for all of us, whichever comes first, he would find us truly faithful. And since prayer is faith in action, he ultimately wants to find us praying, offering our lives to him.
  • Jesus gives us a parable about the “necessity” — not the invitation! — for us to “pray always without becoming weary.” Jesus describes a widow, someone who was helpless without a husband or a son to plead her case before a corrupt judge, who continued to seek a just decision against an adversary. It would appear that the judge may have been bought off by that adversary. The judge, who feared neither what God or what others thought of him, was unwilling but the woman didn’t stop. But eventually he relented, saying, “Because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.” Jesus tells us, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.” Then he adds, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” Jesus wasn’t comparing God to a corrupt magistrate but contrasting him. If even an unjust judge would eventually give in, how much more will a Father who loves his children respond to them when they “pray always without losing heart?”
  • Pope Francis two years ago pondered the reality of this persevering prayer. The first thing he said is that we need to be willing to pray in such an enduring way as to “bother God.” In a homily December 6, 2013, he said, “Jesus himself, when he taught his disciples how to pray, told them to pray like … the widow with the corrupt judge. To do so — I would say — by being bothersome. I don’t know, perhaps this sounds rather bad, but praying is a little like bothering God so that he listens to us. …  This is how Jesus teaches us to pray.” We generally bring our requests to the Lord “one, two or three times, but without great strength, and then I tire of asking and I forget to ask. … Jesus tell us: ‘Ask!’ and he also says: ‘Knock at the door!’ and whoever knocks at the door makes noise, he disturbs, he bothers.” Last October he takes up the very important question as to why Jesus would want us to persevere in prayer, asking over and over again, if God already knows what we need. He said, “Jesus tells a parable on the need to pray always, never wearying. The main character is a widow whose insistent pleading with a dishonest judge succeeds in obtaining justice from him. … “Crying day and night” to God! This image of prayer is striking, but let us ask ourselves: Why does God want this? Doesn’t he already know what we need? What does it mean to “insist” with God? This is a good question that makes us examine an important aspect of the faith: God invites us to pray insistently not because he is unaware of our needs or because he is not listening to us. On the contrary, he is always listening and he knows everything about us lovingly. On our daily journey, especially in times of difficulty, in the battle against the evil that is outside and within us, the Lord is not far away, he is by our side. We battle with him beside us, and our weapon is prayer which makes us feel his presence beside us, his mercy and also his help. But the battle against evil is a long and hard one; it requires patience and endurance, like Moses who had to keep his arms outstretched for the people to prevail (cf Ex 17:8-13). This is how it is: there is a battle to be waged each day, but God is our ally, faith in him is our strength and prayer is the expression of this faith. Therefore Jesus assures us of the victory, but at the end he asks: “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). If faith is snuffed out, prayer is snuffed out, and we walk in the dark. We become lost on the path of life. Therefore, let us learn from the widow of the Gospel to pray always without growing weary. … Pray always, but not in order to convince the Lord by dint of words! He knows our needs better than we do! Indeed persevering prayer is the expression of faith in a God who calls us to fight with him every day and at every moment in order to conquer evil with good.” In other words, Jesus wants us to pray with the persevering insistence of the widow so that we might grow in faith and persevere in the battle of faith our entire life long. Just think about how Saint Monica grew in holiness through her persevering prayer for her husband Patricius, her mother-in-law and her son Saint Augustine. Perseverance in prayer trains us for perseverance in life. When Jesus comes, he wants to find faith in us through the expression of faith in action that is prayer.
  • Jesus never leads us by simply stating “Do as I say.” He rather always says, “Follow me!” And in calling us to persistent prayer, he leads us by example. We see how he would go out all night to pray, even after an exhausting day healing sick people one-by-one. We see how he persevered in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, even when his prayer was causing him to sweat blood in hematidrosis from his pores. We also see how he trained us and others to pray. He didn’t tell us to pray once that God the Father provide us “every day of our life the material and spiritual food we need,” but rather “Give us today our daily bread,” a prayer that’s supposed to be offered every day with gratitude.
  • I love the way he taught the Canaanite woman to persevere in prayer when she was asking him to heal her daughter. It seems at first glance Jesus was behaving cruelly, but it was precisely to increase her faith and her perseverance in prayer. Jesus ignored her; then the apostles tried to get rid of her; then Jesus said he was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, not to pagans in Tyre; and finally that it wasn’t right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. Despite all of these tests, the woman didn’t give up, and said, “But even the little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus was amazed at her persevering prayer, gave her the greatest compliment in the Gospel, “O Woman, great is your faith!,” and healed her daughter at that very instant with his own prayerful word.
  • Another woman of great faith — in fact the greatest! — showed us what persevering prayer was all about in the scene of the wedding feast of Cana. She asked the Lord to work a miracle and persevered even when Jesus had said that it didn’t yet concern him or his mother because his time had not yet come. And the early Church learned this lesson of persevering prayer from her. We see it in the decenarium novena that the apostles and disciples prayed around the Blessed Mother awaiting the Holy Spirit. They didn’t just say a quick prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit!,” and receive the gift. They prayed the first day. The second. The third. All the way until on the 10th day, the Holy Spirit came down. They didn’t give up. They would have continued praying for many more days if that was needed for them to be ready, in prayer, to respond to the Holy Spirit’s gift. Later in the Acts of the Apostles, we’re told that they were all persevering in prayer, in the teaching of the apostles, in common life and in the celebration of the Eucharist. Christians in every age ought to persevere in the same way.
  • The greatest example of persevering prayer, and the greatest means to help us to learn how to be faithful, is the Mass. In Eucharistic Prayer III, we say to the Lord that we offer this prayer of Christ in the Upper Room “from the rising of the sun to its setting.” This is the prayer of the Church that never ceases. When we finish our Mass, there will be thousands of Masses taking place at 8:30 on the Eastern Time Zone, 7:30 in the central, 6:30 in the Mountain, 5:30 in various convents on the West Coast, there will be Masses on every continent all across the day every day as we continue to offer the Mass of Christ until the end of time. It is through the Mass that we are strengthened to pray like the importune widow. Today as we come forward praying together with the Blessed Virgin as we know she, as Mother of Divine Providence, never ceases to pray and intercede for us, we ask God to help us by this new and eternal Passover so to change us that we might become men and women of great faith, men and women of great prayer, here on earth, so that we join one day all the angels and saints in eternal prayer and praise in heaven!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 WIS 18:14-16; 19:6-9

When peaceful stillness compassed everything
and the night in its swift course was half spent,
Your all-powerful word, from heaven’s royal throne
bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land,
bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree.
And as he alighted, he filled every place with death;
he still reached to heaven, while he stood upon the earth.For all creation, in its several kinds, was being made over anew,
serving its natural laws,
that your children might be preserved unharmed.
The cloud overshadowed their camp;
and out of what had before been water, dry land was seen emerging:
Out of the Red Sea an unimpeded road,
and a grassy plain out of the mighty flood.
Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by your hand,
after they beheld stupendous wonders.
For they ranged about like horses,
and bounded about like lambs,
praising you, O Lord! their deliverer.

Responsorial Psalm PS 105:2-3, 36-37, 42-43

R. (5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Then he struck every first born throughout their land,
the first fruits of all their manhood.
And he led them forth laden with silver and gold,
with not a weakling among their tribes.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.
For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE 2 THES 2:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God has called us through the Gospel,
to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
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