Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Saturday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Doctor
November 15, 2014
3 Jn 5-8, Ps 112, Lk 18:1-8
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today 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. He’s been giving us over the past couple of weeks lots of encouragement to be found vigilant upon his arrival, like that faithful and prudent steward giving his goods to others at the proper time. Today we can ponder three ways that he hopes to find us faithful.
- The first is through persevering prayer. Jesus gives us a parable about the “necessity” — not the invitation! — for us to “pray always without becoming weary.” Prayer is faith in action. 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 last year 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 last December 6, 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.
- The second expression of faith Jesus hopes to find in us is persevering study. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Albert the Great, the 13th century Dominican Doctor of the Church. He ended up writing 38 huge volumes on theology, Biblical interpretation, physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry and biology and because of that prodigious output, it might be presumed that all of this came easy for him. It didn’t. He needed to persevere. When he was a young boy from a noble family in Germany, he shockingly joined a new, mendicant (“begging”) religious order called the Order of Preachers founded by St. Dominic. It’s hard for us today to imagine what it would be like for someone like Albert to become a religious beggar. Many families were okay with their sons choosing a religious vocation if it would mean they’d eventually become the abbot of a great Benedictine monastery or perhaps a bishop, but to become a beggar was something that they couldn’t fathom. Imagine today if President Obama’s two teenage girls decided to leave the White House and live on the streets, or if Bill and Melinda Gates gave all their money away and started living in a simple shack in Calcutta begging other people for food. That’s what it was like for Albert. And after he had done this in opposition to his family, he encountered various struggles in his studies. He said later on in life that he had become very discouraged and was strongly inclined to return to secular life but our Lady appeared to him and promised to ask for him illuminating grace in his studies if he would persevere. He decided to persevere, he received that light, and he bore tremendous fruit. We may not be called to be as fruitful a writer on so many subjects as he was or ever to become a Doctor of the Church. But the Blessed Virgin, the model of persevering prayer, is doubtless interceding for us for illuminating grace in our studies if we persevere, and persevere we should. Genuine faith seeks understanding and therefore a faithful Catholic always wants to grow in knowledge of God and in the capacity to share the fruits of that study with others. So the second way Jesus wants to find faith in us upon his return is to be shown in our persevering study of the Bible, of the Catechism, of the inner truths of the spiritual life, and even, like St. Albert, of the way the world God created works. One of the biggest signs of a lukewarm faith, of a faith that’s not truly persevering, is when someone has lost a hunger to learn the faith better.
- The third expression of persevering faith Jesus hopes to find is with regard to charity. Today we encounter for the only time in the Church’s two year liturgical daily Mass readings a portion from St. John’s very short third letter. In it, St. John is praising the recipients of the letter for the way their faith has overflowed in acts of love. St. Paul said that what God wants in us is an operative charity, “faith working through love,” and that’s precisely what St. John was praising. He said, “Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters, especially for strangers. They have testified to your love before the Church.” Their faithfulness was shown in the charity especially to strangers. St. John called them to persevere in helping the others persevere in faith in the midst of a context in which the pagans were mocking them and trying to get them to leave the Christian faith: “Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey. For they have set out for the sake of the Name and are accepting nothing from the pagans. Therefore, we ought to support such persons, so that we may be co-workers in the truth.” All of us are supposed to be “coworkers in the truth,” working together to inspire each other by our own seeking the truth, our living the truth and our teaching the truth so that when the Lord appears, we may all be found persevering in faith.
- 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. It’s through the Mass that we come in the liturgy of the Word with hunger to get to know our faith better. It’s through the Mass that we are strengthened from within to “do this” in memory of Christ and make his self-giving charity the standard of our life. Today, through the intercession of St. Albert the Great, we beg the Lord for the grace to help us to persevere in prayer, study and charity in such a way that when he comes he will find us faithful and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 3 jn 5-8
especially for strangers;
they have testified to your love before the Church.
Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey.
For they have set out for the sake of the Name
and are accepting nothing from the pagans.
Therefore, we ought to support such persons,
so that we may be co-workers in the truth.
Responsorial Psalm ps 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house;
his generosity shall endure forever.
Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Gospel lk 18:1-8
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?”