Sunday Sermon for October 20, 2013, the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Ex 17:8-13; 2Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8
In the readings today we hear several lessons about perseverance. Our Lord teaches us in the Gospel that we are to pray always without growing weary. At first glace we tend to dismiss this point because most of us are not nuns or monks whose vocation it is to pray. However, before we reject this teaching outright, we first need to note that the Lord was speaking to His disciples. This is not just the Apostles, but the wider body of those who were following Jesus and learning from Him.
That means that everyone in any state of life is included in this teaching. How, then, are we to do this since we cannot be like Anna who did not leave the Temple day or night. We see one example in the first reading where Moses holds his hands in prayer and blessing over the Israelites while they are doing battle with Amelek and his army. It is important to note how the people noticed the difference in the battle between when Moses had his hands raised and when he allowed his arms to rest.
Again, we might say that we would like to be able to stay in prayer for particular intentions, but daily work and the duties of our state in life does not allow it. Although we may not be able to remain in church or even in formal prayer, that does not mean that we should cease praying. We need to learn to pray as we work and we need to learn to offer our work as a prayer.
Most of us can take a few seconds in the course of our work. As you do this, remind yourself that you are with God and He is with you. Then make a brief prayer for whatever intention you wish, or just praise or thank the Lord. Before you begin any project you can offer it to the Lord for any purpose you desire. As is done in the Morning Offering, you can offer your whole day with all of its challenges, victories and problems. If you are in a situation where you perform many different tasks throughout the day, you can pray before each of them and offer each task for whatever purpose you choose.
In these ways we are able to call God to mind more often throughout the day, sanctify the day more and pray during the whole of the day. This kind of prayer, coupled with our formal times of prayer, become a necessity for the point St. Paul makes in the second reading. He tells Timothy to remain faithful to what he has learned and believed. He also instructs Timothy to be persistent in his preaching of the Word of God whether it is convenient or inconvenient.
If this is the case with preaching, it is even more the case with regard to prayer. There are times when it is not convenient to pray, but we are still called to persist. There are times when we will be tempted to things that we know are not right, but we can justify ourselves that it is not all that bad or, compared to some other things, this is pretty small. Turning regularly to God in prayer will convict us in such moments to turn away from what we know will offend God and choose what is best. When our Lord teaches us about praying always without growing weary He also puts it into another context. We are to persevere in prayer even if it appears that our prayer is not being answered. He tells us that the justice of God will be given swiftly. Sometimes this means that it will happen soon after we begin praying, but at other times it means that when the time has come for the prayer to be answered, it will happen suddenly and swiftly.
We need to understand the point here. It means that we often do not see any change or progress in the situation for which we are praying. Suddenly, without warning, the awaited change will occur. If we have been persistent in prayer, we will be ready, even when the grace was unexpected. If we have given up praying for this intention, whatever it may be, we will be caught off guard and not be prepared to handle the situation.
Whatever the case, we can see from our Lord’s teaching and from the action of Moses that prayer makes a difference. If Moses had merely said a quick prayer and went about his work, the Israelites would have lost the battle. They only won because of his persistence in prayer. So, offering a prayer is not enough if we are serious about remaining faithful and desiring the same for others, instead, we need to pray always without becoming weary.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.