29 Sunday of the Year C
Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tm 3:14- 4:2; Lk 18:1-8
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Perhaps some of us have heard a fable written by Aesop about the rabbit and the turtle. The two animals agreed to run a race. As soon as they started off, the rabbit dashed ahead. The turtle plodded slowly and wearily like the way, a pregnant woman walks with a maternity dress. To take the challenger not seriously, the rabbit decided to take a nap. When waking up, the rabbit saw the turtle almost at the finish line, impossible for the rabbit to catch up with. The implication of the story is persistence will help people succeed.
The liturgy of the word today tells us to be persistent in prayer. Prayer is necessary for us because we are dependent on God every moment of our lives. The necessity of prayer begins with a spirit of humility, accepting our weakness and deficiency. Today’s reading from the book of Exodus tells us the persistent prayer of Moses. When Moses prayed in his outstretched arms, the Israelites had the advantage in battle with the Amalekites.
When Moses got tired, putting his arms down, the Amalekites got the upper hand. Therefore, Aaron and Hur had to support his hands until victory was won. To say so does not mean we have to raise up our hands like Moses when we pray. The way we pray is not as important as perseverance in prayer. Saint Paul in his letter to Timothy told him to be persistent and faithful in prayer and reflect on the word of God. Then the parable is about the necessity of perseverant prayer. A widow was persistent in asking a judge in a certain town to try her case justly. In order for her not to keep bothering him, the dishonest judge decided to render her a just decision (Lk 18:5). The conversion of Saint Augustine was a typical example of persistence in prayer of Saint Monica for 17 years.
Living in the present and modern time, we have become accustomed to instant products like instant coffee, instant tea, canned foods, microwave, fax, E-mail services. However, in our spiritual life, nothing can become perfect that fast. In today’s parable, Jesus promised that God would answer our prayer, but according to his way as Jesus asked the father to take the cup of suffering from him, yet not following his will, but the father’s will (Lk 22: 42).
When and how God is going to answer our prayer, we do not know, but we must put our faith and trust in Him. From people’s experiences with prayers, we can say sometimes we asked God for a favor, and yet he gave us a different favor, making us unaware that God already answered our prayer. For example, when we asked God to heal us physically, yet God healed us spiritually: helping us to accept our condition.
In another case, God did not answer our prayer immediately, but healed us gradually. For instance, a person asked God to heal him from backache; God enlightened him to realize that backache was due to stress and/or muscle tension. And God helped him by telling him to read materials on backache so that he would understand why he felt pain in his lower back and telling him to exercise his lower back muscle so that blood would be circulated evenly. So doctors as well as medicine are instruments God uses to facilitate nature’s healing process. In some cases, we thought God did not listen to our prayers, but actually, God did listen to our prayers without our being aware of it. For example, a person asked God to heal a suffering person, but God took him away from this life. Actually, God did listen to the prayers of that person by terminating his physical suffering. As for questions, why we have not yet received what we asked for or do not get what we asked for is because we did not cooperate with God’s grace or did not know how to help ourselves.
For example, if we ask Jesus to help us fight temptation against chastity, and yet we keep watching pornography, then how can we avoid temptation? We have not gotten what we asked for, might be because we put obstacles on our way, preventing God’s favor to get through. For instance, selfishness and revenge might be obstacles to God’s favor to us.
As for not getting what we ask for, may be due to our lack of faith. Persistence in prayer is a sign that a person has faith. Faith is an important factor because if we pray without faith, our prayers can hardly get an answer from God. Some people pray for a period without getting an answer, and then they stop praying. That was what Jesus asked in the gospel: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth (Lk 18:8)? Prayer is also a way to foster our faith. So in order to keep our faith alive, we can pray at any place and time even when we lie on bed at night, unable to sleep yet. In this case, our prayer does not have to be a formal prayer, because prayer is to talk to God, telling him about our need, or offering to God our body, soul, spirit and condition: sickness, disease and suffering so as to be in union with the suffering of Jesus for the salvation of souls.
We can also repeat a few words of praise to God like ‘Oh Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! We praise you, we bless you, we give you thanks and we glorify your name. Or we can repeat a repetition: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help me with this or that’.
Prayer for being persistent in prayer:
Oh Lord Jesus! Through the parable of prayer
of Moses and the poor widow,
you taught us a lesson of persistence and patience in prayer.
Teach me how to ask for an appropriate request with faith.
And do not let me loose heart
but put my faith and trust in you
in all the circumstances of my life. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong