Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time October 16, 2022
FR. ELIAS CORREA-TORRES, O.S.B.
Some parables recorded in the gospels come to us with no interpretation provided at all, we are left to ponder what they might mean for us. Others come with an explanation, but given afterwards, sometimes to the disciples in secret. But in today’s parable of the persistent widow the meaning of the parable is explained to us even before we hear it, perhaps emphasizing to us its special importance. Do we remember its meaning? In the parable of the persistent widow, we are to learn the necessity for us to pray always without becoming weary.
To pray always. How important is prayer? As we are taught, in God we live and move and have our being. And through prayer we connect to the One who sustains us and knows us; we make ourselves God’s friends. Through prayer, through asking God for good things as God instructs us to do, we bring God to bear on all the circumstances of our life, making God’s goodness present in the world. We must always remember what power God has over all things. As we have been told, the world and all it holds belongs to God; all the gold and silver in the world really belongs to the Lord; God can take material things and money and give them to whomever He wills. The power of health and sickness belongs to God. The woman suffering from hemorrhages, the leper, the paralytic, the man with the withered hand, and many others – all of these have been and can be healed by God. The power of vocation and the purpose of life belongs to God; it is God who calls people to marriage and arranges for them a spouse, who calls people to priesthood or the religious life and then gives them the capacity to live it generously; it is God who can make a path of life come about and bear fruit, even when it seems objectively very difficult, or even impossible for it to happen. God holds the keys of death and life. The son of the widow of Nain, Lazarus, Tabitha, and many others – the Lord, even with just a word, can restore life to those who have died. And the power of love belongs to God, greater than all other powers, for it is God’s very identity. When love is present in our hearts for others, it is the way we will experience joy and it is the way we will bring blessing to everyone and everything around us.
To pray is to bring all of this, God’s presence, love, and power into our lives and into the world. In this understanding, not praying is profoundly limiting, unproductive, and even foolish. It would be like trying to travel several miles without using our legs, or trying to assemble a complex machine without using our hands, or trying to paint a portrait without using our eyes. And if these are available to us, why would we do without them? If prayer is available to us, why should anyone attempt to live without prayer?
Jesus tells us it is necessary for us to pray. Sometimes, when people become busy or stressed, wrapped up in their affairs and concerns, they end up praying less. This is highly ironic, for it is precisely in times of trouble and difficulty that prayer is most necessary. There are storms of life, they come when they will, often unpredictably, but come they do. These can overwhelm people, even tempting them to despair. Prayer is what gives human beings strength and confidence, for we know and remember that God is with us and loves us, He who has power over all of the storms of life. If we pray, we build our lives on a rock and we will be able to withstand the storms of life.
Jesus tells us to pray always, without growing weary. Prayer must not be for us a one-time thing. As for who I am, my identity as an individual human being, I am the actions I do and the thoughts I think steadily and regularly, my habits. Perhaps we can say that habits in their repetitiveness and continuity, are even now a reflection of eternity, our true life to come. Jesus asks us to be people who embody the habit of prayer, speaking to God at all times, praying without ceasing, calling out to God day and night. And do we have the courage to keep praying and asking even when nothing seems to be happening, when progress is not seemingly occurring? To encourage us, God gives us many examples of how persevering in prayer with faith will accomplish all things. The widow in today’s gospel receives justice. Moses praying achieves victory for the people of Israel over the Amalekites, a battle that without prayer would have been lost. The Canaanite woman elsewhere in the gospels, asking repeatedly for the healing of her daughter, persevering in the request even when she was initially refused, received what she asked for. The lives of numberless saints throughout two thousand years are filled with the testimonies of great things they have received and accomplished through faithful, persevering prayer. They conquered kingdoms, closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword, in their weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, received back their dead through resurrection, and endured with equanimity through mockery, scourging, and imprisonment. We must never underestimate the power of prayer, and it is with that faith in the power and effectiveness of prayer that we must pray. Do we lack this faith at times? Then we are taught that the more we pray, the greater our faith will grow. And the less we pray, even the faith we have can diminish and even be lost.
Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For what shall we ask in prayer? Let us ask for great things – things that will bring about great good and transform us and the world. Let us ask first of all for the Holy Spirit, so that God’s wisdom governs human affairs, and God’s virtues mark human behavior (honesty, faithfulness, patience, generosity, peace, and love). Let us ask for justice, for ourselves and for others, that God’s people may be protected from evil, that their rights may be secured, that they may be free to enter fully into life and make their own contribution to the common good. Let us ask for the conversion and salvation of souls. The Son of Man, Jesus, came to earth to seek and save the lost. When we pray for the salvation of souls, we are particularly aligned with God’s will. It is in these prayers especially that I believe God’s great power will become most evident. Saint Monica, Saint Faustina, the children of Fatima, and so many others testify to the power of prayer for the conversion and salvation of souls. If we commit to pray for someone’s salvation with perseverance, I am convinced that we will receive that request.
In this Eucharist, may we be renewed in our belief and commitment to prayer, increasingly calling out to God day and night. And may we successfully encourage others to do so as well. Amen.
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