I have to admit that today’s readings didn’t seem to have much meat for me when I first read them. John gives a pep talk to some new converts, the Psalmist recites the blessings that a just person (well, the psalmist said “man” but I am sure that if he or she were writing today it would be “person”) will receive, and Jesus yet again tells His followers that they should be persistent.
But the meanings came together for me in a different light after a conversation I had with a former student over dinner. She is a wonderful woman, successful, confident, progressive, and living her life based on her relationship with God. We were talking about one of her friends who became engaged sometime back and will be married in the coming months. Her friend was very upfront about praying for the right man to come into her life – an observant Christian, someone who wanted children, someone who would mirror her values and beliefs. As we talked, it became clear that my student was uncomfortable about praying for good things for herself, as her friend had done.
As I flew home last night and reflected on these readings again, my conversation from the night before was still in my mind. It seems to me that one way to approach these readings is as a reminder of our relationship with God. I think a message that emerges is that our interaction with God is a two-way street. Jesus addresses the petitioning side – our asking of God. He reminds us of the need for persistence because the certitude of reward is for those who have faith. Jesus is vague, though, compared to the psalmist, on the nature of that reward. Jesus talks of justice, which is intangible and undefined in this excerpt, while the psalmist talks of material and tangible goods and satisfaction.
Jesus also asks the rhetorical question – when the Son of Man comes (it must be the second coming, because He was already there and talking to them), will He find faith? John’s epistle helps answer this one – his pep talk is to the people who are faithful, who DO for the brothers and sisters, who are CO-WORKERS in the truth. I have always believed (okay, not always – in grade school I was mostly scared and confused and just did what the nuns and priests told me to do, which in the early 60s was mostly focused on formulaic prayer) that faith is works, that faith motivates us to seek out the just result. And so John is providing reinforcement that actions are testimony to a person’s love and movement toward the truth.
So the two-way street is to pray AND to act, to be in regular dialogue with God, but also to act and work. By regularly talking with God we keep grounded in our relationship with the Almighty. Our prayer life does not need to be like that of the widow in the gospel – asking for justice for herself. Our acting and working can be direct service, but it also can be supportive of the needs of others – where we donate our money, who we remember in our prayers, how we vote in elections. By enriching our relationship with God through our prayer, and by working for what we perceive to be justice, by faithfully doing for our sisters and brothers, we help answer Jesus’ question – will the Son of Man find faith when He comes?
My prayer today is for the grace to pray and act consistent with my call from God.
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