Being stubborn and being persistent can seem similar in intensity and action.
We are invited by the readings of this liturgy to pray with desire and perseverance.
We are praying with the reality that God is on our side even when we seem
to be on the other side.
Praying is more than asking! Prayer is an intimacy which extends a particular
time of praying. We are urged to live as a prayer rather than separating
prayer from our living. God does not have ears! God’s image is not as a judge!
We are invited to reexamine who we are to God and who God is to
and for us.
In this country, famous athletic coaches have been thought to be able to
alter wind directions or make the rain stop for their teams’ advantages.
This is more a popular myth, but there have been some strange events surrounding
In our First Reading we have a picture of the head coach of Team Israel,
Moses, who is seen praying over his warriors. Amalek is the opposition and
Moses has instructed his star player, Joshua to fight for God and his country.
Moses, for his part, will be praying up on the rim of the stadium. As long
as his arms were raised in supplication God gave Israel the better of it.
Eventually he needed help from two others to support his arms so that Israel
would be victorious. This seems to be a strange God who asks as much of Moses
as Moses asks of those in the field.
Immediately before these verses, the people of Israel have been grumbling
and wondering. They are in the desert and thirsty, because there is no water.
They want to know if God is with them or not. It is a long time of mutual
testing. God is probing the faith of Israel and Israel is testing God’s fidelity.
God proves faithful by presenting a “rock” which when struck does produce
a kind of saving water. This place then was named “Massah” and “Meribah”
which names mean “test” and “argument.” Israel was honest about their
thirst and complained. God remained faithful to their grumbling prayer.
So the people grew in trust by signs they were given. They go into battle
trusting Moses’ power given him by God. Moses prayed with the weight of his
arms outstretched and the weight of the people’s expectation. The people
were learning slowly that God works through human agencies slowly as well.
The Gospel for today flows from the second half of the previous chapter of
Luke. The Pharisees ask Jesus about the exact time of the coming of the “kingdom
of God.” Jesus replies, “The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit
of observation and there will be no one to say, 'Look here, look there'.”
God’s kingdom will be more a spirit than a place, more of faith than an event.
We are offered today one of the two parables of this chapter of Luke’s Gospel,
both dealing with prayer. A nasty judge, who does not possess the “wisdom”
of the Jewish tradition to honor God and care for the widows, is approached
by a widow for justice. The judge ignores her and her request, but she persists
in her petitioning. He relents, not to help her or honor his tradition but
to avoid her wrath.
This seems to be a rather simple parable about how we should keep asking;
pounding on God’s door and eventually we will get what we want. This parable
is directed to the disciples who are slowly getting to understand that there
is usually more to the parables than at first meets the ear. Prayer, or persistence
in asking, is more than saying words or having thoughts. God is not a judge
who is manipulated by pretty words or angry suggestions.
The disciples are learning through this parable that their lives of fidelity
are a form of prayer or relationship with God. Waiting, hoping watching,
and longing, are parts of any loving relationship. The “kingdom of God” will
not admit of observation, but relies on faithfully grumbling and wondering
at times, but always persisting in the relationship. Our living each moment,
thirsting, demanding, but eventually turning to God, is how prayer is a way
of life rather than just a simple putting in time and expecting the “rock”
to start springing.
We are those who wait for the coming into this world of the “kingdom.”
This will be the fullness of the spirit of God’s ways as revealed through
Jesus. We wait for those same ways to come into our own personal worlds and
lives. Our waiting is long, but in a way, persistent. We may grumble at the
tardiness of God’s kingdom and especially at our own slowness. The Pharisee
in us wants to know the when and even the if, of the great coming. God is
not efficient and the disciples were learning that lesson and would live
faithfully towards the kingdom’s coming. They had, and we have our own little
kingdoms which are in the slow process of being rearranged. We long for the
domination of Jesus who will bring peace with justice into this world. We
hope for this, long for it, work towards it.
This “kingdom” begins with me and my kingdom’s being converted and I know
this to be seemingly slower and slower. My living each day in this conflict
between my kingdom and that of Jesus is how I pound on God’s door. I want
“justice,” but yet I fear what “justice” would ask of me and my “kingdom.”
My prayer is my fidelity to the process of God’s converting my heart. So
it is a battle and hopefully God will win.
“In all circumstances, give thanks, for this
is the will of God for you, in Christ Jesus.”