FERVENT IN PRAYER
HOMILY FOR TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121; 2Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8.
Some of us easily get angry with people when we make request after two or more times and it is not forth coming. Our attitude towards the person(s) begins to change after such request has not been granted. We grow weary and begin to act indifferent. In view of this, today’s liturgy urges us to be fervent in prayer and be of aid to help others rise up to prayer. This beautiful liturgy gives us a physical and spiritual dimension of our struggles in life.
The first reading presents to us the fight of Amalek against Israel at Rephidim (Ex 17:8). Amalek was the grandson of Esau (Gen 36:12). The Amalekites who fight with Israel in today’s periscope will be his descendants. There was and will continue to be ongoing conflict between Jacob and Esau. In this fight, Moses commanded Joshua to “Choose for us men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand” (v. 9). Standing on the top of the hill gives them advantage to win the battle and holding the rod of God in his hand brings to mind the rod that became a snake when Moses threw it to the ground at Yahweh’s direction (Ex 4:2-4; 7:8-12); the rod that Moses used to strike the Nile River, turning its water to blood (Ex 7:20-21); the rod that Moses stretched over the Red Sea, dividing the waters (Ex 14:26-28). However, the rod is not the secret of success. It is God who uses the rod to demonstrate his power.
Back in the days, one of the punishments for students was to ‘kneel down, raise your hands and close your eyes.’ In few minutes of this punishment, the hands begin to grow weary. This is similar to the experience of Moses, whose hands were getting weary. “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed” (v.11). To keep the Israelite winning the battle, Aaron and Hur had to assist Moses. Notably It is neither Moses’ hands, nor the rod that is important, but the God who empowers both Moses and the rod. Moses and Aaron are old men in their 80s (Ex 7:7), though Hur’s age was not mentioned, but we know that old men have less physical strength than young men. Invariably, this fight entails both physical and spiritual dimension. These men stood in prayer of intercession for the Israelites and their prayer became a key to their success.
Christ in the gospel presents to us the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Before this parable, Christ gave us the purpose of it, that we may be persistent and never to lose heart in prayer. He knows obstacles come in the way of effective and constant prayer and so taught and encourage us to always pray, in which St. Paul will urges to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1Th 5:17). When we lose heart, we become discouraged and no longer pray as we should. It is easy to lose heart in prayer because prayer is hard work that we too often approach lightly. If prayer were powerless, it will be easy. Prayer is powerful and it is easy to lose heart in prayer because the Devil hates prayer. We can easily lose heart in prayer because we are not always convinced of the reality of the power of prayer. Too often, prayer becomes the last resort instead of the first resource. Remember that Christ lived a prayerful life; we too must not lose heart in prayer. Prayer enhances our hope that one day, everything will be alright.
In this parable, with the persistent request of the widow to vindicate her against her adversary, the judge, after refusing later said, “though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming” (Lk 18:4). This widow, like the man who demanded bread from his neighbor in the middle of the night (Lk 11:5-8), persisted in asking. When we pray, and it not forth coming as expected, what do we do? Do we device easy and faster means to achieve our request or wait for God? Some of us cannot wait for God and so get involved with dubious and immoral means to get what we want. Sometimes we want our prayers to be granted quickly as we have asked it, but God does not promise instant answers to all prayers. We can imagine the chaos if God answers every prayer quickly and as asked. Hence, this parable seems to teach us that God’s will is always good, is swayed by persistent prayer.
Lastly, St. Paul in the second reading wants us to realize we can pray with the Scripture and make it our guide in our daily lives and actions. It is a lamp to our steps and a light to our paths (Ps 119:105). Constant contact with the Scripture remains the best form of prayer, as it shapes us to the nature of God, a life of holiness. In this letter to Timothy Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2Tim 3:16-17).
The Scripture is sufficient for all battles. Hence, in moments we seems to be losing the battle, let us not grow weary but remember the words of the psalmist, “From where shall come my help? My help shall come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 121:1). As the Israelites comes out victoriously in the battle against the Amalekites and the widow got justice from the unjust judge through her persistence in prayer, God will certainly meet our needs when we are fervent in prayer. With our persistence in prayer, we shall become victorious.
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ