Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus is the Light of Life. Art by Greg Olsen
Reading 1 EX 17:8-13
Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,
“Pick out certain men,
and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.
I will be standing on top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hand.”
So Joshua did as Moses told him:
he engaged Amalek in battle
after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.
As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,
Israel had the better of the fight,
but when he let his hands rest,
Amalek had the better of the fight.
Moses’hands, however, grew tired;
so they put a rock in place for him to sit on.
Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,
one on one side and one on the other,
so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people
with the edge of the sword.
Responsorial Psalm PS 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;
whence shall help come to me?
My help is from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
May he not suffer your foot to slip;
may he slumber not who guards you:
indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps,
the guardian of Israel.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD is your guardian; the LORD is your shade;
he is beside you at your right hand.
The sun shall not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Reading 2 2 TM 3:14-4:2
Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God
and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
Alleluia HEB 4:12
The word of God is living and effective,
discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 18:1-8
Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
The Second Letter to Timothy, from which our second reading comes today, tells us this piece of wisdom: “You have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Clearly the lesson today is to seek wisdom and to listen attentively to the Lord and others as we seek God’s wisdom.
The first reading is from the Book of Exodus and that wonderful story of Moses holding up his hands in prayer. As long as his hands are held up, the army of Israel wins in battle. When Moses tires and lowers his hands, the other armies begin to win. This is a story that is repeated in the Gospel: never weary of praying because, in truth, it is only prayer than can change the world.
The Gospel today is from Saint Luke and tells the story of a widow dealing with an unjust judge. As we hear the details of this judge, we understand why the widow is upset. The judge does not fear God and does not respect any human being! There really is no hope for the widow. We don’t know the details of the widow’s case which she brings before the judge. She is not asking that the judge favor her, only that he render a just decision. This widow is relentless! She just keeps pestering the judge until he says to himself: I better give a just decision lest she finally come and strike me.
This is almost a comic situation: a strong and unjust judge who fears a widow who might come and beat him up! Luke’s Gospel tells us that “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”
How often we get weary of praying when God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to answer them! How slow we are to recognize that God knows better than we what is truly good for us! How difficult it is to remain praying for what we think is right when nothing good seems to happen to us and when we sense that God has abandoned us!
God never abandons any of us but instead is always with us, seeking to form us as wonderful and loving human beings who have the strength to do what is right and good. To form anyone requires that we learn how to persevere, how to keep going in the midst of any difficulties, how to accept that if we persevere and keep trying, eventually we see the hand of God present and his loving presence beside us.
My sisters and brothers, let us not be spoiled children who only want our own desires! Let us grow into women and men who are strong and seek only what God wants and who are willing to suffer for the love of God and the love of others.
Your brother in the Lord,
Monastery of Christ in the Desert https://christdesert.org/about/
Last Supper. Art by Mike Duke
From Peace and Freedom
God really hear and answer our prayers. The problem with many of us, even the most devout Christians and Catholics, often find that they don’t really believe. So they don’t really ask. They don’t really pray.
God is kind of gentle that way — he always allows us free rein. We always have out free will. I’ll just bet, often times as he watches me, He’s thinking, “There you go again. Always wanting to do it your own way!”
It is interesting to me that often in the Bible, Jesus or some other major player says, “Do not be afraid.” But that supposes we are doing the things Jesus tells us to do like keeping the commandments and to, “Pray always without becoming weary.”
God wants us to have peace of mind — but we have to do some work to get it!
People trying to recover from alcoholism or drug addiction are often given the suggestion to seek “constant contact with God.”
One of our friends sent us this:
What is your definition of prayer? God’s Word says we are to pray without ceasing. If your definition would meet this requirement then the definition needs to be changed to be able to meet this requirement. God wants us to stay in constant contact with Him all throughout our days. So let’s invite him into every moment of every day and ask Him to move and be glorified in every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we take or prevent ourselves from taking.
To many, prayer means: bow their head, kneel, and pray. If that were the definition of prayer and when the Bible tells us “never stop praying”, how could anyone do it?
There are different times and prayer styles, however, to be able to meet the requirement of “never stop praying”, we need to make sure we aren’t putting God in a box but that we are considering how and what we can do to ensure we are in constant contact with God and that we are walking in alignment with Him. Yes, we should have our private prayer time. Yes, we should have our corporate prayer time. We also need to realize that directing our thoughts towards God qualifies as a silent prayer. Since prayer is a conversation with God, the Bible is telling us that we are to be in constant conversation with God. So be aware of His presence throughout Your day. Invite Him into your meetings and conversations. Invite him into the planned and surprise events. Invite Him into the exciting and routine parts. Talk to Him when you wake up and when you go to sleep.
Whenever I am in need of keeping in constant contact with god: I hum. I hum in the grocery store. I hum while driving. I fall asleep humming. I mow the lawn and shovel snow while humming. I think God hears me and always knows where I’m at! I know He knows where I am even if I don’t hum. But If I do hum, I KNOW I need HIM always and constantly.
That’s a critical part of my constant contact with God.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
Does God really hear and answer our prayers? This question will elicit different answers from different people. Some would declare confidently that God always answers their prayers, no matter what they ask for, and if they are not answered, it is probably because they lack faith that God can answer their prayers. Others would hesitate and answer that God does not answer all our prayers for reasons we do not know. Others still, find it useless to pray, for God cannot answer our prayers at all. Everything is dependent on human and will- power.
What is the scripture’s response to this question? In no uncertain terms, the scripture readings today affirm that God always listens to our prayers and answers them. This is what Jesus taught us in today’s gospel when He gave us the parable of the judge and the poor widow, declaring that God “will see justice done to them, and done speedily”. Then, we have the story of how Moses, whenever his hands were raised in prayer, his people won victory over their enemies. Hence, Jesus exhorts us to pray continually and never lose heart.
Now, although it is true that God always answers our prayers, we must not understand this in a naive and simplistic way. When we examine the parable given by Jesus, we must not over anthropomorphize God to the level of man. In other words, we must not reduce God to the level of the human judge. In fact, in the analogy between God and the judge, there is a much greater dissimilarity than similarity. If not, then we might come to the conclusion that God, like the judge, is lazy and needs to be pestered before He answers our prayers. Furthermore, when He answers our prayers, it is not because He wants to answer them, nor because He cares for us, but because He does not want us to be a nuisance to Him; and so responding to our requests is the best way to get rid of us. If that is how God is like, such a kind of God surely does not command our respect, even less, our worship.
Nay, on the contrary, the point of comparison that Jesus wants to bring is that God is so unlike the judge. Like the judge, God has no fear of man, but in a positive sense. The judge does not fear God or man because he thinks only of himself. He is so self-centered that he has no respect or concern for others, not even God in his life. But God’s ‘fear’ of man is different. If God does not fear man, it is because His love for us is not a grasping kind of love. He does not love us so that we might love Him. Rather, He loves us first even before we decide to love or not love Him. He loves us because His very nature is love. He loves us not even for our sake, nor for His sake. His love is really a disinterested love – a love that flows from His very nature.
For this reason, God can freely bestow His favours and blessings on man without discrimination. God is fair to us all and He loves us all the same. He cannot be manipulated or be appeased. We do not have to do anything for Him to gain His favour. In other words, we cannot do anything to buy God over. This is because He is complete in Himself. Consequently, God’s justice is unlike the judge’s justice. His justice is His merciful love for all and His care for all. His justice is His impartiality in loving all without discrimination and without any selfish motives.
Within this context then, we can understand better that it is not simply because Moses raised his hands in prayer that God helped the Israelites to win the battle. We should not read this text literally. Rather the significance of the raised hands of Moses and the prayer of the widow is their persistent openness and trust. All prayers are always answered by God without exception, provided we have this attitude of persistent openness to Him in trust. That is why Jesus declared at the end of today’s gospel, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” That is to say, can people be open to the different ways God enters into our lives? The rejection of Jesus by His fellowmen is simply because they had their fixated ideas of how God should come as their saviour.
How, then, can one adopt such a persistent openness to God in trust? By praying continually. But this must be clarified. To pray continually does not mean we keep on knocking on the doors of the heart of God, demanding that our petitions be answered. No, to pray continually means to be in continuous dialogue with God in discernment.
How then do we discern whether our petitions are in line with the will of God? The second reading provides us the means of discernment. It speaks first of all of our teachers, that is, the wisdom of the teaching Church, the tradition which we have inherited. Secondly, Paul refers us to the scriptures, “from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” By praying over the scriptures, we can be guided and inspired. In reading the scriptures, we must keep an open mind and accept the Word, welcome or unwelcome, as Paul said. Unwelcome, because there will be times when the Word challenges us in the ways and attitudes of our thinking. We might find it difficult to accept certain truths about ourselves or about life. Yes, we are constantly being called to be true to ourselves.
However, when we see the error of our ways of thinking and living, we will spontaneously be converted. We are converted not because of any compulsion but because we see the stupidity of our attitudes to life; the foolishness of the petitions that we pray for. Yes, to be converted is to be converted to the will of God. Prayers are not meant to convert God to do our will, rather, that we do His will. Obedience to the will of God is not something which we carry out as a burden; rather, it is carried out joyfully and happily because we see it as something good for us. If we find obedience to God’s will difficult, it is simply because we do not understand His will for us. We are carrying them out in blind obedience, which goes against our intellectual and volitional grains. The reason why we carry crosses in life is only because our will crosses God’s will. But when His will and ours are one, there are no crosses to carry.
Yes, the faith that the scriptures ask from us, therefore is a faith that is open to the ways of God which are often above the ways of man. With that faith and with the gift of God’s wisdom to see life differently, we will indeed find that all our prayers are always answered. Not only will our prayers be answered, but we will find that the best answer that one can receive from God is that He does not answer our prayers at all. Why? Because we will come to understand that He always provides what is best for us. We will learn to trust Him at all times and only be open to His providence. Of course, such an attitude can be in us only if we are like Moses and the widow who were persistently open. Such openness means that we can never lose heart no matter what comes our way. And we therefore will always be at peace with God and within ourselves.
One of the attributes attributed to Luke is that his is a “Gospel of Prayer”. We see Jesus praying in this gospel more than in the others and he gives more teaching about prayer.
Today Jesus tells a parable urging perseverance. “He told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” This is very much a theme in Paul’s letters (cf. Rom 1:10; 12:12; Eph 6:18; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 5:17; 2 Thess 1:11, etc., and 2 Cor 4:1,16; Gal 6:9; Eph 3:13; 2 Thess 3:13).
The parable features a totally corrupt judge, who fears neither God nor man. It also features a widow, probably the most powerless, the most pitiful and least pitied of people in the society of those days. She has lost her husband, re-marriage is out of the question, she has lost the support of her own family and her husband’s family, and there is nothing comparable to social welfare for her to lean on.
As far as a corrupt judge is concerned, she can be ignored. She has neither power nor money (for bribing). But this widow is different. She is persistent and will not give up. Eventually, the judge, for his sheer peace of mind, settles in her favour.
If, Jesus concludes, a corrupt and ruthless judge can be moved by a helpless widow, what kind of response can we expect when we, his people, call out in our helplessness to our loving and compassionate God? “I tell you, he will give them swift justice.” That is, he will give them what is rightfully due to them.
But, says Jesus in a challenge which should make us sit up and take notice, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” Times of persecution are on the way – they have already begun as this gospel is written – and some will give up under pressure. They will not persevere in keeping close contact with God in prayer, finding him and his peace in the midst of their sufferings.
It is easy to pray when things are going well. It is often in times of pressure that we, too, give up praying when we need it most, when our faith is really being put to the test. We have to pray constantly and consistently. We should not be afraid to ask for what we believe we really need.
But then, if God is such a caring person, why should we have to pray to him at all? We need to keep praying, not for his sake but for our own. By doing so, we maintain an awareness that “by ourselves we can do nothing”.
Secondly, the more we pray, the closer we come to God. And, as we pray, what we ask for will gradually change. Ultimately what we want is what we need. And what we need is to bring our thinking, our dreams, our ambitions totally into line with God’s way of seeing things.
The problem is, as Jesus says at the end today, how many people will really be doing that when he comes looking for us? How often do I pray? How consistently do I ask? What do I ask for? What do I really want? Do I distinguish between what I want and what I really need? And do I really have that faith and trust in the loving providence of my God?
There is another and very indifferent interpretation of this passage. When we read this parable about perseverance, we usually think of it in these terms: God is the judge and we are the widow. This means we should persevere in pestering God until our needs are met.
But what happens if we turn that around and say that we are the judge and God is the widow? In some ways, this interpretation makes more sense. We, like the judge, are basically unjust. Sometimes we, too, have no fear of God; that is, we do not allow God to scare us into being good.
Similarly, like the judge we persist in refusing to listen to the cries of the poor all around us. But God is the persistent widow who will not go away. God keeps badgering us, refusing to accept as final our ‘No’ to love. God will persist until we render a just judgment, that is, until we let the goodness out, until we learn to love.*
In Genesis we are told we are made in the image and likeness of God. Perhaps our prayer could be: Dear God, Persevering One, make us more like you!
Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 3, 2015 — “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Indwelling of the Holy Spirit)
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!
Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013 over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images) When the going gets tough, we have to get our faith going!
“When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” This is indeed a very critical question that we are all asked to consider today. Will we remain faithful to God until the end of our lives? Will we remain true to our faith in God? Will we remain true to our vocation in life, especially those of us who are married or those called to priestly life or religious life? The fact is that we are all being tested and challengedin many ways. We can be tried in big ways and in the daily humdrum of life too.
Like the widow in today’s gospel, we are put through all kinds of onslaughts and disappointments in life and pushed to our wits end. We can certainly feel with the widow in her predicament. It is unfortunate enough that she could no longer depend on her husband for her livelihood. Not only did she have to look after herself, but perhaps her children as well. Life must indeed have been tough for her. However, that is not all. We are also told that she was being persecuted by her enemies and lost some of her rights. In that kind of situation, we can certainly empathize with her in her plight.
But we too suffer similar struggles in our own lives. We too have our own tragedies. Some of us are in ill health; others are in financial straits; yet others have difficulty securing employment. Some of us also face the challenge of trying to change certain situations in our life, in our family, at work, or the community we belong to. Unfortunately our attempts to rectify such irregularities are often met with indifference and opposition. Such difficulties can be rather trying.
One of the most painful experiences in life is thesuffering that comes from being unjustly treated; discriminated at our workplace and at home. Like the widow, we feel the need to address the injustice. However, justice must be seen in the biblical context. Justice in the bible is firstly understood in terms of distributive justice, that is, an equal and fair distribution of goods, and the respect of each individual’s rights. This is the most basic level of justice. However, in the bible, justice goes beyond mere legal justice. It entails a harmonious relationship with our neighbours and with God. It is concerned with a right and loving relationship. According to our own situations, we all suffer some form of deprivation or the lack of relationship with others and even with God. Redressing our rights is certainly a tedious and time-consuming process. Quite often, such mediation or litigation can result in further complications, especially when neither party is willing to admit its error.
But even more difficult and daunting is the restoration of relationships, especially after a misunderstanding. Even if one party is willing to forgive, the other party might not. In such circumstances, most of us would be tempted to give up. As the gospel says, there is a real possibility of losing heart when we find that seeking justice is too difficult a process. As a result, some of us succumb to unjust practices. Most of us give up in those situations where we have fought hard to make changes but received no support. Students give up studying because they fail in their exams; parents give up on their wayward children and surrender them to the homes when they fail to change their behaviour. We too also give up on our friends when they hurt us. In giving up hope, we are admitting defeat.
Even if we are not overwhelmed by the major trials of life, the real test is our fidelity to what we believe and who we are in the long haul. It is in the ordinary, everyday life that we are truly tested, the daily sacrifices of a mother; the giving of spouse to each other in mutual love, forgiveness, patience and tolerance of each other’s weaknesses; the perseverance in our duties, whether at home, in our faith or in looking after our loved ones, particularly our children who have endless needs and want our attention; and the dying to one’s self-will and interests. It is easy to love, to forgive or do a good deed once or twice, but to do it every day and every year, that is a different matter altogether!
This is also true in our spiritual life. There are some of us who have a beautiful experience of God, especially after a good retreat. But then the euphoria does not last. We cannot thrive on mere spiritual highs and sentimental experiences of God. After the spiritual renewal, we need to take the difficult step of deepening our spiritual life through prayer, reading the Word of God, receiving the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, almsgiving and good works, fasting and mortification. Most of us do not persevere in prayer; much less strive to grow in virtues and in deepening our love and faith in love. In no time, we stop praying, ongoing formation in our faith and the scriptures. And of course, we slide back to our old way of life; a life of sin and irresponsible living.
However, it is precisely this situation that the gospel encourages us to avoid.Jesus is telling His disciples and us “never lose heart.” Indeed, the teaching of Jesus in today’s gospel is not simply a question of perseverance in prayer so that our petitions could be answered. Rather, when we interpret this story in the context of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom, then Jesus’ message is that we must never give up our hope for the realization of the Kingdom of God in our lives. Jesus is assuring His disciples and us that even when things seem to be against us; even when things do not seem to be moving or changing, we must never give up hope. We must believe that things are changing, gradually, but certainly. When we feel that we are getting nowhere, we are not making much progress, when things are not changing; when our diocese, parish or Church group is not growing in strength and unity; when we get impatient with ourselves or others or the situation, then the gospel is saying, “Be patient and persevere!
Yes, to give up hope is to give in to the biggest temptation of the Evil one. This is precisely the intent of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The greatest temptation that we need to pray to be delivered from is the temptation to despair, to lose heart and to lose hope. It is not even to pray for deliverance from our sufferings because if we lose hope in life, in love, in humanity, then the Devil is victorious over us. Once we give up hope, we give up life. Giving up hope is to give up trust in God and the Kingdom. This would spell the end of us.
What then is our basis for not giving up hope? Simply this: we must realize that the mercy and love of God is so much greater compared to the unjust judge. God is more merciful than him. Indeed, Jesus reminds us that if an unjust judge could listen to the appeal of the widow, certainly God, who is unlike the unjust judge, would all the more listen to our prayers. And this faith in God’s mercy and care is also founded in the history of Israel. This is what the first reading from the book of Wisdom wants to teach us. In that passage, we are reminded of how God helped Israel to cross the Red Sea in their flight from Egypt. Just as God helped Israel in all their difficulties, God will certainly also respond to our pleas for help.
Consequently, today, the responsorial psalm invites us to “remember the wonders the Lord has done.” It is important that we remember. If not, during our trials and difficulties, we will fall into depression. Remembering the past blessings we have received from the Lord will give us confidence to continue hoping and trusting in the power of God who is always at work in unseen ways. Yes, today, if we feel discouraged or about to lose hope in goodness and in life, let us recall the wonderful deeds of the Lord in our lives.
And, as the first reading tells us, when we least expect, God will manifest His powers and stretch out His hands to save us. God will come, like as the author tells us “when peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.” Indeed, God will come in a sudden, decisive and surprising way. He will work the same wonders He did at Exodus. He will deliver us in a most stupendous way. When that day comes, we will never, like the Israelites, the Jews and the early Christians, doubt that Jesus is Lord, or the efficacious power of the Word of God at work in us.
So, if we are losing our patience with the Lord because He appears to be late in responding to our prayers, let us never doubt that He is aware of our needs. According to St Augustine, it is because the time is still not yet opportune. What we need to do is to wait for God so that at the opportune time, God can give us the better things we are praying for. In the meantime, God wants us to wait so that we can purify ourselves. It is our patience and perseverance in times of trials and difficulties that we become victorious in the end. Hence, we will prove also with God’s grace that the Kingdom of love is the last word,;not evil and despair.
Tags: 2 Tm 3:14-4:2, Amalek, constant contact with God, Ex 17:8-13, gift of presence, God's loving presence, HEB 4:12, Holy Spirit, How slow we are to recognize that God knows better than we, Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary, Joshua, Lk 18:1-8, Moses, October 16 2016, only prayer than can change the world, pray always without becoming weary, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 12, relentless widow, Render a just decision for me against my adversary, Sacred Scriptures, the judge who neither feared God nor respected any human being, the man who neither feared God nor respected any human being, the widow’s case, we get what is good for us from God, we seek God’s wisdom, widow is relentless