Sunday, Oct. 20, is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle I).
Exodus 17:8-13; Psalms 121:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8
Today’s readings share some of Scriptures’ best object lessons about prayer.
First is the beautiful image in the first reading of Moses praying for the Israelites battling the Amalekites: “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.” When he grew tired of raising his arms, two deputies came forward to help him keep his arms raised.
It’s the same in our lives. As long as we call on God in prayer, God’s battles are won. The moment we stop, the battles start to turn.
This is the case not because we are special and God is wowed by us. Quite the contrary.
For Moses, Aaron and Hur physically lifted his hands. For us, our families remind us to pray, prayerful friends inspire us to call on God, and the Church encourages us in the sacraments and through its ministers to seek Divine aid.
The point is to keep praying.
Jesus makes the point viscerally in today’s Gospel, when he describes how even an unjust judge will give in to a powerless widow’s prayers if badgered. Won’t our just God do even better?
His story is also familiar to our lives. We don’t necessarily see the battle being won whenever we pray. Often, we pray and see no results. The family need is still there; the intractable problem at work doesn’t go away.
Yet pray we must. Keep in mind Jesus’ promise to those who are faithful to prayer: “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.”
First of all, he promises justice, not a one-for-one satisfaction of our desires. In doing so, he is promising more than what we ask for, not less.
Second, he promises to answer our requests “speedily.” He does not promise that we will see the answers speedily. We won’t.
Does that sound unsatisfying, like he will answer our prayers by giving us something we don’t expect and that we won’t notice right away?
Actually, here, the Lord promises something that is more satisfying than a speedily realized resolution that we fully understand. He promises justice. Without justice, nothing is satisfying — but with it, anything is satisfying.
The Gospel gives the key to both of these readings: “Jesus told his disciples … about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”
We must “pray always without becoming weary.” It is necessary to spiritually raise our arms in prayer and help others raise theirs, too. It is necessary to entrust our problems to the just Judge.
If we do so, we can count on today’s Psalm to come true in our lives: “Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever.”
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.