When Prayer Is an Act of Faith
User's Guide to Sunday, Oct. 16
Sunday, Oct. 16, is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Exodus 17:8-13, Psalm 121:1-8, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2, Luke 18:1-8
This Sunday is part of a two-Sunday mini catechesis on prayer by Jesus himself. Next week is about humility in prayer. Today’s focus is persistence.
Jesus tells the story of the persistent widow and the unjust judge in what is a strange metaphor to make. Jesus has told us all along how loving and caring our Father is, but here he casts God as uncaring and indifferent.
What he wants to do is powerfully put across how sovereign, majestic and “other” God is.
In the story, the widow is reduced to begging for justice. In Jesus’ day, judges expected to get something in return for their services — the benefit of a new “client” was directly connected with that person’s wealth and status. But widows had no means and no status. The widow has nothing to offer the judge.
But then Jesus adds a new dimension, when he gives the “lesson” of his parable: “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.”
We do, in fact, have a kind of status with God, but it is entirely due to his will, not our worth. We are “his chosen ones,” and that gives us access to his power if we pray persistently.
But that persistence is the key. We have to “call out to him day and night.” In this way, the act of prayer becomes in itself an act of faith.
The Church highlights that point in the first two readings. The first, from Exodus, tells the story of the battle between Amalek and Israel. As long as Moses raises his arms, the battle favors Israel. If he rests, Amalek starts to win.
So he gets two helpers to help him keep his hands raised. God is once again emphasizing his sovereign power. We have nothing on our own — no blessings, no success. It all comes from God. We can count on divine aid only if we show enough faith to persistently call out to him — not just as individuals, but together.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that we should appreciate the help of others and “remain faithful to what you have learned and believed” — and that we should also read Scripture and “proclaim the word,” adding more people to the circle of prayer.
To use Jesus’ metaphor, we should be the widow coming to the judge again and again, and we should bring others with us. Surely God will answer all of us.
Jesus ends by asking, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Only together can we answer, “Yes!”
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at
Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of What Pope Francis Really Said.