Fr. Charles Irvin
29th Sun [C] 2010
Ezekiel 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8
It is important that we do not listen to the parable in today’s Gospel that we just heard and then think of God as a cranky old judge who can be moved only by being pestered. Parables have just one point and when we interpret them we always have to be very careful.
In today’s parable the central issue is the attitude of the widow, not the judge who was corrupt and respected neither God or his fellow humans. The point to be understood is that prayer and perseverance in prayer are for our sake, not for the sake of God. Perseverance allows us to marshal enough power and to gather enough inner resources in order to win the victory in the battle against all that would diminish us as men and women.
That is likewise the point of the first reading from the Book of Exodus and second reading from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy in today’s Mass. Moses stands as the prefigurement of Jesus. There he is up on the hill, with his arms outstretched, supported by two men, one on his right and the other on his left. Aaron, like the good thief at Christ’s side, is destined to help Moses. Hur, like the other man crucified at Christ’s side, is likewise destined to work with the Lord.
For it is the effort of Moses that allows his people to gather strength and to marshal their resources against the evil that is assaulting them, and it is the continued and persevering effort, without any copping-out, that allows us to take hold of the willingness of God and His power in order to put it to use in our lives. The same is true with the widow in her continual pleas for justice. The same ought to be true for you and me.
Transformation only comes slowly in our lives. We all know that our attitudes and our mental and psychic orientations cannot change over night. We change, I mean we really change, only after a very thorough process.
This is why God wants us to pray and to pray continually in all that we do. Prayer is for our sake, not for God’s. Prayer allows us to take some time, time with the Lord, to focus our vision, to catch our breath, to pause and reflect on where we are going and what we are doing. Prayer allows us to examine our objectives, our goals, and those areas in our life where we need to exert our prime effort and energy.
God will not transform our world for us. God is not a great big magic Genie who responds to our every little beck and call. But God will transform our world with us. His interventions into our life occur only through us, and with us, and in us. It all depends on how thorough we are in yielding to His Holy Spirit, in surrendering to His presence, and in taking a hold of and claiming His power. But that takes real sustained and persevering effort. Also it is we who must set forces in motion in our lives, not God. It is we who must do the work — always with God — and never simply waiting for Him to do the work for us.
Sanctifying grace can transform our world. But sanctifying grace is a gift, not an over the counter medicine we can buy at the store. It is the gift of God’s willingness… the gift of His willingness to work along side of us and through us, never just for us. For we are co-responsible with God in the continual creating of our world. That means that in large measure we are responsible for our destiny.
We can verify that in our lives by looking at the devastating effects of superficial enthusiasm. We see the effects of superficialism in our struggles with racism, in the struggle for peace, and in the warfare against evil that is going on in our society. There is too little perseverance. There are too many people who cop-out. There is far too much of an adherence to the pleasure principal. If things don’t change immediately lots of people switch to another superficial cure and never attack the causes of evil that are found deep within us. Instant pain-relievers abound everywhere. Suffering with pain and discomfort, the advertisements ask? Then switch to brand “X” for instantaneous relief.
You and I know that what we are dealing with is gigantic forces of evil in our world. We are dealing with matters of the spirit where evil is to be found. The crisis in our age isn’t a crisis of technology; it is a crisis in the spirit by which we use technology. The crisis in authority we are experiencing is a crisis over the spirit in which authority is exercised and in which authority claims our obedience.
Dealing with the spirit is a difficult and terribly long lasting process. Psychotherapy requires perseverance. Changing moral directions in life requires sustained effort. Conversion, moving off into a new version in life, is a long process. It is that for which we perservingly pray. It is that for which Moses prayed. It is that, which will in the long run, sustain our faith.
Being openly Christian has never been easy – it wasn’t in the first centuries of Christianity and it isn’t today. Even in our own country, a nation that boasts of its tolerance of diversities, many are intolerant of Christians and the values of Christianity. Christian values are by no means tolerated everywhere in our culture. We need spiritual power and strength.
When the Son of Man comes into our lives, when Christ comes to us in all of the tomorrows that lie ahead, what will He find? Will he find transitory and shifting persons, persons that flit from movement to movement, cause to cause, pleasure to pleasure? Or will he find persons with faithfulness, persons who are persevering, steady, dependable, and filled with a sustaining power… persons who are about our Father’s business in overcoming the forces of dissipation and diminishment that afflict us?
Listen now as I read again from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy:
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.
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you.