Saturday, October 15, 2016

Oct. 16, 2016: 29th Sunday Ordinary C

Oct. 16, 2016: 29th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily

Recently I saw a Youtube of a man trying to illustrate why we need to be persistent in prayer. His props were a Gatorade bottle filled with black liquid with top on and a kitchen sink. He said that when we encounter dark or challenging times, we tend to stop prayer prematurely, thinking that God is not listening or answering. At those times, we just feel bad, and no matter how much we pray, the dark cloud just doesn’t seem to lift. But, he said stopping prayer is like keeping the lid on the bottle. He then placed the bottle underneath a faucet and unscrewed the lid. Starting to pray, he said, is like taking the top off the bottle and turning on the faucet to let fresh water fill the bottle. As he did that, the dark liquid was slowly displaced by clear water. It took awhile, for the water in the bottle to turn totally clear, just as trying times do not go away quickly. The point was clear--our prayer needs to be persistent even during the time when we may feel the prayer is not getting answered. Persistent prayer transforms us from within. Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes the way we view the situation.

Jesus tells the parable of persistent widow to teach the disciples the power of persevering in their prayer life. He wanted them to realize that all prayer is answered and they must not get discouraged and quit. The judge in the parable was an unjust one, expecting the widow to pay a bribe for a favorable judgment. She was poor and defenseless, and the only weapon she had was persistence. In the end, fearing his loss of reputation, the judge was worn down and the persistent widow won her case. If an evil judge can be worn down by the persistence of a defenseless widow, how much more will a person who persists in prayer be heard and answered by such a loving God as ours.

There are occasions, however, when persistent prayer is difficult. A man told a story of how he, a baptized and confirmed Catholic, always believed in God as a great problem solver. That image of God was shattered when his freshman-year roommate at college was killed in an automobile accident. During the funeral service, he could not contain his anger at God; he decided right there and then, not to believe in a God who would act so cruelly, allowing his best friend to die. For a while, he enjoyed not going to church on Sundays and abandoning prayer. But one of his freshman classmates, a devout Christian, began to trouble his conscience. One day he approached her and told her how angry he was at God and that he no longer went to church. He said to her, “You’re a believer, explain why God allowed our classmate to die.” “Well,” she replied softly, “I’ve been thanking God for our friend’s life.” That answer took his breath away. Rather than arguing about suffering, she was telling him that there were other ways to relate to God, ways other than as the great problem solver. Her response implied that one can live with the question of suffering and still believe in God--much as a child can trust a parent even when he doesn’t fully understand all of the parent’s ways. He began to pray again. Gradually, through prayer, he began to understand God as the one who is with us in our suffering, a God who takes a personal interest in our lives, even if we don’t feel that all our problems are solved. The prayer didn’t bring the friend back or stopped other bad things from happening. The prayer changed his image of God and how he related to God.

It can be wearisome, it can be discouraging, to be the disciples of Jesus in a hostile world, a world filled with heartache and heartbreak and suffering, all the afflictions and ailments that come with living in a fallen world, plus the added tribulations that come with bearing the name of Christ and bearing our cross. It’s not easy to be a Christian. It calls for endurance. That’s the situation in which we find ourselves every day.

In the verses leading up to our Gospel text today, Jesus told his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.” In other words, Jesus is saying to his disciples: ‘After I leave you and ascend into heaven, it will not be easy for you. As my followers, you will endure suffering and persecution. You will look back and recall how nice it was during those golden days when your Master was walking with you and doing all those acts of blessing. So now you need to be ready for when the going gets tough.’

We are looking for our Lord’s return. And Christ will return on the Last Day, on the Day of Judgment. Then he will restore all things the way they should be. Justice will be meted out. The church is suffering now, but on that day–that day will be a day of vindication and victory for all who have trusted in Christ.

So do not despair in the midst of hardships. Rather, keep your faith in God’s mercy and kindness and care. Keep on turning to him in prayer, even when it feels as if he’s not listening and you would be tempted to despair. Especially then. “Call on me in the day of trouble,” the Lord says. “I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.” This is God’s promise to his people, and he is persistently faithful to his promises. A short prayer from the heart is more powerful than a long one comprised of words with no feeling. God speaks to us through love, so love is the language He understands.