29th Sunday C: Pray, Pray, Pray

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

If I ask you what gifts you have, you might say, “Well, I can cook a good plate of pasta, or I’m a pretty good carpenter. I can fix a lot of things around the house. I think I’m a good mother or good father, good grandmother, good grandfather.” We actually have a lot of gifts; many we may not be aware of.

Now, I can tell you one gift we all have.  Unfortunately this gift is one we may not be aware of. That’s the gift of prayer. We all have the gift of prayer. We can pray. Let’s begin our reflection on today’s gospel about the widow who gets what she wants from an unjust judge with that. We all have the gift of prayer.

If you notice in the gospels, Jesus teaches his disciple how to pray, but he never says they can’t pray. He never says that to anyone: he presumes that prayer is a gift everyone has.  Prayer is a gift God gives to everyone, whether we use that gift or not. The greatest sinner as well as the greatest saint,  has the gift of prayer.

Think of the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who turned to Jesus and said  “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” We might guess that the thief hadn’t prayed in a long time, maybe his prayer is a cry of desperation. But he prays, and is prayer is answered. More than he ever expected. The gospels are  filled with that kind of prayer.

Now, what Jesus is concerned with in our parable today is that we get tired of praying. For one reason or another, we give it up. Maybe we don’t think praying is going to do any good. God isn’t listening, or we’re not good enough to speak to God.  Maybe we think we can take care of  ourselves. We don’t need the help of God. For all of these reasons we can lose our appreciation of the power of prayer; we think it’s really not necessary,  so prayer becomes an unused gift, a neglected gift.

Now, let’s look at the example in the gospel that Jesus gives. He offers the picture of “a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.”  He’s a dishonest judge, one of “Untouchables” He doesn’t care about God or anybody else. He seems to have absolute power, or at least he thinks he has.

On the other hand, there’s a widow, who seems to have no power at all. She seems powerless, maybe someone has cheated her; someone has wronged her. She’s looking for justice, but can she get it? We could speculate further. Who caused this injustice ? Maybe it’s a friend of the judge, or the judge himself who seems to control everybody and everything.  but whoever and whatever it is, she wants what’s right, and humanly speaking,  it doesn’t seem she has any chance of getting justice.

But she keeps going, she doesn’t let up, she doesn’t lose hope. She’s persistent. The judge says, “She keeps bothering me, she wearing me down, and he finally gives in and justice is done.
What about God, Jesus asks? Compare him to the unjust judge. He’s the very opposite, He cares for the poor widow; he wants justice done.

“Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says,”Jesus 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.

We hear those words of Jesus and questions arise.  Justice will be done, the rights of God’s chosen ones will be secure. God will see justice done speedily. Speedily?

Speedily for us means right away, doesn’t it? And when things are not done right away, we lose faith, we wonder if God cares or can God do anything about it at all.

That’s why we have to keep the poor widow in mind. What keeps her going is faith and hope. It’s obvious she believes she has Someone more powerful that the unjust judge on her side. And so do we. But God’s way of securing our rights, God’s way of having his kingdom come, God’s time is not ours. We have to keep praying, keep knocking at the door, keep asking, keep seeking, night and day.

The biggest problems in the world, the greatest challenges we face can be met, if we like the poor widow believe in the gift of pray and pray with faith, night and days, that God’s will be done.

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