Ordinary 29th Sunday
Ordinary 29th Sunday
Ex. 17: 8-13 2Tim. 3: 14 – 4:2 Lk. 18: 1-8
When we judiciously persevere in our effort, even the impossible becomes possible.
Perseverance in Life:
It was a tussle between the sun and wind. Both argued that they were mightier than the other. They were not able to come to a conclusion. It so happened that, at that time, a man was walking through a desert. He was wearing a coat. Desert is an ideal place for both wind and the sun to show their power. So both of them decided to test their power on this man. They decided that the one who would be able to make the man remove his coat is the winner. First the wind blew. It blew harder and harder. The man’s coat began to flutter and he began to lose control over it. However, the more the wind blew, the more the man forcefully clung to his coat. Finally the wind accepted its failure. Then the sun came forward. It started with its gentle rays and, slowly and gradually began to increase. Within no time, the man began to remove his coat and kept under his arm. The moral of the story is: ‘What brutal force cannot achieve, patience and persistence will achieve.’
All of us know that there is nothing worthwhile that is achieved without perseverance and persistence. All human beings have got desire for greatness. This desire for greatness may be in the realm of materialism or of popularity or of development of talent. Though all have such desires, not many achieve it. The reason for it is that many are not ready to pay the price for it. Even those who are ready to pay the price, namely hard work, give up at a point when things do not go as per their expectations. Only those people who persistently adhere to their hard work achieve what they aim at.
We know that water is not vaporized at 60 degree or 70 or 90, not even at 99, but only at 100 degree. It does not mean that our heating up of water at 70, 90 is a waste. To reach 100, all these stages have to be transcended. In other words, reaching of final stage consists of numerous ‘unproductive’ previous stages. Similarly, when we aim at something and work towards it, we may have to go through various unproductive stages. Quite often we may find that our hard work and efforts do not yield any fruit. In such situations, many give up. However blessed are those who continue to work and sooner or later they find their goals being achieved.
Perseverance in Prayer:
If perseverance is necessary in order to achieve worldly greatness – more money, more possession, better job, more success etc., – then it is needless to say that how much more it is important in our spiritual life. Today’s readings underscore the importance of perseverance in our prayer life. In the first reading, Moses’ persistent prayer for the success of the Israelites is symbolized by his outstretched arms. Moses’ lowering arms because of tiredness can be understood as lack of perseverance on the part of the Israelites. Lack of perseverance led to the defeat of the Israelites. In the second reading, St. Paul advices Timothy to be persistent in his prayer life and in preaching the Scripture (“proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching”) and in practising it (“continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it”). The gospel very beautifully expresses the persistence of the poor widow.
Faith, in fact, is nothing but persevering in our spiritual/prayer life, though what we are praying for is nowhere near. Examples of perseverance in prayer abound in the Scripture. Nehemiah prayed for at least five months before he was able to bring his petition about Jerusalem before king Artaxerxes (Neh. 1:1; 2:1). Hannah prayed for years before the Lord granted her petition to have a child (1 Sam. 1) as did Zachariah and Elizabeth. Samuel continued to pray for the people even when they had pursued sinful desires. That is why the Bible invites us to pray without ceasing (1Thes. 5: 17). Paul writes, “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6: 18).
Perseverance: Changes Whom?
Plenty of us believe that by our persistent prayers, we can change God. But there are some problems in such thinking. First of all, if God can be changed, then can He be God? Secondly, if we have the power to change God, then we seem to be more powerful than God Himself. Thirdly, if God wills to grant us something only after asking him persistently, then what about His unconditional love? (Unconditional love demands that He gives us what we need even without our asking). Fourthly, God does not live in the time-frame of past, present and future. It is we, human beings, who, because of our mind, live in a restricted time-frame of past, present and future. God is in the eternal present. If so, how can God give something in future, since God does not have future at all?
We need to be aware that our persistent prayers do not change God, but ourselves. The more we persistently pray, the more we break the blockages we have created for ourselves – the blockages that prevent God’s blessings from reaching us. In fact, God, out of His unconditional love and abundant goodness, has already given us all that we pray for (Mk. 11: 24). However those blessings have not become ours, because of the blockages we have created ourselves. These blockages are nothing but our sins. These blockages prevent us from experiencing God’s blessings. When we persistently pray, what happens is that some of these blockages are broken and thus we experience God’s blessings. In short, perseverance in prayer changes us, not God. The more we change, the more we experience God’s blessings.