Saturday, November 14, 2009

Will Not God Secure The Rights Of Those Who Call Upon Him?

Reading 1
Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9

When peaceful stillness compassed everything
and the night in its swift course was half spent,
your all-powerful word, from heaven’s royal throne
bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land,
bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree.
And as he alighted, he filled every place with death;
he still reached to heaven, while he stood upon the earth.

For all creation, in its several kinds, was being made over anew,
serving its natural laws,
that your children might be preserved unharmed.
The cloud overshadowed their camp;
and out of what had before been water, dry land was seen emerging:

Out of the Red Sea an unimpeded road,
and a grassy plain out of the mighty flood.
Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by your hand,
after they beheld stupendous wonders.

For they ranged about like horses,
and bounded about like lambs,
praising you, O Lord! their deliverer.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 105
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!

R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

Then he struck every first born throughout their land,
the first fruits of all their manhood.
And he led them forth laden with silver and gold,
with not a weakling among their tribes.

R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.

R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’

For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”

The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call upon 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.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

+++ +++ +++ +++

Saint Augustine wrote: “[The Lord] taught us … not to use a lot of words when we are praying, as if the more words we used, the more likely we would be heard. He said, “The Father already knows what you need before you ask him.” On the other hand, though he warns us against using too many words, and assures us that the Father knows what we need even before we ask, Jesus still urges us “pray constantly, and never lose heart.”

Augustine understood that the unjust judge in the parable was not an image of God. Jesus is not comparing them, but contrasting them. If an unjust judge will respond positively to repeated requests, how much more will God, who is good? “The Lord wishes us to understand how much God cares for those who pray to him, since God is both just and good.”

Once, probably during a hospital visit, I asked a man how often he prayed. He assured me that he prayed every night before he went to bed. I was impressed, and asked him how he prayed. He said, “Even when I am very tired, I never forget at least to say, ‘Good night, God’”. That brings us back to Augustine’s question: If God is a just and loving God, who knows what we need even before he ask, why would need to go beyond “Good morning” and “Good night”? Why would we need to be persistent in prayer?

If we feel we have to be persistent, it is not because God is reluctant to give us what we need. It is not God, but ourselves, that we have to convince. Sometimes – often, I should say – we hardly know what we want, never mind what we need. By our persistent prayers, we are preparing ourselves to receive what God is going to give – or to do without what God is going to withhold for our own good. We are cooperating in God’s work within us. In the words of the English mystic Julian of Norwich, God says, “I am the ground of your praying. First, it is my will that you should have something, then, I make you wish for it, and finally, I make you pray for it.”

No comments: