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(Part 246)


November 17, 2018

Today’s gospel: Luke 18:1-8

We look at the parable about the persistent widow and the dishonest judge. This parable has been taken as the call to persistence in prayer. Rightly so. But some think that with persistence in prayer, God will then grant whatever we pray for. Not so. Especially as we oftentimes pray for the wrong things, things that might actually end up harming our spiritual lives.

A seemingly odd and out-of-place aspect of this parable is the last verse. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (v.8b). Now where did that come from? What is the connection to the rest of the parable? Is this sentence misplaced? It actually all comes together.

This speaks about the urgency of the times. This is especially true today. We are losing Catholics by the day, Christianity in many First World countries is either practically gone or severely threatened, the darkness spread by the evil one deepens and the tsunami of evil is overwhelming the whole world. If such trends continue, then indeed will there be faith on earth when Jesus returns? Will there be just a small flock that will be saved?

This is not God’s will. Jesus came in order to save all humankind. How can that happen now? We need to do the work of evangelization, to bring people including lapsed Catholics back to God and back to the Church, and to do so with great urgency, because we are already in the end times.

But what is the power behind effective evangelization? It is prayer. All Christians must pray each and every day, including reading the Bible. Prayer connects us with God. Prayer allows God to grant us the wisdom that is needed in order to know His will. Prayer unleashes the anointing and empowerment that comes from the Holy Spirit by which we can be effective witnesses. Prayer keeps us under the protective mantle of our Lord and our Lady.

Prayer, that is daily, persistent and fervent, keeps us from falling away, from being lured by the world, from giving in to our sinful flesh, from being deceived by the devil. Prayer is the foundation by which we can grow in holiness, in righteousness, in being loving and merciful, in moving toward Christian perfection. Thus persistent prayer is what will keep Christians fervent in their faith, so that when the Son of Man returns, he will find divine light shining amidst the darkness.

Thus “the necessity for (us) to pray always without becoming weary” (v.1). This is prayer that is not self-referential, that is full of trust and hope in God, that is humble and sincere, that seeks nothing but to gaze upon the face of Jesus. Then God can give us what He has always wanted to give us as His beloved children­peace, joy, sufficient goods, a loving family, effective service, and ultimately eternal life. “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?” (v.7a).

Many times we do pray, but mechanically. Or we pray intently only because we are facing a severe crisis. Then we get frustrated or angry or even turn away from God when He does not answer us according to how we want to be answered. That is not the right way to pray. For what we need, God already knows that and will give us what we need even if we do not ask. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6:8b). Rather, pray for Christian virtues­humility, mercy, forgiveness, zeal for mission, etc. “Will he be slow to answer them?” (v.7b).

But did we not just say that God will provide what we truly need even if we did not ask? Yes, but prayer has the purpose, as we have seen above, of bringing us ever deeper in our relationship with God. And when we ask for the things that God already wants to give us, we become even more conscious of what true Christian virtues are. Our spiritual growth requires our cooperation with the abundant grace of God. We need to act. To be able to act rightly, we need to be aware of what God wills for us to become. We need to desire a virtuous life. Persistent prayer manifests these.

Justice is giving a person what is his due. We have been saved by Jesus and our call is to holiness and Christian perfection. This is what God desires for us, and what God in His infinite love and mercy “owes” to us. “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” (v.8a).

Prayer, holiness, zeal for mission. That is the winning combination! Then will the Son of Man, on his glorious return at the end of time, find abundant faith on earth.

* * *

(This article is taken from my new upcoming book, “What is New About the New Evangelization?”)

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