•Exodus 17: 8-13 + 2 Timothy 3: 14- 4:2 + Luke 18: 1-8•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I began preparing for this homily in late August. During that week several disasters occurred, almost simultaneously. First there was the massive flooding in Baton Rouge; then the 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Amatrice, Italy; then an outbreak of tornadoes in Indiana and Ohio that rank among the largest tornado days on record for the month of August. It was a startling week.
In the gospel text day we heard Luke’s Jesus tell his disciples a parable about a widow and a judge and an admonition “to pray always without becoming weary.” This open-ended story and admonition can elicit various reactions.
I suspect many of those affected by the floods, earthquake or tornados of this August turned to prayer. If so I also suspect the prayers of many were seeking to put God at the service of their interests.
Carefully search the entire context of the gospels and it is clear that were not what Jesus was teaching in this parable. Matthew’s Jesus told those same disciples, “when you pray, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matt. 6:7)
In my younger years, prayer of petition was the dominant feature of my spirituality. That was not bad. Then in my college years a priest suggested I read “The Life of Father Willie Doyle” – a World War I chaplain. Fr. Willie Doyle understood this parable and admonition in a literal sense and claimed he repeated the “Jesus mercy” prayer 10,000 times daily. I was impressed but skeptical. I doubt that is what Luke’s Jesus means when he tells us “pray always.”
At the end of my third year of theological studies I was to be ordained a Sub-deacon. Many doubts and fears plagued my soul and I was becoming “weary” in my praying. So I declined the invitation and returned to Anaconda. At the time, Father Raymond Hunthausen was my spiritual director. He never urged me to return and accept ordination. He simply urged me to listen, trying to hear what God is asking of me. He urged me to be “big-hearted” and trust whatever I heard. That is what I did. By the end of that summer I returned and was ordained. Father Hunthausen, now a retired archbishop, resides in Helena and must rely on others for assistance with all of his physical needs.. I visit him occasionally. His good counsel continues to guide him and me today.
You probably think it sounds so simple. It is not.
“Pray always without becoming weary” –?? Prayer is not about changing God and putting God to the service of my interests or needs. Prayer is about opening self to God’s horizon; it is about being attentive and open to God’s options for the future; it is about allowing God’s Spirit to guide me; it is about allowing God to change me, to change us!
With this parable and admonition, Jesus is inviting us into his own spiritual process. He is urging us to listen with a big heart, trying to hear what God is asking of me and trusting whatever I hear. How do I do that?
Begin in the liturgy. Be attentive to the scripture texts. Find quiet space and ponder them. Seek insights into the gospels from others. Do some daily spiritual reading. In and through such practice you will become constantly open to that Gracious Mystery we name God. You will be able to listen to our world, even our current political situation, in a critical manner and you will hear that Gracious Mystery we name God speaking to us through it all.
Our text today closes with a question. “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” My experience gives me confidence. When enough of us enter into the spiritual process to which Jesus invites us – “pray always without becoming weary,” the Son of Man will indeed find faith on earth.