C Cycle – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
God identified himself to Moses on Mt Sinai as being gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness and abounding in mercy, does that sound like someone who would be influenced by someone like this nagging widow. No, this cannot be a story of how God responds to prayer and if you pay attention to the words of Jesus, he said to pay attention to the dishonest judge and not this is how you get your prayers answered. The judge said, “I will render a just decision least she strike me.” He is worried about this woman becoming violent is unconcerned about the merits of the case. This is a dishonest judge and Jesus is certainly not implying His Father will be anything like the judge.
In many ways that fact that God will always be honest with us, and will not ever, leave one of His promises unfulfilled is why we pray. Because we are dealing the most honest person who created in His image out of love and will always be on our side. Let me tell you some of the promises of God we should put at the head of our list of things to mention in prayer each day. His words to us in the 31st chapter of the Prophet Jeremiah vs 33 coupled with the Prophesy of Ezekiel chapter 36 beginning with vs 26. God is saying He is going to do something about our unwillingness to follow His ways and our unwillingness to even try to respond to His pleas to return to Him with all our hearts.
So, He comes to us in those verses of the Old Testament which became known to the Israelite’s as the “promise of God.” What are those promises? God is going to change our hearts by sending His Spirit to us and once He does that we will “know” him. Know a word used when God said Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore a son. God is telling us something about our struggles with prayer, with sin and with life in general and is promising if we allow Him to change us all will be better for us.
But beyond that God made a statement through Jeremiah we need to learn how to embrace, believe as an absolute given. God said to us, “I will forgive your sin and remember your guilt no more.” If we could begin to let go of our guilt and allow our shame to be erased in our memories as it is in God’s, we would most certainly become persistent in our desire to be present to Him because we could not ever stop giving God thanks. We would want to be in His presence in the scriptures, in the people of God, in the celebration of the Eucharist and in our prayers.
We have confused ourselves with this topic of prayer for a simple reason, we fail to believe we can go directly to God because we are unworthy. Keep this in mind, all prayer goes to Jesus, He is the sheep gate, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. Paul said he had to be all things to all people to win a few for Christ. Well, Paul learned that from the very patient Jesus who was constantly challenging Paul’s faith until that one moment when he came face to face with Jesus who demanded to know why Paul failed to respond.
Perhaps in this gospel the roles are reversed Jesus is the nagging widow and we are the corrupt judge who needs to respond to the nagging Jesus who is telling us to follow Him to the Father’s heart. Let us imagine ourselves in the same position as Paul, Jesus is before us and we need to look Him in the eyes and respond. Perhaps that is our biggest obstacle to praying daily is we desire to stay away from His presence. We who have not embraced the salvation won for us by His death on the cross are avoiding Him by becoming very good practicing Pharisees, but our hearts are far from God.
Years ago, in my parish, the doors to the church opened at 5 am by our pastor. Daily he took this task upon himself, got out of his comfortable bed, showered, shaved and walked the short distance to the church, opened the doors, turned on minimal lighting, most of it in the sanctuary and returned to the rectory. Each day he was met at the church doors by John who one day said to him, if you give me a key, I will open the doors for you, and you can get a few hours more sleep. I believed because my pastor is great with people, he understood the significance of the gesture of the key to John and was not worried about another hour of sleep.
Daily as I made my rounds of the various buildings on the church grounds to determine what needs the maintenance crew must address first each day, I would pass by John, sitting in the very last pew back left in the seat by the aisle. John was always silent and in the semi-dark I could not even tell if John was awake. Well one day I slipped in the pew and sat beside John. For ten minutes we sat silently and then I said to John, “what do you do here each day, John.” He never turned to me but as he lifted his right arm and pointed a finger at the crucifix in the sanctuary said, “I talk to Him and He talks to me.”
I cannot think of a better definition of prayer than the intimate relationship John had with Jesus. They conversed, at times listening at times talking from 5 am until 7 am when others started arriving at the church. Then John would leave. In those words, and actions are all we need to know about being persistent, faithful, trusting God made us a promise of restoration no matter how grave our sins. Not out of fear of God but out of a heart that was grateful enough to go before Jesus and say talk to me.
Take the time to go before Jesus, you don’t have to get up at 5 am to do this but you do need to find a consistent time and place, But begin by asking Jesus this one question, “What do I have to do to live a life worthy of your willingness to be the ransom for my sins.” Don’t be surprised if the answer is not to do something but to become something. I invite you share with me the things you hear from God.