This week we hear three great passages from the scriptures. A homily could be preached on each one and still we would not be able to grasp the fullness of the passages. The first reading from Sirach continues the theme of prayer from last week. Paul’s letter to Timothy reminds us that we are like athletes competing in a race. The parable about the righteous Pharisee and the penitent sinner illustrates the kind of attitude that we should have before God.
As Deacon Glenn pointed out in his homily last week, we must constantly pray. All prayer is good, because it is conversation with God. However, we not only need to speak, we also need to listen. As Sirach points out, God always hears and always responds. Yet, God responds on His terms, not ours. That is why we need to listen very carefully and not lose heart when the response we want is not forthcoming.
St. Paul reminds us that we are in a competition and we must be faithful throughout that race by keeping our faith and acting upon it. Those who are athletes know that in order to maintain their competitive spirit, they need to train. One cannot slack off because to do so would undo the training and preparation that has gone before. Just as athletes train and musicians practice, Christians also need to exercise their faith. We can never shirk our responsibilities of being a Christian.
Finally, in our prayer and in our fidelity we must always remember to be humble. God is the one who will raise us up. There is no need to compare ourselves to others or worse, to boast of how good we are while at the same time putting another person down. Ultimately, God is the one who will exalt us. But again, it may not be in way in which we hope to be exalted.
As we enter into these final few weeks of the Church year, may we be more open to listening attentively to the voice of the Lord. God always hears the cry of the poor, but do we hear the response of God?
Persistence is different from nagging or whining. In the examples given in Scripture, persistence is the art of getting justice for a wrong or it is to persevere in the truth. Nagging or whining, on the other hand, are tactics used to get something you want at whatever the cost. Persistence is based on logic while nagging is based on emotion.
To desire that a wrong be righted or a mistake be corrected is noble and sometimes requires a consistent, persistent approach. To want the latest toy simply because it is the latest toy and you whine until you get it is simply unacceptable. In the history of the Israelites, we have examples of persistence and examples of complaint. When the Israelites followed God’s law and were faithfully persistent, great things happened. When they simply expected God to do things for them (as a kind of entitlement program) and God did not agree to their request, they whined and got into trouble.
In 2013, we run the same risk. In our prayer, are we persistent or do we whine? Do we pray for what we need or only for what we want? Moreover, do we take the time to pray?
In all of our prayer with God and conversations with our friends may each of us strive to focus on persevering in the faith and being consistent in how we live our lives as Catholic Christians.