After praying, reflecting, and reading the Bible commentaries, the message of today’s readings became quite clear to me: they are about persistence, perseverance, and remaining faithful. Perseverance of the Israelites in battle against the Amalekites, St. Paul telling Timothy to be persistent, and Jesus teaching his disciples with that parable to be persistent and persevere in prayer.
In the first reading from Exodus, the Israelites encounter yet another hardship during their 40 year wandering in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Not only did they have to deal with shortages of food and water as the wandered in the desert, they had to withstand attacks like the one we read about today by Amalek and the Amalekites. The Amalekites were an ancient people who were spread out all over the desert region and they controlled the caravan routes between Arabia and Egypt – the area where the Israelites were traveling on the way to the Promised Land. The Amalekites appear as a perennial enemy of the Israelites. Well what happens in this encounter? Joshua and the Israelites persevered against the Amalekites and this is attributed to Moses, Aaron, and Hur. They too had to persevere, Aaron and Hur had to support Moses’ hands holding the staff of God to keep Moses’ hands and staff raised up so that Joshua and the Israelites could persevere in that battle. By this gesture, God is building up and restoring the faith of the Israelites. God is showing the Israelites that, as they make their way back to the Promised Land, not only will he take care of their need for food and water, but He will protect them from these attacks by enemies.
In the second reading, St. Paul’s very first words to Timothy are: “Remain faithful”, Then St. Paul goes on to give Timothy so many important instructions regarding his mission and regarding what has been passed on to us – sacred Scripture capable of giving you wisdom for salvation … all scripture inspired by God … useful for training in righteousness … one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. Instructions packed with many of the teachings of the Catholic Church. And then St. Paul tells Timothy to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” It is believed that this letter is the beginning of the last of all of St. Paul’s letters. In a way, it is St. Paul’s last will and testament. So he wants to make sure he leaves Timothy, and his other followers, and us, with the most important final instructions and reminders that he can. Based on today’s reading, I would say he really packed it in. If you go back and read that Chapter 4 from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, I think you will agree.
In the gospel from Luke, Jesus’s message in that parable was a bit more difficult for me to tease out. Jesus liked to teach in parables. In Webster’s dictionary the definition of parable is – “a short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson; especially one of the stories told by Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible.” Thanks to the commentaries I read, I realized that this parable is a “Very eloquent lesson about the effectiveness of persevering, confident prayer. It forms a conclusion to Jesus’ teaching about watchfulness, contained in the previous verses. Comparing God with a person like this (i.e. the judge) makes the point even clearer: if even an unjust judge ends up giving justice to the man who keeps on pleading his case, how much more will God, who is infinitely just, and who is our Father, listen to the persevering prayer of his children. God, in other words, gives justice to his elect if they persist in seeking His help.” Persist in seeking His help, persist in prayer, and God will give justice! And the closing line of that Gospel passage – “will he find faith on earth?” A warning to help us stay watchful and persevere in prayer and to be faithful. Will he find faith on earth????????
Persistence, perseverance, and remaining faithful; what does this have to do with us? This week – these readings have everything to do with us. We live in a country where we enjoy our freedom that:
• allows us to do many things – many good, and some, sometimes not so good;
• gives us the right to seek retribution from someone who has wronged us; and,
• provides that we are innocent until proven guilty.
Our little world here in Waterloo, in Sts. Peter & Paul parish was rocked Tuesday and Wednesday when the newspapers released stories that a lawsuit had been filed against the diocese that made allegations against Fr. Osang. At face value this is upsetting, shocking, perhaps unsettling, and for some of you it may have shaken your faith. The faith that we are reminded of in today’s readings. Many of you may have questions. Who? Why? What’s going to happen? Over time, some of these will get answered, many will not, we don’t know where this will end up, or how it will get there. So many things we don’t know, and may never know. But we do know that we, like the Israelites, like Timothy, and like Jesus’ disciples, are people of faith. Our faith is what brought us here today. We are the Church. Each and every one of us, including Fr. Osang and Fr. Sebastian, are the Church. And for us here at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, we, and all those who came before us for over 160 years, are the foundation on which this Church is built. We are bigger and better than the media. We are stronger than any news story. And we are people of faith that should not be shaken or swayed by mere allegations of impropriety. We are the foundation on which Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church now stands, and on which it has stood for over 160 years, and the good Lord willing, will remain that way long after us for generations to come. And I hope that you will do, what we and those before us have always done, and support our priests, support our parish, and keep that foundation intact, and we will get through this together. Be persistent in prayer and remain faithful and we will persevere. Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient like St. Paul told Timothy. Be persistent like the woman with the judge in the Gospel – Jesus’ parable to his disciples to teach them to be persistent in their prayers to the Father. Be persistent in your prayer and we too can persevere like Moses and the Israelites in the desert. We live in a day and time where there is no shortage of things to pray for: the upcoming elections, those affected by disasters especially most recently hurricane Mathew, racial tensions and senseless killings, and now I ask you to pray for the individuals involved in this lawsuit reported by the newspapers — especially for the plaintiff, for Fr. Osang, and for each other, for all of us — that in this “Year of Mercy”, all will be merciful like the Father.