Today’s readings are among several that deal with persistence, an aspect of character that can be seen as a defect or as praiseworthy, depending on the circumstances and who the target of the persistence may be.
In the case of the first reading, Moses is persistent (with the help of Aaron and Hur when he gets tired) in holding up the staff of God. While he does so, Israel has the better of the fight against Amalek (who came and waged war). There was nothing magical about the staff itself. It was a symbol of Moses’ faith in a faithful God’s promises. It could be valuable to reflect upon who helps us with our persistence? Who is our Aaron? Our Hur? What is symbolic of our faith in God’s promises?
In Luke’s gospel, we have another story of a judge who fears neither God nor respects any human still deciding to render a just decision for a widow simply because of her persistence. I remember when I first heard this passage (many years ago) I thought that the judge in the story was a metaphor for God when we pray. It was only later that I realized that the judge in the story actually functions as a contrast to how God responds to our persistence. Again, when what we ask is in accord with God’s nature (kindness, love, beauty, truth, mercy, wisdom, justice), “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
One can almost feel Jesus’ weariness when he asks that last question. C.S. Lewis has said: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”1
Perhaps if we had a better sense of what God wants to give us, it would influence what we asked for, and how persistently we did so.
In our second reading, St. Paul exhorts us in proclaiming the word to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage [emphasis mine] through all patience and teaching.”
It seems to me that persistence is also called for in our efforts to evangelize. To dispense with the million-dollar word, I could put it this way: persistence is also called for in looking constantly for the opportunity to introduce others to our faith by building relationship with them, and inviting them to come with us to Padre Serra – whether it’s to Mass, to an educational gathering, or to a purely social event.
Liturgy and Music Minister
1 The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses