Sunday Sermon for October 16, 2022, the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8
In the readings today we hear about the necessity of perseverance. The Gospel tells us about the widow whose court case was resolved unjustly. She was unwilling to accept the outcome and badgered the unjust judge until he settled in her favor. The second reading speaks specifically about persistence, in this case, in preaching the Word of God whether it is convenient or not. The first reading tells us how Moses needed to keep his hands raised throughout the entire day so the people of Israel could be victorious in the war against the Amalekites.
None of the three situations from today’s readings is easy or pleasant. For instance, it is a great privilege to bring our Lord to those who do not know Him. However, as we know from both Testaments and from the lives of the Saints, many people not only reject the Word of God, but they respond violently to those who speak or live that Word. We recall the words from the Book of Wisdom when the wicked say: “Let us beset the righteous one, for he is obnoxious to us.”
The experience of both the Prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles in the New Testament demonstrates this truth over and over again. With some of the Prophets, at the moment of their call, God told them their message would be rejected, but they had to preach it anyway. Can you imagine how depressing this would be?
Many people experience these difficulties in their vocations. In many marriages one or both of the spouses is trying to keep the marriage together. It may become so difficult that it feels like they are barely hanging on by a thread, yet they continue to persevere in the face of the difficulty to try to save the marriage and the soul of their spouse. Many priests and consecrated persons also struggle due to loneliness, a perceived lack of support, or doubts about their vocation.
In each of these instances we must recognize that God allows these troubles to purify us; in these situations He also purifies our vocations. In a marriage, if one is suffering to keep the marriage together, the suffering will often bring more fruit to the one who is suffering than to the spouse who is perceived to be the cause of the suffering. The good the suffering brings can certainly heal the marriage and even bring about the conversion of the other spouse, but it purifies the one who is suffering, bringing with it greater patience, meekness, charity, compassion, and the like. Given what we see in the readings, it also helps our perseverance, because we grow in strength through the suffering which allows us to persevere in other situations outside the marriage.
As mentioned earlier, the perseverance purifies us in our vocation. No matter what vocation God has called you to, it ultimately comes down to charity. Our vocations need to be purified because we are all beset with selfishness and it requires heroic effort to overcome it. This is why God allows the internal struggles because we have to choose to do His will which requires overcoming our own will. Unfortunately, this does not come quickly or easily.
Consider Moses in the first reading. At an elderly age, he had to climb what I assume was a fairly high hill and hold up his hands all day long. That would be difficult enough, but he also had his staff in one hand. Out of love for his people, he persevered, with some help from Aaron and Hur, and the Israelites were victorious in war that day. However, we know that Moses struggled with the bickering of the people, the weight of the leadership task, and a group of people who said one thing and did another. It took years of perseverance for Moses to attain the virtues God was developing in him.
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that God will secure our rights if we call out to Him day and night. It is frequently some kind of injustice that brings us to prayer and we seek a just settlement. As we continue to pray, we may notice that a change occurs in us, even if things are not settled the way we desired. The Lord will allow us to see how many times we have been unjust, or how many times we have done something to others with no apparent consequences. He helps us to see the necessity of forgiveness and begins to open our hearts so that even if the settlement comes as we thought it should, we see it more as a matter of justice than one of victory or vengeance. Persevere in prayer and God will secure your rights to greater conformity to Himself.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.