Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Perseverance
The theme of today's Mass is to "hang in there"! How often do we get discouraged - the news is all bad, there are bills to be paid, families to be fed, work to be done and, on top of everything, you feel a cold coming on! As the old song puts it - 'Life gets tedious, don't it?" Today's readings recommend that we hang in there when the going gets tough.

Exodus 17:8-13 - Moses keeps praying no matter how badly the battle with the Amalekites goes. The image of the Interventionist God prevailed at this stage of religious thinking.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 - Paul does not let up on Timothy; he keeps at him about his new responsibilities to teach, to organise and to deal with the problems and burdens of the day to day life of the church. One can almost imagine Timothy shaking his head and saying "OK! OK! Give me a break! Get off my back!"

Luke 18:1-8 - The widow keeps after the judge until finally he gives in and hears her case. Although she had received knock back after knock back, she did not quit. In this parable, we are being told that in life there will always be frustration, failure and discouragement; the question is, do we have the faith to bounce back?

Point 1: "If at first you don't succeed, then try, try again"! Most of us have heard that phrase many times and recognise that success only comes through repeated effort - professional success, sporting prowess, happy marriage, good parenting; all require constant effort. Our Christian response to life's situations is no different. The Faith that sparks our attempts at being Christian is much more than acceptance of a list of dogmas and engaging in rites and devotions. Its bottom line is an attitude of mind that commits a person to Christ's leadership; consequently, a person is motivated to behave in one way rather than another. One of the first fruits of Faith is a spirit of prayer.

Point 2: Many people misunderstand the purpose of prayer and become discouraged because their prayers, apparently, have not been answered. Christ spoke to His disciples of the need to pray; by word and example He taught them how to pray; but, for all of that, there is still much confusion on the subject of prayer. For so many, their prayer is directed to having God change the external facts of life, prayer of petition; they want God to intervene to change this or that set of external circumstances. When the required intervention does not occur, disappointment is felt and questions are asked - What did God mean when He said "[Mat 21:22] Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive." A moment's serious thought tells us that the reference could not possibly be to external situations. These situations are controlled by natural laws set in place at the time of creation and which sometime fail resulting in natural disasters - earthquakes, floods, disease - or, more generally, by people abusing the gift of free will, or not using their God-given talents to best advantage - wars, accidents, poverty and injustice. The purpose of prayer is not to have God doing the things that we should be doing ourselves But, if we are considering our own personal, internal needs for help, then, yes, the promise stands.

Conclusion: Persevering prayer does have the power to give us the strength, the courage and the hope to grow in a way that we did not know was possible despite the external conditions in which we live. There can be no doubt that prayer is always more fruitful when it is in harmony with God's desire for our growth. At that level, prayer is more than "asking"; it becomes "listening". It passes the "word" stage to arrive at the "thought" level satisfying the complete purpose of prayer which is to render homage, to give praise, to acknowledge one's dependence, and to ask for the gift of perseverance.

Scriptural reference: "and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name. [1 Chr 29:13]