Persistence in our faith
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 16, 2022
We hear Jesus say, at the end of the parable the Gospel this Sunday, when the son of man comes will he find faith on earth? Have you ever noticed that water is soothing and lifegiving on the one hand. And on the other hand, powerful in its movement whether it moves suddenly or over time. Lifegiving and soothing. There’s no life on earth without water. Water washes and cleanses us and brings refreshment us when we’re thirsty. Water is also a very powerful force, whether that happens suddenly or over time. Suddenly, just think of the recent hurricanes, storm surges that move large objects and cause a lot of destruction. And then water overtime — say rounding rocks on a lake shore, or causing erosions on mountains and coastlines over many, many thousands of years. Or waters as it creates glaciers that carve up the landscape. Water is powerful when it moves whether moves suddenly or over time.
Faith is a lot like water, soothing and life giving when we are in need of comfort and refreshment and cleansing, but powerful as it moves in us and in our world either suddenly or over time. Rounding off our rough edges wearing away the boundaries and barriers we set up in our sinfulness that causes division. Forming us or reforming us into the image of God after the distortion of sin and that surging nature of faith that can go deep within us causing us to undergo a deeper conversion and bringing us more abundant life in Christ.
It’s on this second level, meaning of water, that it’s powerful, that I’d like to concentrate a few comments on the Scriptures today. Because the Scriptures are all about the power of faith moving in us and others overtime. We see in the first reading, this great passage from Exodus, where Amalek is coming to lay siege to, and fight with, and overcome the Israelites under Mosses’ direction. Moses tells Aaron to assemble, or Joshua excuse me, and go out and meet Amalek in battle and he would be interceding for them as they fight. So, Moses goes up the hillside and stretches out his arms with the staff and as long as his arms are outstretched, they prevail in battle. But he’s got to persist. The battle is going to take a long time, and so he works hard and then he gets help from Aaron and Hur who come and hold up his arms as he persists in his intercession for the troops. God blesses his persistence and Joshua mows down Amalek and his forces.
Our second reading from second Timothy, where Paul reminds Timothy to remain faithful to the Gospel. To preach or proclaim the word, whether it’s convenient or inconvenient. To persist in the faith that Timothy has accepted and that in that persistence God will do great things.
And in the Gospel, we have the parable of the dishonest judge that Jesus tells to his disciples where this woman who has a genuine grievance keeps coming to the unjust judge telling him he’s got to render a just decision for her in her case against her adversary. And the woman, even though she’s on the other end of the power differential, wears down the unjust judge by her persistence, getting under her his skin even though he’s all power in the relationship.
Jesus is talking about persistence — persistence in our faith. To persist in our faith, we need to resist the culture of our short attention spans and distractions. We live in such a fragmented way, where we kind of jump from one thing, to another, to another and don’t really go deeper in our distracted way of life. To persistent in faith we have to push that all back, with God’s help, and learn to quiet down and to put our minds to the task at hand.
Like Moses and Aaron and Joshua, like Paul and Timothy, like the woman in the parable, we are reminded to be persistent in our faith, persistent in our faith against its opponents in the world. Think of the culture of death that always wants to come and wear away at human dignity or so many other things in the world — hatred and war. We have to persist against these forces in the world with confidence in God with our faith. Persist against temptations that the world throws at us, to abandon parts of our faith that are difficult to live, or to simply take the easy route and forget about working for justice and peace in the world. Content to keep our own self comfortable.
Or persistence in our impatient prayer lives. To be persistent in prayer is so important. It helps us in immense ways. Now as we pray for things, hopefully we’re praying for a good thing and aligning ourselves with God in our life, but even as we do that imperfectly as we persist in it, the prayer that we’ve persistent will change us and align us with God. God doesn’t change when we pray to him. He’s the same always, but as we become people of persistent prayer we change. We undergo a deeper conversion and there’s something that God does in us during that time that we have to wait for the answer to our prayers as we persist in prayer that helps us to trust, to more deeply have the confidence in him.
So as I offer bread and wine in just a moment now, that will become Christ’s body and blood, I invite you to offer yourselves to God once again in this Mass. Give yourself to him anew with the pledge of a persistent faith in a world that’s always trying to knock us off that persistence and distract us. Offer him yourself anew with persistent faith remembering that all things are possible with God and in the process helping to assure that when this son of man comes he will find faith on earth.