29th Sunday in Ordinary time Cycle C October 20, 2019
In today’s Gospel we hear the story of the unjust judge. I think of Jesus as having some fun with this parable. There are colorful characters and not a little exaggeration: a notorious judge who is a real curmudgeon, and a shrewish widow who is obsessive and persistent. Neither are particularly attractive characters. What are we to make of all this???
In the second reading St Paul instructs his pupil Timothy, and us, to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;” Persistent in what? In proclaiming the word. St. Paul writes: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, …, proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;”
Jesus in the Gospel tells us to pray always without becoming weary, and St. Paul tells us to be persistent in proclaiming the Gospel whether it is convenient of inconvenient. Sounds like a lot of work. And it is.
To be a disciple requires persistence, or to say it another way, stick-to-itiveness. Following Jesus, being a disciple, being a Christian, requires persistence. The task of being a disciple is not done quickly nor easily. It takes persistence.
Even to be good at some sport, or some skill, or some business, requires persistence. You don’t pick these things up overnight.
This is even more true for a relationship, a friendship, a marriage. It requires persistence. You have to push through the difficult times, the embarrassing lapses, the boredom, to achieve real, deep, relationship.
So also with Jesus. In Jesus’ day He had to instruct us to be persistent in prayer. With our current addiction to instantaneous results, instant communications, with no patience, this message of the need for persistence is hard to hear. But we need to hear it.
I do not believe that persistence in prayer will change God’s mind. But I hope that persistence in prayer will change me, opening and shifting and bending me to be more open to God’s Will, rather than my own.
I do not think that persistence in proclaiming the Word of God, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, will change other peoples’ minds and hearts, and bring large numbers of converts to Christianity. But I do think persistently proclaiming the Word of God, both by word and even more so by action, will convert me more and more to God’s Word, and help me to grow as a disciple. And maybe that example, and God’s grace, will convert others.
Christianity and the life of the Spirit are not instantaneously achievable realities. They are not instant coffee. Like a fine wine; they take time. They take fortitude. They take persistence. And, Jesus assures us, they are worth it.