The Two Sides of Persistence

Reflection on the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time Readings

Reading 1 – EX 17:8-13

Responsorial Psalm –  PS 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Reading 2 – 2 TM 3:14-4:2

Gospel LK – 18:1-8

As a child my first experience with persistence was my father’s commitment to praying the rosary every day. Nothing got in the way of praying the rosary. To this day, my father continues to pray the rosary daily without exception.

When we think of the word persistence, we tend to think of it as a good virtue. However, the word has a parallel side, an ugly side: vice.

In the case of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) and Moses (Exodus 17:8-13), we witness the virtuous side of persistence.

The widow, Jesus tells us, uses her determination to persuade a judge to vindicate her over her enemies.  After a long period, the judge relents not because it is the right thing to do but because of her tenacity. Jesus uses the story to encourages us “to pray always without becoming weary (Luke 18:1). Never to get discouraged in our prayer.

We can find an example of Jesus’ declaration in the account found in the first reading. There, we witness the persistence of Moses during the battle with Amalek. Moses, with the help of Aaron and Hur, kept his arms and the staff of God upright during the battle. This led to an expedient victory over Amalek’s army.

Now, let us consider two examples of persistent vice. First, we have terrorism. The individuals who commit acts of terror are very persistent in their effort. They will stop at nothing to obtain what they want. And these are not just acts perpetrated by people motivated by political or religious reasons. These are also acts perpetrated by parents who terrorize their families, people who physically and emotionally exploit the weak, and anyone who abuses their position of power to obtain what they want.

Another example is our secular society’s obsessively-persistent-love for possessions. This persistence has led to idolatry, selfishness, and self-reliance among other things. Which in turn has created isolation, relativism, and moral decay.

Since Adam and Eve fell to sin, we have been constantly moving back and forth between virtue and vice. Two factors determine how long we stay in one or the other. First, it is the quality of our spiritual life within the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The second factor is what St. Augustine calls in his letter to Proba “our desire in prayer” (Liturgy of the Hours, According to the Roman Rite, Vol. IV, Ordinary Time, Weeks 18-34, page 407-409).

If our spiritual life is sustained by adoration, reflection, and contrition, we will be in a righteous relationship.  On the other hand, if our spiritual life is lacking, we will live in a fractured relationship.

We must constantly reflect on the state of persistence in our lives. Does it lead to God? Is it guided by the Holy Spirit? or Does it lead away from God? Is it guided by darkness? What are we doing or not doing spiritually to remain where we are?

Then there is “our desire in prayer”. St. Augustine tells us that God knows everything we want. He is God, after all. The purpose of prayer is not to ask for His assistance but “to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us.” The “deeper our faith, the stronger, our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed.”  What is your prayer life like? Is it constant and filled with desire or inconsistent and filled with desperation? Is our heart ready to receive the gift He has prepared for us?

These are questions that we are unable to answer on our own, however.  A Spiritual Director can be of great benefit to provide spiritual coaching to exercise our desire. Moreover, we must surrender these questions to God. We must petition the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions. We must pray to Christ to give us redemption through faith, hope and love. Above all, we must subject our persistence to God’s will just like Jesus Christ did at the Mount of Olives “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Only then, can our persistence draw from its virtues.

Listening to God

Reading 1 – DT 18:15-20
Responsorial Psalm – PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
Reading 2 – 1 COR 7:32-35
Gospel MK 1:21-28

When God speaks, He reveals Himself. Listening, an essential element in any relationship, is of utmost importance with God. Unfortunately, our busy lives, jobs, relationships, technology, media etc. at times create a barrier between God’s words and our hearts.  Today, we are warned against resistance when God speaks to us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (PS 95:8).

Listening to God should be our most important priority. It was such revelation which helped Moses understand that a prophet greater than him, Jesus, would be coming into the world: “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen” (DT 18:15).

Paul understood this as well when he spoke of the dangers of anxiety and distractions: “I should like you to be free of anxieties….I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction” (1 COR 7:35).

Listening to God requires that we set aside time to know Him. How? By reading His words and then meditating, praying, and contemplating on them (Lectio Divina).

If we make an effort to listen to God, we, too, can be cured of the unclean spirits clinging to our hearts. We, too, like the demonic man in today’s Gospel, can experience Jesus’ healing power: “Quiet! Come out of him!” (MK 1:25).

Beatitude #3 – Blessed are the meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Mark 5:5)

Let’s be humble in our hearts; for it is through the humble that God speaks and reveals his power. Let’s be like Moses for he “was very humble, more than anyone else on earth.” (Numbers 12:3)

Let’s be humble when we pray; always asking for forgiveness first. Let’s be like the tax collector who asked God to “be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

Let’s be humble in charity, especially to those in need. Let’s be like Jesus who said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matthew 11:29)

© hectorortiz 2013. All rights reserved.

Pope Francis

Yesterday, Pope Francis 20130313_pope_blog_main_horizontalwas voted the next successor to St. Peter. This marks a new chapter in the Catholic Church; one for which I am very excited.

Much discussion since yesterday has centered on his age. Pope Francis is certainly no spring chicken. Age, however, doesn’t make a person; it is the person’s character, resolve, and the Grace of God bestowed upon the person that counts.

Throughout the history of the bible, one can encounter countless men and women advanced in age who have made enormous contributions to our faith. Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah 90, when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:5). In today’s scriptures, we read about Moses. He was 80 years old when he led God’s people from Egypt (Exodus 7:7) and received the 10 Commandments. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both advanced in age (Luke 1:7) when the Angel Gabriel announced that they would be having a child, John the Baptist.

God has always worked in mysterious ways. I believe that the choosing of Pope Francis is God’s work. Moreover, I believe that like Abraham and Moses, Pope Francis has prepared all his life to serve God in this role. How long would it be? It doesn’t matter to me. I have faith that however long it is, it will be what God intended it to be.

When God presents us with an opportunity, it is not how old or young we are that counts; it is what we do with it. Jesus’ ministry was only 3 years. Think about how our lives were transformed by it.

Let’s pray that Pope Francis brings about God’s will.