25 July 2010. 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 18, 20-32; Psalm 138; Col 2, 12-14; Luke 11, 1-13
Persistence is the name of the game for the first reading and the Gospel today. Upon Abraham’s intercessions, God is willing to spare a sinful city from doom for a handful of good people. Abraham then bargains with God beginning with 50 and eventually ending with ten good people. God will not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of the ten! Abraham’s persistence in his prayer has moved God to retract His plan. After all, He is the God of compassion and mercy!
Moreover, Jesus teaches us to pray in the Gospel. He adds that our prayer should be persevering and tireless. He illustrates it with the story of a friend who suddenly finds himself in a very embarrassing situation. An unexpected visitor has arrived and there is nothing for him to serve. Hospitality in the East is a sacred duty. And late as it is, the householder goes out to borrow from another friend. But his friend’s house is shut; he does not wish to be disturbed. Disturbing someone is legitimate only when the need is imperative. And so the householder is able to get what he needs with determination! The Lord adds in the Gospel that we should knock repetitively on the door of heaven to obtain the fulfillment of our desires.
There are elements that are worth mentioning.
First, persistence presuppose that we know what we need. St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises calls this the id quod vollo: that which we desire. Whenever we pray, we should be clear with the reason why we are at the feet of Jesus. We have to put a finger into our deepest needs. And so we keep on knocking at the door of heaven knowing why we are banging God’s door.
Second, persistence entails that praying should be done repetitively. Knocking at the door of heaven means that we strike it over and over again. We therefore have to pray and pray and pray, but when we pray we know why we’re praying. Interminable repetition aids our hearts to focus on the id quod vollo; the more we thump on the door, the more our emotions intensify. We learn the value of our desires when we ask for it repetitively.
Third, persistence involves hope. Hope means that we believe in the other person to change or to give what we need constantly. We trust that they would keep us company in our life’s journey. We hope when we do things purposefully. When our faith intensifies, our hope grows. We cannot be persistent without hope; you abandon ship if it is hopeless.
Why does God want us to be indefatigable in our prayers? God does not need our unceasing prayer. But repetition makes us yearn for our deepest desires: it is for the good of us! Human experience tells us that the more we insistent in what we want, the more we want it. We can guarantee the reality and sincerity of our desire only by the passion with which we pray.
Sometimes we think that God does not answer our prayers. But a “no” is also an answer. Jesus got a “no” when He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane. He wanted His Father to take “this cup” from him, but the answer was a negative! Sometimes the answer we want may not be the best that we need. Often, we feel dejected because the answer we desired or expected is not given according to the answer from a heart of God’s love and wisdom. Like parents, we don’t give whatever our children ask of us. Most of the time, a refusal may help them become better. When a child requests for an increase in allowance, to reject that proposal may help them learn how to budget whatever they have.
But the Parable tells us something more. It is a contrast! If the friend opens the door because of his friend’s relentless persistence, how much more will God? How much more will the loving Father supply His children’s needs!
[So with La Salle drawing first blood from Ateneo at this UAAP Season, there is no way for the Blue Eagles to win but through persistent prayer and of course, constant practice!]