October 16, 2016 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Raise your arms, and keep them raised

Not too long ago, I had a student who would ask me to go to the bathroom every single day. And every single day I’d remind him that he had ample time to go to the bathroom on his lunch break, so no, he could not go in the middle of class. In my mind, he would change his ways and learn to go during his lunch break or he would just stop asking me every day. But he never did stop asking. In fact, he just became more persistent, asking three, four, and five times. After a few weeks, he wore me down, and I finally asked him why he chose to not go to the bathroom at lunch. His response was simple: the lines were too long and he figured he would eventually wear me down if he kept asking. And so it became that when this young man walked into my classroom, as soon as he’d raise his hand to ask his daily question, I would just nod my head “yes” and he’d scurry off to the bathroom. He was persistent. He got what he wanted. His imperfect teacher caved to his request to miss a valuable educational moment so he could go potty…

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of an unjust judge who can’t seem to be convinced of anything. A seemingly angry man who doesn’t respect any authority other than his own, he is approached every day by a widow who wants him to render a judgment on her behalf. The judge is resistant at first. He seems bothered – annoyed, even – by this old woman who won’t leave him alone. And then it dawns on him: if I just give her what she wants, she’ll leave me alone. Otherwise, she’ll probably attempt to hurt me. This dishonest man realizes an important truth that day…people ask for what they need (and want), and they’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Jesus makes an important point to those listening to this parable: if even a dishonest judge can be convinced of something due to an old widow’s persistence, think then what the good Father that loves you will do if you are persistent in going to Him and asking for what you need.

Our God is not a dishonest judge. He is not a miserly old dictator that pulls the puppet strings of our lives. God is not a miserable leader who wants to wreak havoc and hates everything in his path. He is an honest, compassionate, merciful Creator who listens to us with perfect love. He responds to us in our persistence, regardless of whether we think ourselves to be convenient or inconvenient towards Him. He is patient with us, answering the desires of our heart with His perfect will. In fact, His judgment and answer are always perfect. He is always sufficient. He is forever Good. He always gives us exactly what we need.

We see this goodness and perfect deliverance from the Lord in the First Reading this weekend. The Israelite people are facing a battle the likes of which they could never win unless the Lord assists them. When Moses raises his hands, persistent in his belief that the Lord will provide, the Israelites win the battle. When his hands lower, their enemies begin to win. Thus, Moses must keep his faith (and his hands raised). He must persist in his belief. He must be steadfast in his faith that the Lord will provide. It matters not if his arms get sore: the Lord will provide, even if he is in pain. The Israelites will win, because God will see to their success and victory.

Do we raise our arms? Do we keep them raised? Or do we give up and slink away in the face of challenge or defeat? Do we persistently go to him? Do we raise our heart and mind in prayer, every single day? Do we return to Him again and again? Are we faithful and steadfast in our belief that the Lord will always provide for us, even in the moments of suffering, pain, or seeming defeat? Do we truly believe in the depths of our heart that our help is from the Lord, the very Creator of heaven and earth, and that His help is perfect, complete, sufficient, and Good?

We have learned the Lord will give to us what He knows we need. We have seen examples of persistence and success in Him alone. Now we must hold fast to what we know, persist in our prayer, and remain ever faithful to the good and honest Judge who loves us completely.

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