Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Perseverance in prayer is one of the greatest spiritual challenges. The encouragement to persist in prayer that Jesus gives in the eleventh chapter of Luke which we read at Mass this weekend is no less challenging. It would seem that our Lord is encouraging not persistence so much as pestering. Though a cursory glance might give that impression, a closer reading tells us that God is ready to give, a provider and giver whose defenses do not need to be eroded. In the Scripture readings for this 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we can see dual truths of the spiritual life revealed. Ours is a merciful God who answers the prayers of those who ask in faith. Ours is a God who encourages us to ask and to continue asking, no matter how big or small might be the request.
Abraham asks God to spare the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if any just and upright persons can be found living there. He starts with by asking God not to destroy Sodom if 50 innocent people are found there, then in increments of 5, he reduces his number, returning again and again to God in prayer asking that the city be spared destruction if the decreasing number of just persons is found. To each, God answers mercifully. As Abraham humbly prays, God is giving him the grace to be more bold in what he asks. By our worldly logic, fifty innocents could be considered by some to be acceptable collateral damage in the cause of destroying a much larger evil. But through his prayer, Abraham is being invited beyond earthly logic, to be bold in asking for something that seems to defy our human reasoning. At the same time, God uses this persistent prayer of Abraham to reveal the depth of His mercy. And so Abraham persists in prayer, he grows bold. So should we grow bold in making our request known to God. The Lord responds by revealing a truth about Himself: mercy. Also revealed though, is the truth that God answers our prayers in ways we do not always expect. Remember, Sodom and Gomorrah are still destroyed, but the innocent people living there (Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family) are saved.
Notice that the examples Jesus gives in the Gospel about persistence refer to human actors. I can eventually wear you down if I bother you enough. But God is not like that! On the contrary, we need only ask and God will answer our prayer in the way that is best for us. We should note that Jesus doesn’t give a timeline for an answer, which is another reason that persistence is important. The more we pray, the longer we pray for something, the more our hearts can be moved into conformity with God. If it seems that God is delaying answering our prayer, it is most often so that our intention can be purified and so that we can come to a more profound understanding of how God desires to work in our lives. This week, the Scriptures invite us to be bold in making our request to God, confident that nothing we can ask is beyond His capacity, and aware that the very act of petitioning the Lord begins the process of conforming our lives and wills to the holy will of God.
On another note…
Nick Couture, our seminarian this summer, has reached the end of his assignment and will be departing the parish this weekend. I am grateful to Nick for his work over the last few months and the help he has given to me in so many things. As he begins his second year of formation for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, please keep him in your prayers. As you know, we need more priests! While Nick has a number of years to go on this journey, these formative years are vital. As your pray for him now, you are providing that spiritual support that will prepare him to serve the faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport for years to come. If you would like more information about the priesthood and vocational discernment, I encourage you to visit https://bridgeportpriest.org/. Thank you, Nick, for your generous service to St. Pius X Parish, and for your joyful yes to seminary formation!