Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). These encouraging words from St. Paul to the Catholic community in Rome have resonated with me for many years. Part of their resonance, I think, comes from the fact that they can be so challenging to put into action, yet I deeply desire to live them fully. Perseverance in prayer is the great theme running through the readings at Mass this weekend. We see Moses interceding on the hill top for the armies of Israel, leading to a great victory in the first reading. The Gospel is the parable of the widow who persists in asking the judge to render a just decision for her. St. Paul, in the second reading, encourages Timothy to persevere in his mission to proclaim the Gospel. To persevere in our faith, and especially to continue praying no matter what, is one of the great necessities of the spiritual life.
The story from Exodus shows us almost instantaneous results. So long as Moses keeps his hands raised in prayer, the battle goes well. Sometimes we want prayer to be so easy! The moment I pray, I want the result, the answer to my petition. But we might all find ourselves identifying with the poor widow in the Gospel who continues to make her petition. It is important to ask God, and we should never be afraid to continue asking for whatever we need, even if God does not instantly and immediately answer our prayer. We should note, too, that the judge in the parable is an unjust man (an undesirable quality in a judge!). If, Jesus says, even such an unjust man can finally do the right thing, how much more can God, who is perfect justice and love itself give us what we need? When we perceive a delay in the answer to our prayer, or when we feel we do not get what we want, we should not be discouraged. Rather, the parable reminds us to continue praying, continue petitioning the Lord, confident that our God is good, that His logic and plan is bigger than our vision, and that He knows our need. Perseverance in prayer leads us to greater conformity to God’s plan for us, and deeper gratitude for the blessings and graces we receive.
Speaking of graces and blessings received, I would like to thank you for your prayers for the priests of the Diocese of Bridgeport during our convocation this past week. Those days were among the more prayerful days I have had in recent months, and to be surrounded by brother priests throughout was a true blessing. Thank you for keeping us all in your prayers!
Next weekend, I will preach at all the Masses. As the calendar year draws to a close, I would like to offer a reflection on the past year, outline the vision for our continued progress and growth, share some of the challenges our parish community faces, especially financial challenges, and invite you to participate in our annual Parish Appeal. As you know well, I do not like to spend much time talking about money in homilies, but there are certain times when it is necessary, in the interest of good stewardship, to keep the parish alert to our situation. I am deeply grateful for your generosity and support for our parish community!