Ordinary Time 29, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1:14—NIV)

Today’s gospel reading ends with Jesus asking, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Yes, one could wonder if Jesus would find faith in his disciples upon his return. It could be that he would find instead that the long wait for his second coming might well have taken its toll on those waiting, especially those overburdened by hardships, lack of success, or even hostility and persecution. It is not uncommon, after all, for people who wholly rely on God to put in an appearance, in order to rescue and vindicate them, to feel let down and suffer severe weariness when all their waiting strikes them to be for naught. Surely, there are not a few of us poor folks today who do not find it difficult to identify with those who are rebuked by God for saying: “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape” (Mal. 3:14-15; cf. Ps. 73:11-16).

Would Jesus find his poor followers watching and praying (Mt. 26:41; Mk. 14:38; Lk. 21:36) or would he find them with their guard down, eating drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, selling buying, planting, building (Lk. 17:27-28), after giving up on praying altogether and finding themselves as tired as Moses but lacking in the creativity that makes for endurance in deadly struggle? Jesus’ wish, of course, is that his followers “pray always and not give up,” that they be as persistent and even defiant—that is to say, honest about their feelings before God (cf. Ps. 22:1-2; 84:14; 137:7-9) [1]—as the widow of the parable in the gospel reading, the personification in ancient times, along with the orphan and the alien, of poverty and powerlessness (Ex. 22:21-22; Dt. 10:18-19; 14:29; 24:17-21;26:12-13). It is his teaching that God is not going to be outdone by an unrighteous human judge in securing the rights of his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night, and in seeing to it that justice is done for them quickly.

Jesus seeks, then, in his poor followers, a faith in a personal God who hears the cry of the helpless, of the afflicted, of the poor (Gen. 21:17; Ex. 3:7-9; 22:23; Dt. 24:15). Such a faith, no doubt, is nurtured and maintained vibrant by prayer. And prayer does not only keep the disciples personally in touch with God; it mediates between the “now” and the “not yet,” so that the faithful do not get bogged down in such question as “When will the kingdom come?” and such speculation as “Here it is!” or “There it is!” or “There he is!” or “Here he is!” but accept instead that the kingdom of God is in their midst (Lk. 17:20-33). The faithful, then, while not looking for the kingdom in signs, because its king, and consequently its presence, is right before them, still looks forward to its display in comprehensive power when they shall have suffered, with their Lord and Master, many things and been rejected by their generation, and when they shall have lost their lives in order to preserve them; they persevere in prayer even when it seems to them they are not answered, for they acknowledge that God’s response may not always come when or as they want it [2].

But would Jesus really find them faithful, those who call themselves Christians, to what they have learned and believed, faithful to the holy Scriptures and to preaching the Word uncompromisingly in season and out of season? Or would he instead find them ignoring completely the warning in 2 Tim. 4:3-4 as they resist sound doctrine, listen only to what their itching ears want to hear, and exchange the truth for myths? Their philosophical or theological sophistication, or lack of simple faith, might very well be their downfall, the sophistication that raises the objection, “If God is all-knowing, sovereign and all-caring, then why bother him with our requests?” [3] and is forgetful of Jesus’ being himself constantly before the Father in prayer [4]. Or they could be so small-minded and having so narrow an outlook, like a snail ever withdrawing to its shell—to borrow from St. Vincent de Paul—that they see nothing but obstacles and would readily give up on the works God gave them and equipped them for, seeking unwittingly, perhaps, that the memory of God, along with his works, are blotted out [5].

Christians, however, should know better not to forget God, for to do so would be to their own detriment (cf. Dt. 8). And Jesus will surely not find them forgetful, if they eat the Lord’s bread and drink his cup in remembrance of him, prayerfully proclaiming both his death and their faithful readiness for his return in glory.


Notes:

[1] Cf. http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Faithful-Looking-King-Kingdom (accessed October 17, 2010).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Robert P. Maloney, C.M., The Way of Vincent de Paul (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1992) 150, and He Hears the Cry of the Poor (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1995) 32-33.
[5] Cf. Frances Ryan, D.C., and John E. Rybolt, C.M., eds., Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac: Rules, Conferences, and Writings (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1995) 150.