Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’
And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’
The Gospel for Sunday coming, the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds how persistence in this life can achieve much, can even persuade to act people against their (in this case, worst!) nature and do good.
We have no such difficulty in urging God to do good. God, alone, is good, Jesus teaches us. And he is love for us.
But often we need to be patient, for the goodness of God is not always what we -at any particular time – might hope for. Our nature, our discernment, is not always at its best. We are invited to trust, to have faith in God. We need not stop crying our, but our sense of urgency ought not to blind us or deafen us to the persistent goodness of God .
- What helps you to have faith?
- What hinders faith or hobbles it?
Carving of Justice. Riverside gardens. Shrewsbury. (c) 2016, Allen Morris
How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
Then the Lord answered and said,
‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’
The cry of the faithful one comes from his agony. The Lord seems absent.
And yet the prophet is able to testify also that the Lord is present. And is aware of our predicament..
Righteousness will come. Victory is won.
In our pain and hurt we are asked to trust, to wait on the Lord. We can do no more than trust, maybe, and that can seem foolish, even ridiculous. And yet the loving, patient Lord invites us to be still, patient, and to trust. To him be the glory.
7th C Writing Tablet (Liturgical text) from Egypt, in the collection of the British Museum. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.
The second reading at Mass tomorrow highlights the most prominent – if often neglected – theme of the first part of Advent – the second coming of the Lord, the Day of days.
There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow; but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and fall apart, the earth and all that it contains will be burnt up.
Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace.
2 Peter 3:8-14
The advent of such a day might promote a certain anxiety. And if such concerns help us take stock, and purpose conversion, turning again to the Lord, then all to the good. For when we turn to him we find his desire is not for narrow and constricting obedience but wholesome and loving freedom, enabled by love of God and neighbour.
When you come to the end of this present day spend a moment reviewing it.
- Where/when/how did you live love for God?
- Where/when/how did you live love for neighbour?
Give glory to God for any triumphs of grace, and quietly entrust yourself to the compassion and mercy of the patient God for any shortcomings.
Image created by Allen Morris (c) 2014.
The first reading of Sunday’s Mass, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, sets a puzzling tale before us.
On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’
At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.
There is a mythic quality to this story. Fiery serpents (real and living, such as is often depicted being overcome by St George) finding a counterpart in a bronze cast serpent (once fiery but now cooled down and mounted on a standard pole), and their death-dealing bite finding its antidote. The teller of the tale doesn’t seem to find any problem with this tale despite the Decalogue’s injunction against making graven images.
The story finds its echo in the Cross of Christ, the one who is seen as sinner and cursed by God and yet is found to be Saviour and the one who frees us from sin.
The story starts with ‘the people’ losing patience – with God, with Moses? Does it matter, once you lose patience you seem to lose it with everyone all at the same time.
- When did you last lose it? Why?
- Have you found it again? How?
- What have you learnt from the experience? And what from the experience might you helpfully bring to God in prayer?
Image found here.