Year C 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8

Once a person was driving his cart through a rain drenched road. As he moved forward the wheels began to sink in mud. The muddy roads held the wheels tight, and he could not drive forward. He yelled at the horses, He beat the horses, but there was no change. His cart
remained stuck in the mud. Then he began to pray for the assistance of God. Being a great devotee of Zeus, he revoked his name. Hearing the zealous prayer Zeus appeared before him and asked what he wanted. He agreed to help him. But he demanded that the cart driver too should get down from the cart and push the cart.

When man does his part God comes to his help. That is the moral of this story. When Man does his part, God does not fail to complement his actions with His support. Today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus conveys this message.  The Amalekites attacked Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua to pick out strong men of his choice and march out against Amalek. In the meanwhile Moses stood on the hilltop, holding the staff of God in his hand. As long as Moses kept his arms raised towards God Israel had the advantage. When he let his arms fall, the advantage went to Amlek.
Today’s reading speaks about two requirements of prayer. First of all prayer should follow man’s struggle too. Prayer should be complemented with our action. In our difficulties, we should pray fervently for God’s grace, at the same time we should do our level best to overcome them. When Naaman approached Prophet Elijah with the request to heal his leprosy, Elijah demanded that he should go and dip himself in River Jordan. While curing the crippled Jesus asked him to carry his bed and walk. Jesus asked the lepers to dip them in the water. When we pray for God’s grace we should be prepared to fulfil our part. Then God will complement our actions with his grace.
God’s grace comes in the most natural way. There is an English play “The Monkey’s paw.” that brings out this theme. A sergeant who was deployed in India during the British Rule in India met a fakir. The fakir gave him an enchanted monkey’s paw. A person could have three wishes from the monkey’s paw. But he warned the sergeant and told him that the results would come in the most natural way. The sergeant gave it to his friend. While his friend was speaking of it to his family, the son, who had no faith in such tales, made his father wish for 10,000 pounds so that they could pay off their debt. The father just made the wish and they forgot about it.
The next day morning the parents received the sad news that their son lost his life in a workplace accident and the company decided to pay them 10,000 pounds as compensation. The wish was granted in a natural way.
Always our prayers are answered in the most natural way. Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy when he dipped himself. In Jesus’ miracles we see that the miracles take place in the most natural way. In our life too no prayer goes unanswered. But we fail to recognize how our prayers are granted. They are granted through the medium of nature, through some apparent inconveniences for which we blame God, through our friends, and often through the medium of our brothers whom we dislike. So when we are receptive we will be able to recognize the ways in which our prayers are answered.
The second requirement today’s reading speak of is that the prayer should be constant. Pray till the prayer is answered. To show the necessity to pray always and not to lose heart, Jesus told His listeners the parable of the judge and the widow.
There are two characters in the parable; the first is the wicked judge. The Roman judges at the time of Jesus were notorious. They were corrupt officials. They could be bribed easily. So the common people called them “robber judges”

The second character is the widow. She was the symbol of all who were poor and defenceless. The poor people never had the slightest hope of ever extracting justice from such a judge. Still in the end her persistence won the day. So Jesus told his listeners, “if, in the end, an unjust judge can be wearied into giving a widow woman justice, how much more will God, who is a loving Father, give his children what they need?”
God knows what is right for us in the long run. So He says that we must never be discouraged in prayer.
The basic cause of our discouragement is that we pray little and pray badly. So we have two lessons from today’s readings; 1) Devote some time in prayer every day individually, in the family or in the community. 2) When we pray put our hearts into it and make it a loving conversation with God. Jesus’ life itself is an example for us. After the day’s tedious work he retired to the mountains for long hours of prayer. All his prayers concluded with the words, “Father let Thy will be done.” The Apostles continued the example set by Jesus. That tradition is now kept by the church. We have many monasteries and convents where the inmates spent long hours in prayer. Let us also add up our little bits to their intercessions.