The first reading of our Mass this weekend includes an image that we witness every time we celebrate Mass. It tells of Moses keeping "his hands raised up." Hands uplifted is an ancient posture of prayer. The Priest lifts his hands (and arms) during Mass when he lifts the community's prayers to God (during the presidential prayers and the eucharistic prayer, for example). For Moses, who was engaged in battle with enemies, uplifted hands was also a posture of vulnerability, for such a position makes it impossible to defend oneself from attack. During prayer we, too, are quite vulnerable, giving ourselves to God and what God wants for us. Persistence in this gospel context does not refer to bullheadedness about what we want. It is about aligning ourselves with what God desires for us. Ultimately, persistent prayer is faith-filled prayer.
In our gospel reading, Jesus relates persistence in prayer and faith to his second coming ("when the Son of Man comes"). Persistence in prayer is not only about asking for what we need now but is also about maintaining hope that God will persist in bringing about final justice. Moreover, there is no real prayer without faith. Faith gives prayer a longer view and a broader vision—the view and vision of Jesus himself. In this, Jesus is teaching us that while our prayer tends to be about immediate needs, our life is about ultimate justice. Our persistence in prayer really is about a faith relationship with God that reveals we are God's "chosen ones" who are in right relationship with God. This righteousness leads to eternal life.
In the first reading Aaron and Hur support Moses' arms when he grows weary. In the gospel, the widow was supported only by her own persistence and conviction about her right to justice; she was upheld by her belief that God is the just One and will make justice happen. It ought to be encouraging to us that we are often supported in prayer by our faith community. Because of our Christian community we are never alone. Others can provide support, yet the community support must be complemented by a faith that comes from within us, sustaining us and encouraging us in persistence. This very persistence is a kind of stead- fast relationship to God, a kind of prayer.
The gospel's legal language of judge, judgment, and justice brings to mind the final judgment Jesus renders at his second coming. One way to prepare for this second coming and alleviate any fears we might have is to be persistent in faith-filled prayer. Our faith grows through persistence in prayer because through this kind of prayer we build a stronger rela- tionship with God. When Jesus comes again, "will he find faith on earth?" Yes, if we are per- sistent in praying "always without becoming weary." It seems persistence in prayer is a small price to pay for salvation and everlasting glory!
God bless. Be safe and have a blessed week --- Fr. Jim