29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
29th Sunday / Ordinary / C
October 15-16, 2016
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
I have a good friend who I have known for many years. He is a successful businessman and a really generous guy. I enjoy talking with him because I learn a lot from him. Once he told me that if an employee of his makes a mistake, he does not get too upset about it. But what really bugs him the most is an employee who sees a problem, never tries anything, and simply gives up. What he wants in an employee, and what is the key to success, is persistence. Persistence is important in business, in sports, and in life. Persistence is what the difference from being successful and being mediocre.
Today's Gospel is an odd story, where Jesus compares God to an unjust judge. He talks about a powerless widow who keeps bugging, keeps bothering the judge until she gets justice. Jesus says to be like her. The key to prayer is persistence.
This does not mean that God is like a pop machine, where we put enough quarters into it and get what we want out of it. Nor does it mean that God is stingy in answering our prayers. We need persistence in prayer because prayer changes us, not God, and this takes time.
St. Teresa of Calcutta once said that prayer enlarges our hearts so that we can receive God's gifts. I think that is a great definition of prayer. My childhood image of prayer was more of the pop machine thing. Yes, that is faith, but it is pretty immature. A more mature sense of prayer is that it the how the Lord enlarges our hearts.
Persistent prayer has a sorting out quality to it, separating the wheat from the chaff. We change in the process, we slowly let go of our ego driven desires, and we slowly discover what is worth praying for. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones from many years ago, we don't always get what we think we want, but God does give us what we truly need.
Persistent prayer is how we become truly happy. One of the things I enjoy doing here is to coordinate a priesthood discernment group for ISU students who are open to knowing more about the priesthood. The book we use for discussion had a section that we talked about last week. It spoke of the relationship between happiness and holiness. The dominant thought on this campus and in our culture is that we become happy when we pursue our dreams, and if we succeed, we are happy. The problem with this way of thinking is that it doesn't work. It simply is not true. That is because it is focused on what we want, and what the world can do for me.
The author, Fr. Brett Brannen, argues that happiness flows from holiness. Holiness is a shift from my will to God's will. Holiness is a shift from my plans for my life to God's plan for my life. Holiness is shifting from what the world can do for me to what I can do for the world.
So i have been thinking about this all week, and I know this to be true. Think of your own life experience and who is truly happy. In the parishes I have served, those whose main focus in life is to become happy, rarely are. In the parishes I have served, those whose main focus in life is to become holy, are the happiest people I know. Happiness is a byproduct of holiness.
Mother Teresa said that prayer enlarges our hearts so we can receive God's best gifts. Persistent prayer is how our hearts are enlarged, and it is how we slowly become holy. The only way to become truly happy in life is to pursue holiness.