The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.
"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28)
"Blessed are you among women,
Old Calendar: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Jesus told his disciples a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary.' For a while he refused; but afterwords he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming (Lk 18:1-6).'"
The feast of St. Paul of the Cross, which is ordinarily celebrated today, is superseded by the Sunday liturgy.
The first reading is taken from the book of Exodus 17:8-13. In this reading the Israelites are attacked in their journey from Egypt to Canaan by the Amalek tribe who would have annihilated them were it not for Moses's intercession with God.
The second reading is from the second letter of Paul to Timothy 3:14, 4:2. St. Paul continues to exhort and encourage his disciple Timothy to be loyal to the Christian faith which he had received from the most trustworthy of sources, St. Paul himself, and the sacred Scripture of the Old Testament. Timothy must continue to preach this "word," this faith, no matter what the obstacles may be.
The Gospel is from St. Luke 18:1-8. There are many devout Christians who are deeply puzzled by what they think is God's indifference to their fervent pleas for spiritual favors, which to them appear essential in their journey heavenwards. These people would readily admit that God has good reasons for not granting temporal favorsthey might not be for their eternal good. Why refuse or delay granting their spiritual needs? The man or woman who has dedicated his or her life exclusively to the service of God still suffers from human weaknesses. He or she is attracted to worldly things, is finding humility and obedience very difficult, suffers from dryness in prayer or worse still is scrupulous to a degree that makes the religious life almost unbearable. Such people could work so much better for God and for their neighbor if only God would remove these weaknesses which, in fact, he could so easily do.
Or again, why should whole nations of devout Christians suffer persecution from atheistic tyrants? See their children brought up deprived of the right to practice their faith, or, worse still, taught to despise it? Surely God should answer the prayers of these good people and the fervent prayers of millions of their fellow-Christians on their behalf ...
These and many similar questionings arise in our minds because our limited, human intellects can see but one small section of the immense tapestry which God is weaving for the human race. We would all like immediate results in our own tiny corner of that tapestry while the all-wise God is occupied with the whole picture. He is not forgetting us either. If He delays in answering our urgent appeals, we can be certain that the reason is not that He wants to punish us, but rather to help us. There are many saints in heaven who would perhaps never have become saints if God had not allowed them to struggle on longer than they would have wished, against trials and difficultiesspiritual as well as physical.
Our divine Lord teaches us, in this parable, the need for perseverance in prayer. This perseverance develops our trust and confidence in God. It helps us to become humble and to realize how weak we are when left to ourselves. It keeps us close to God, as we learn how dependent we are on His generosity. If we only would realize that God is perhaps never closer to us than when we think He is forgetting us! The trials of life, spiritual or temporal, which He allows us to suffer are not obstacles to our spiritual progress but rather stepping-stones without which we could not cross the rivers of life at all.
God wants every one of us in heaven but just as no two men on earth have the same identical features, so also no two men on earth have the same road to lead them to heaven. God is supervising the journey of each one of us. He is ever there to help if the obstacle on one's road is insurmountable. We may and we must, keep asking God for the spiritual and temporal favors which we feel we need. We must never grow despondent or feel that God has lost interest in us, if He delays in granting these favors. When we shall look back on our earthly journey from the happy vantage point of heaven, we shall see how effectively and how lovingly God regulated our journey. When He did not grant a certain favor it was because He had a much more important one to give us, one we did not ask for or even realize we needed.
"Ask and you shall receive," not perhaps what you wanted, but what God knew you needed. "Seek and you shall find," not the easy way which you thought you deserved, but the harder way which would make you more deserving of heaven. "Knock and it shall be opened unto you," not the door you were standing at, which would have delayed or endangered your progress, but the door further down the street where refreshment and new courage to continue on your upward climb were awaiting you.
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings Cycle C, Fr. Kevin O' Sullivan, O.F.M.