October 20, 2019 — Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The four pillars of parish stewardship are hospitality, prayer, formation and service. They are intentionally presented in this order with the idea that we cannot expect people to respond to calls to increase their prayer life, their formation, and their service within and outside the parish, if they do not first feel welcomed and valued through the warmth of hospitality. It just makes good sense.
However, those who are already well versed in the spirituality and practicalities of stewardship know full well that stewardship cannot succeed unless it is steeped in prayer. Today’s readings show us the immense value of prayer and the privileged place it must have in our individual lives and in our parish community.
In our first reading, from Exodus, we find Moses interceding for the Israelites as they engage in a fierce battle against Amalek. As long as Moses keeps his hands raised, the Israelites succeed. But when his hands grow tired and droop, the Israelites begin to lose ground.
In his wisdom, Moses anticipated that he would need support from his community as he engaged in this spiritual battle. He brought Aaron and Hur along with him to support him (quite literally) as he began to grow weary. Moses relied on his friends to hold his hands up so that they remained steady until the battle was won. We modern-day stewards would do well to follow the example of Moses and gather together in our families and as a faith community to support each other in our own spiritual battles, great or small.
In our second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul gives wise counsel on a particularly efficacious source of prayer — the Holy Scriptures. He reminds us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction and for training in righteousness” so that when we truly study it and pray with it, we may be “competent, equipped for every good work” the Lord has for us to do. Paul says that it is not enough to simply study and pray over the Scripture, however. He exhorts us to proclaim it! And to be persistent in proclaiming it “whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” Since we cannot give what we do not possess, it is vital that we develop a relationship with God and in a special way through praying over His living Word to us.
Our Lord Himself continues this call to prayer and persistence in the Gospel passage from Luke. He tells the parable of the nagging widow who finally wears down the judge with her unrelenting persistence in her pursuit of a just ruling from him on her behalf. Jesus goes to great lengths to describe this judge, saying he “neither feared God nor respected any human.” Yet, even this corrupt judge responds with a just judgment because of the widow’s persistence.
Jesus uses this outlandish example to draw a vivid contrast between a reluctant, dishonest judge and our loving, all-merciful Father. If even a bad judge will give a good result in response to a persistent request, how much more eagerly and perfectly will our good Father respond to our persistent prayers to Him. If he delays in responding, if he provides a different response than the one we were expecting, we can remain confident and trusting in His goodness, knowing that His response whenever it comes and in whatever form, will be the very best one for us.
Our job then, as Christian stewards, is simply to remain faithful to our relationship with God through prayer. We should prioritize the Scriptures as a source of prayer and we must lean on each other in our communities — family and parish — as we support each other in prayer. A strong pillar of prayer will make all our other stewardship efforts fruitful.