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Pray Always ...

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 17(16):6, 8 — “To You I call; for You will surely heed me, O God; turn Your ear to me; hear my words. Guard me as the apple of Your eye; in the shadow of Your wings protect me.”

First Reading: Ex 17:8-13 — “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 — “Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Second Reading: 2 Tim 3:14-4:2 — “One who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Alleluia: Heb 4:12 — “Alleluia, alleluia. The word of God is living and effective, discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Lk 18:1-8 — “God will secure the rights of His chosen ones who call out to Him.”

Communion Antiphon: Lam 3:25 — “The Lord is good to those who hope in Him, to the soul that seeks Him.”

How many of you have heard the expression, “there are no atheists in foxholes?” Those of a certain age might remember that phrase … or better yet those who served in World War II or Korea, or Vietnam, or Afghanistan or in the Gulf … but perhaps a vast majority of us have never heard that before. And while we may acknowledge that “there are no atheists in foxholes,” I also expect, that if I asked, most individuals do not usually consider or think of prayer as a battleground. Yet, the Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes a whole section to what it calls “The Battle of Prayer.” It says that “The spiritual battle of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.”

In the First Reading, Moses won a battle by praying. He had help from Aaron and Hur. The persistent widow in Jesus’ parable battled with the unjust judge until he finally gave in. Maybe, if we really think about it, we might be more like Moses than the widow. We wear out. We need others to pray with us, so that we can keep going. However, the important thing to remember is to persevere and to have faith.

Jesus told His disciples a parable about the necessity to pray always without growing weary. The widow in the parable was at a disadvantage. She was a powerless woman who did not have a husband or a man in her life to go to bat for her. The judge, who was in the power position, had no respect for God or any human being. However, the widow did not let her lack of status get in her way. She kept nagging until the exasperated and intimidated judge gave in. Jesus gave the moral of the story: If unjust judges can be swayed by perseverance, certainly the good God will hear our constant prayers.

Like Moses, we all probably at times grow weary. In that section I referenced above, the Catechism lists objections to prayer, difficulties in prayer, and temptations in prayer. God does not always answer us right away. God does not always give us what we want. Sometimes we are distracted … Sometimes we lose hope … Sometimes we lack sufficient faith … Sometimes we get discouraged. Moses had Aaron and Hur to help him keep his staff held high, so that the Israelite warriors could see it and remember that God was on their side.

We also have strong helpers for our prayer. This Christian community (meaning this Parish) as well as the Christian community at large stands at our side and holds us up. This is true in a small prayer group or in the public prayer of the liturgy. We are not alone, even when we are by ourselves. We are God’s family, which prays around the clock on earth and eternally in heaven. We come before the Father with the entire Body of Christ. We pray in the communion … in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit knows our depths and prays in us “with groans unutterable.” In the Spirit we are united to one another in prayer. We help one another, as Aaron and Hur helped Moses. Jesus prays in us and for us. Because the Spirit of Jesus lives in us, the prayer of Jesus becomes our prayer. Jesus offers that prayer unceasingly before the throne of God.

We help others in their prayer. When we get tired of praying, we should remember that others might need our help in their prayer. When we are “not getting anything” from the Mass, we should remember those around us who are praying with us, and that our prayer may also help someone else in the church to find strength to keep praying. When we don’t have time to pray or are too tired to pray, we should think of those who are giving up, those who need us to hold up their arms, as we need others to hold up our arms. The little bit of strength we have may be all they need.

The Sacred Scriptures, which Paul told Timothy to proclaim in season and out, contain wisdom for salvation. Today the Scriptures teach us to pray always, never to give up, and to help one another pray. May the Son of Man find us persevering in faithful prayer, whenever He comes. As we enter into our Eucharist today, let us be conscious of how much we support each other. Let us be conscious of the fact that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is here … Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity … to support us in Holy Communion. Let us help one another to give all glory and honor to the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord in the communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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