Homily – Deacon Tony Bellitto
Sun., Oct. 20, 2019
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading – Exodus 17:8-13
Second Reading – 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Gospel – Luke 18:1-8
The theme that we hear repeated in all three readings today is persistence. The widow in the Gospel does not give up in persistently and repeatedly asking the judge for a ruling on her case. Moses in the first reading must persist in holding up his arms with the staff of God in his hands as the Israelites do battle, so much so that he needs two people to help him as his arms grow weary. And in the second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to Timothy it is specifically stated to “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” So we’re being told “don’t give up, no matter what.”
I think this is a message we can all relate to. In our human endeavors, it is usually the trait of persistence that is a primary ingredient needed to attain any success in life. We can flourish and thrive best when we develop good habits and consistently apply the necessary discipline and repetition and persistence to overcome obstacles and setbacks, until we reach the goal we’ve set out to accomplish, whatever it may be.
But although we know we should persist and keep going, despite the difficulties we face, it is often hard to do so. We do grow weary. Our energy level has limitations. We can get worn down. Maybe we’ve said to ourselves, at one point or another, things like the following:
I’m tired of taking care of my sick, elderly parent;
I’m tired of fighting with my rebellious teenager;
I’m tired of the cancer treatments;
I’m tired of arguing with my spouse;
I’m tired of worrying about my finances.
I’m tired of defending the Church to my friends and family, in the midst of more stories of scandals, poor decisions, and failures of leadership in the clergy.
We can easily get worn down from it all. We can become discouraged and lose heart. Maybe we’re even tempted, at times, to just give up.
But the message of persistence in these readings today reminds us to keep going, even when the going gets tough. We are advised to bring all our concerns to God in prayer. We must remain faithful, even in the midst of our trials. We are to be persistent and persevering in prayer.
God hears you. God will not abandon you or forget you. He will respond in his own way and in his own time. So don’t lose heart; don’t give up. Even when we face opposition and injustice, God will remain faithful to his people. God would rather that we look to Him for assistance, rather than look to the idols of this age. Asking God for help also strengthens the virtue of humility in us – it is an admission that we are not in total control of everything and that we do need His help. When we do persist, despite our difficulties, we can be a witness to others – a witness to perseverance, faith, and trust in God.
The very last line of today’s Gospel reading is important. After we hear about the widow repeatedly badgering the judge for a decision, Jesus wraps up the story by saying, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” He’s also asking, “Will he find faith in us? In our hearts? In our homes?”
Let me tell you a story, if I may, that relates to this idea. The story is entitled “Push – P.U.S.H. – Push.”
A man is walking along one day and he comes upon a huge boulder in his path. It’s an enormous rock, bigger than he’s ever seen before, and it’s right in front of him. He cannot go around it. So God comes to the man and tells him, “I want you to push against this boulder.” So the man says, “OK, God, I’ll do whatever you ask me to do.” So the man pushes against the boulder with all his strength. He puts his arms and his shoulders into it; he puts his back and his legs into it. He strains against the weight with all his might. The man continues to do this for hours, and then for days and weeks; he pushes against this boulder for months and even for years.
Then after a few years pass, Satan comes up to the man and says, “What in the world are you doing? Why do you continue to try to move that boulder? You have not moved it one inch, even after years of trying? Don’t you see that God has given you an impossible task? God does not want what’s best for you. He just wants to frustrate you; he wants to see you fail. Come away from there, and follow me instead.” And then Satan slithers away, like the snake that he is.
So the man thinks about what Satan said, and he goes to God and says, “Hey, God. Why did you give me this impossible task? I’m a failure. I cannot move this boulder, no matter how hard I try.”
God replies, “I never asked you to move the boulder. Who told you to move it? Was that Satan who came to you, twisting my words again, like he always does?” I told you to push against the boulder, not to move it. And you have done exactly what I asked you to do, my precious child, and I am so proud of you. You have been faithful and obedient. Look at the results. See yourself in the mirror. You have become so strong. Your arms, your shoulders, your back – you have been shaped into vigorous physical condition. And more than that, you have become a person of dependability, and integrity, and loyalty, and fine character. You’ve been such a witness to so many other people who have watched you endure the struggle and never give up. You’ve been a model of perseverance, and dedication, and persistence. Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done.
So I would ask each one of you here today. What’s your boulder? What are you pushing against? Maybe it’s a financial problem, or a health issue, or a difficult marriage, or a troubled child, or the death of a family member, or a broken relationship, or an unexpected pregnancy, or a job loss, or an addiction, or something else.
Whatever it is, it’s there in your path to strengthen you, to shape you into the person that God wants you to be. It’s there to mold you into the person you could not otherwise become, unless you faced that difficulty. You could never have grown into that strong person, or that humble person, or that caring person, or that helpful person that God made you to become without the experience of pushing against that boulder, that challenge, whatever it is for you.
When we push against all those problems, those obstacles, when we embrace those struggles placed in our path and face them head on with all our energy and faith in God’s plan, when we persist, those difficulties will shape us to become better. Eventually, our adversities become our advantages.
Maybe we don’t know why we’re being asked to push against that particular boulder, when we’re in the midst of it, but we must have faith that God has a reason, and he will make it all work out in the end, for our greater good and for his glory.
May God bless you all.