29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection
What a spine chilling question, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Add this question to Jesus astonishment and sorrow when the people from his home town lacked faith so that he could work no wonders in Nazareth.
Now Jesus is not talking to a small town, but rather to our global village, the earth, and all its peoples. A world with no faith, a world that has lost heart and a world without hope. Those who have experience of desolation and purgation of spiritual awakening, know what such a world looks like; cold, grey, uncaring, disinterested, meaningless and empty.
As Jesus poses this question to us, he is proposing that there is every possibility of a world without faith, without heart, and without hope; universal damnation, a universal rejection of grace. This is on the other extreme to the theology of Han Urs von Balthasar who poses the question, “dare we hope that all men be saved?” Hope or despair, where are we to go? Is it possible to even live without faith?
We desperately need these words of Jesus today, “pray always and do not lose heart”. We have recently watched a young girl speaking to world leaders at the United Nations about a delusional world telling fairytales of perpetual growth capitalism and all its Ponzi schemes. This young girl has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, high functioning autism, OCD and selective mutism which is experienced as a terror of speaking to anyone outside her closest family. She has experienced anxiety attacks, eating disorders and depression. “I want you to panic I want you to feel the fear I feel every day,” Greta said when she addressed the world leaders in Davos.
This is an insane and dangerous time for our world facing ecological, financial and social implosion. It is particularly dangerous because of the collective toxic psychosis of denial and disconnection. As a global community, we are asleep and we are in denial. It has taken a young girl overcoming her own fear and panic to speak to the world about what it means to lose hope; a child pointing to the Emperor without clothes.
Within the church also many have lost heart, lost hope and disconnected themselves from the support of the community. There are many frightening dangers that can cause us also to lose heart; corruption and the abuse of power are as corrosive as fundamentalism and the appropriation of the gospel for selfish nationalistic agendas. In this insane and dangerous time, all of us need reconnection. This is a reconnection between ourselves and God, between ourselves and creation and between ourselves and the earth and its peoples.
Prayer is about connection, about communication. Prayer involves us in being seen and being known. Prayer changes us; changes our pride into humility; humility and vulnerability that opens us to the possibility of love: this is grace and in this is our hope, our redemption.
Today Jesus tells the story of disinterested judge gives in to the nagging of a widow, like a parent giving in to a petulant child. God is neither unjust nor disinterested and it is not our action that makes God benevolent towards us.
We are told to pray without tiring, to pray constantly and to pray with determination and we are assured of the efficacy of prayer, that prayer is answered. We may wonder though, why it seems that the many prayers and petitions for things that appear good and fitting to us, do not receive an answer.
Yet, it is prayer that brings us to that grace of hope, the grace of courage to overcome difficulties. The efficacy of prayer depends on our faith as the human response to God’s grace: coming to know our dependence on God.
But perhaps it is examples that at the end of the day that is more effective than any theological arguments.
Let us recall that remarkable rescue of those 12 trapped Thai boys with their football coach. They spent nine days in that cave, in darkness, and with little food. It was prayer, their faith and their hope that gave them their endurance; their prayers and the prayers of their loved ones. And perhaps the biggest miracle; the empathy and compassion that touched the hearts of all the world. The joy and gratitude shared by a world that has grown weary and uncaring.
Prayer crosses the divide, bridges the gap and enables us at the end to become one, to experience connection and love, overcoming indifference. Prayer in faith is the springboard, the core, the power that touches and moves our hearts to compassion.
Help us, Oh God, to be ever mindful of the beauties around us. May we grow with our flowers in gentleness, patience, courage, laughter, and religion. As we turn the brown soil and plant our seed, may we learn faith … faith in the goodness of the earth, the clemency of the sun, the fullness of the clouds… Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs. Amen.