A reflection on the readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 16, 2022.

In 2019, while preaching my homily on the same scripture readings we have today, I said, “I would like to take 2019 and just throw it somewhere.” My dad passed away in January; in June, Dayton was hit by tornadoes; in September, Dayton experienced the Oregon District mass shooting; in the same month, Fr. Dave, of my parish, passed away; and around the same time several people dear to me, including a three-month-old baby, were teetering between life and death. I had grown weary of 2019.

In January 2020, I headed to India for my usual visit home. It seemed like 2020 was going to be better. How wrong I was! When I traveled back from India, I was wearing an N-95 mask. I had never heard of an N-95 mask before then. A global pandemic was in full swing. Suddenly, 2020 and 2021 made 2019 look like child’s play.

Along came 2022. We could have recovered well from the global effects of the pandemic except for Russia’s senseless invasion of Ukraine. The war has impacted energy costs, food prices, and the already precarious global supply chain. A more widespread war with tactical use of nuclear weapons is not unimaginable these days. To make it worse, we are in an election season. If you are not as weary as I am, would you take me out for a drink, please?

In this context, today’s scripture seems timely and appropriate. Luke says, “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Lk 18:1). Rarely do scripture readings give us the meaning of a parable in the way today’s Gospel passage does. Since the theme is given to us, let us reflect on the “necessity for [us] to pray without becoming weary.”

Here are my three practical implications:

  1. Prayer is Breath, Breath is Prayer

To understand how to pray without getting weary, we should begin by talking about prayer itself.

Prayer is an all-encompassing reality. There is no monolithic definition of prayer or one way to pray. Any attempt to have a relationship with God – formal prayer, devotional practices, scripture/spiritual reading, meditation, contemplation, the liturgy – is prayer. Different people pray differently. And no matter how anyone approaches prayer, it is precious to God.

For me, the word that best describes our need for prayer is “breath.” Breath is instinctive to us. We do not consciously think about breathing, nor do we have to remind ourselves to breathe. Breath is almost synonymous with life. We can say that breath is life and life is breath.

This is also true of prayer. Prayer is life and life is prayer, but the life we are talking about here is the life of God. Prayer is the breath that makes God’s life and our life one. The key, of course, is that prayer should become so instinctive to us that we do not even have to think about it—like our breath. Just as breath and life depend on each other, if our life is not prayer, and our prayer is not life, we die.

  1. Praying Without Getting Weary

In my second point I would like to reflect on “praying without getting weary.” Moses’ story in today’s first reading invites us to think of life, God, and prayer as seamless realities.

In one sense, the scene is comical. Moses was on the top of the mountain with his hands held up as the Israelites fought the Amalekites. When Moses’s hands got weary and they went down, the Amalekites gained the advantage. When his hands stayed up the Israelites had the advantage. So much so that they got two people to hold Moses’s arm up for him. This is not a strategy that one would find in any war manual!

The point of the story is that God was with the people fighting their battle and leading them to victory. This story is a great analogy for prayer. God is our life, like our breath. This does not mean that life will be smooth sailing. God does not promise us life with no battles, difficulties, or complexities. Rather Moses’s story tells us that when we get weary, God does not abandon us. We can find God in the very midst of our struggles.

  1. Hands Lifted Up in Prayer

Meanwhile, there is a gesture that is very useful as we go through life: lifting our hands up in prayer. Like Moses, it is with hands lifted in prayer that we invite God into the very midst of our lives. Day in and day out, like Moses, we invite God not only to fight our battles but to be an inalienable part of our daily existence.

The Gospel parables of the judge and the persistent widow (Lk 18:1-8) can also be interpreted similarly. This parable can be misinterpreted to mean that God is like the mean judge who made the poor widow come to him numerous times before he would rule in her favor. We may think that the judge eventually ruled in her favor not because he cared about her but simply because he wanted her to stop bothering him.

The point of the parable is the exact opposite. Jesus says, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them?” (Lk 18:7-8). Jesus’ point is that God is unlike the judge in the parable. In other words, Like the widow, we too must approach God with confidence. We too must invite God to be as much a part of our lives as each breath we take. This indeed is prayer. This is the meaning of “praying without growing weary.”

The last few years have been difficult years. But God is in our midst. We come to prayer, including to Mass, to lift our hands up as Moses did. And as we go about our daily work, and the rest of our lives, we realize that God is already there waiting for us.

Life is breath and breath is life. Life is prayer and prayer is life.

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

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Fr. Satish Joseph was ordained in India in 1994 and incardinated into the archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2008. He has a Masters in Communication and Doctorate in Theology from the University of Dayton. He is presently Pastor at Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes in Dayton, OH. He is also the founder Ite Missa Est ministries (www.itemissaest.org) and uses social media extensively for evangelization. He is also the founder of MercyPets (www.mercypets.org) — a charitable fund that invites pet-owners to donate a percent of their pet expenses to alleviate child hunger. MercyPets is active in four countries since its founding in December 2017. Apart from serving at the two parishes, he facilitates retreats, seminars and parish missions.

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