I come late to this reflection, but here I am. Maybe that is part of the persistence theme in today’s readings? Perhaps. More likely I am just far, far behind after a busy week and after having been away last weekend!
Honestly, I didn’t have something for today; no time to really prepare the right way. Then I went to mass this morning and I can’t help but use the story that Fr. Turbull told us in his homily.
There was an elderly and childless orthodox Jewish couple in Albany; they owned a store on Central Avenue. Each day they would be in the store, but not before the woman went to shul each day to pray. In Orthodox Judaism, men and women largely remain segregated and at the time this woman was alive, I’m guessing this story took place in the 40’s, it was definitely so!
The men would pray in the main sanctuary and the women would sit in an upper balcony, where they could pray silently, as if observers. In Judaism, 10 men are required for a minyan, the minimum number for prayer. This is interesting to me because it relates to the “us” of prayer and not the “me” that is so common in many prayer practices. It is another reminder of the similarities, and there are so many, between Judaism and our Catholic Christian faith which has grown from that root.
In any event, if there are not 10 men, there is no prayer.
One day the women went to the synagogue and lo and behold there were only 9 men present. What would they do? Them men spoke and then looked up… would she come to pray with them to make the minyan? (This was a huge breech of what was acceptable, but good for those men to witness the woman’s faithful daily presence with such respect and inclusion, no matter what their motivation.)
Apparently this woman was over the moon with joy and her life was probably never the same after that day. Her faithful present brought forth an unexpected bout of grace that one day.
Perhaps she was like the woman in Luke’s Gospel, petitioning the unjust judge. Her regular and faithful, persistent and hopeful presence finally wrought her the judgment that she sought. Now who knows if the woman that Father spoke of this morning felt like she was petitioning, but she did go to God daily, in prayer and with her presence. This brings the reminder of what St. Paul says to Timothy in today’s second reading; “be persistent, whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” We live in a culture of convenience, what would St. Paul say about us!
Which brings me back to the first reading from the Book of Exodus and the thought that we do not pray the prayer if I, we do not carry the Cross alone; we are in community and are one in Christ. Just as Moses could not keep his arms aloft without the help of Aaron and Hur, just as Christ could not carry the cross alone and just as we are all part of something bigger by virtue of our faith… we pray a prayer of we, not of me.
When we pray we may not ever hear what we want, when we pray we may end up getting what we want – far beyond any time boundary that we set for it. We wait in joyful hope- at least that is the thought.
However, even that waiting is not a solitary act, and it is certainly not always convenient and it is not passive… Persistence yields grace.
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