06 Oct. Thursday of the 27th Week
Mal 3:13ff. It seems that religion brings no material benefit. Yet on the day of the Lord all justice will be revealed.
Luke 11:5-ff Jesus teaches perseverance in prayer, confident of the Father’s love to all who ask it.
The Power of Perseverance
Perseverance is based on the assurance that we already possess what we seek. No one can keep on asking all through the night if they were not already being sustained by God’s Holy Spirit. We already treasure this Holy Spirit within us, as temples of God (1 Cor 3:16). If we believe, it is under the impulse of God’s mysterious presence. Faith accepts and acts on that which remains unseen. Paul wrote to the Romans that this “Spirit witnesses within our spirit that we are truly God’s children” (Rom 8:16).
We have been using the more religious word, “perseverance.” In the Gospel, Luke brings our discussion much closer to earth by citing a more secular word, “persistence”. While “perseverance” connotes the way to heaven, “persistence” almost has an unappropriate taste of stubbornness about it. Such indeed is the tone and attitude of Jesus’ short parable.
The social law of that country and culture demands an open door even to someone who comes, in the middle of the night. But we do not bang on the door of a neighbour in the middle of the night in order to obtain some bread. Jesus is not arguing what is right or wrong. The point of a parable is kept for the last line. The neighbour obliges, not because of friendship but because of the other person’s persistence, and then gives as much as he needs.
Perseverance and persistence carry a note of annoyance and trouble, but most of all require an enduring faith that hopes will not be frustrated. A bond between the neighbours is being deepened beyond the laws of friendship. A new sense of admiration can ensue, once the shock of midnight banging and family disturbance levels off. Jesus takes the parable further by appealing to parents’ care and attention towards their children. Does a mother give a snake when a child asks for fish? He acknowledges the basic goodness and fidelity of every human being, yet he also wants our relationships to deepen and become still more reliable:, with God’s help. If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. God gives part of himself, his own Holy Spirit so that our own good actions manifest his divine goodness and reach beyond our dreams and expectations.
Paul also(*2) does not want his converts to slip back into earlier, immature habits. Not that these ways were all that wicked, only that they were not good enough. We should not regulate our external actions simply by conventional norms. The spirit of love should reach beyond custom and habit, and like the neighbour who persists knocking in the darkness, we too should extend our hopes to new and even to heroic expressions of love. Such generosity is possible for people “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was displayed to view on the cross.” With such love before our eyes, how can we be mean in what we can expect of ourselves and of our neighbour.
As mentioned already, persistence implies a certain amount of stubbornness and annoyance. It can also bring a dose of discouragement. As the prophet Malachi points out, law-abiding people begin to ask: What do we profit by keeping God’s command? Must we call the proud blessed? Can evildoers tempt God with impunity? Here, Malachi makes clear that good people need to be purified and corrected. Religion, like friendship and love, is not a commodity to be “used” nor should its effectiveness be gauged by external results. But Malachi also has a hopeful message for those who persevere under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, “they shall be mine, my own special possession, I will have compassion on them, and shine on them with healing rays.”
First Reading: Ml 3:13-18
You have spoken harsh words against me, says the Lord. Yet you say, “How have we spoken against you?”
You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the Lord of hosts?
Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.”
Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name.
They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them.
Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Gospel: Luke 11:5-13
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”