Saturday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 18:14-16,19:6-9; Psalm 104; Luke 18:1-8
There was once a frog that fell into a bucket of milk. The sides of the bucket were too steep for it to climb out and too high for it to jump out. It was trapped but it never stopped trying to jump out, kicking and struggling in the milk even when it was exhausted. After a long time, it tiredly managed to jump out. Apparently the kicking and struggling of the frog had churned the mile into butter and that gave it a solid base from which to jump out of the bucket. This somewhat unbelievable story gives us a very good illustration of what tenacity actually. Tenacity comes from the Latin tenacitas which means to ‘grip hard’. It’s all about determination to do something, to hold on to one’s goals and to strive to achieve it.
The Gospel for today reminds us of the need for determination, perseverance and tenacity in prayer. There are many instances of prayer in the Gospel of Luke (often referred to as the gospel of prayer) and this one shows why we should be tenacious and determined when we pray. If we can annoy someone into giving in to our demands just through our own tenacity, wouldn’t God who loves and provides for us do even more? We do believe this but sometimes we need a nudge in the right direction.
One might ask, why be tenacious? Won’t God give us what we need when we need it? I’ve no doubt that God will do that but perhaps the tenacity will allow us to grow more. Tenacity builds endurance in a person. If we’re tenacious and determined to get what we want, we’re willing to go through quite a bit to get it. It might mean more suffering or might require us to exert more effort to get it, much like the frog that had to endure kicking all that time to get out. In sports, we build endurance by training hard. In prayer, we are rewarded with deepening relationship with God as we gain more endurance from prayer.
More than just endurance, tenacity in prayer builds patience in us too. We realise that we cannot do things in half measures. Just as the woman seeking justice would not get it if she gave up, our tenacity in prayer will allow us to be more patient in waiting for God to come close to us as we pray. We need to realise that things do not happen according to our wishes but according to God’s. What we pray for will happen but in God’s time – a truism but something that I’ve felt in life too. A wise spiritual directer always reminded me of that fact every time I got impatient and tried to get him to tell me what to do.
The 1st reading from the book of Wisdom gives us further insight into this. The exodus event and all the wondrous deeds of God (like the passover, the pillar of clouds, the crossing of the red sea) remind us that God does indeed work in the world. Though the people of Israel suffered, they endured and believed in the possibility of freedom and were duly rewarded. Tenacity alone does not bring us to what we need – we still need grace to be able to reach where God wants us to be. We need faith that the grace will come and the patience to know that we sometimes have to wait.
Tenacity changes us and strengthens us. As we pray more, and ask more for what we want, we begin to realise that our prayers get transformed slowly. We realise that prayer becomes less selfish and personal and more other-regarding. We ask less for what we want but more of what we really need. We become more aware of how prayer builds bridges, not just with God but with each other as well. Through our complaining and constant asking for what we need from God, we also begin to realise that God is always there, ready to love us in all we do. We become assured that good things will indeed come. We just have to wait and be patient and continue to have faith.