The folks “back home” can hardly believe that at TAC we have four Masses a day with confessions before and after each one. Some people assume we are a seminary—“so you don’t have any females on campus?” Rather than an exception for Catholic colleges, this should be the norm, since, Christ tells us in today’s Gospel to “pray without growing weary.”
The comic irony of today’s Gospel never fails to delight me. Jesus speaks of an unjust judge and an “importunate widow.” She keeps at the judge until he breaks down: “I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.” One imagines a little old lady whacking a dignified gentleman with her umbrella, maybe delivering an uppercut with her elbow or a jab in the ribs with her cane. But consider: Jesus portrays our Heavenly Father as an unjust judge. Certainly, he admits, it seems like God is “unjust” at times, that he ignores our prayers. “Why do bad things happen to good people” is the question that has driven many to give up their faith. How can God treat his faithful servants so poorly? Once, when praying about her many trials and sufferings, St. Teresa of Avila heard God say, "But this is how I treat my friends." She replied, "No wonder you have so few of them." If even the great Saint Teresa struggled to keep her faith, what about us? So Jesus asks the terrifying question at the end of today’s gospel: “when the Son of Man returns, will he find any faith on earth?”
Our first reading, from the Book of Exodus, speaks of faith in terms of war. “In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.” We read everything in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, on several levels, the most important of which is the “tropological,” the symbolic or figurative meaning. When we read that Amalek attacks Israel, we understand as the world, the flesh, and the devil attacking us. How often are you minding your own business, studying in the library perhaps, and out of nowhere a lurid and overpowering temptation attacks you? Or, without warning, you get slammed with an insult, a misunderstanding, or a confrontation from someone you love? The struggle to preserve our faith must be total war, and that war begins in this chapel. We carry the fight out into the streets, but only after we have wrestled with God before the Blessed Sacrament. It is here that we struggle to crucify our own lusts and calm our fears, and where we learn to trust Him.
Like Joshua, we can’t afford our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil—any quarter. Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” The Bible is not telling us to slaughter our enemies, but to kill what is evil in our enemies with love, with the “sword of the spirit.” We must wield this sword against evil: in ourselves; in others; in our society.
How do we learn to wield this sword? We wield it in prayer. The battle for eternal life is essentially the “battle for prayer.” Moses kept his hands raised throughout the battle with the Amalekites, with the help of his friends (not even Moses himself could sustain his prayer without help). At all costs, we must keep our hands raised in prayer, all day long, lest the “Amalekites” get the better of the battle.
The Catechism describes prayer as a “battle.” “Our battle has to confront, finally, what we experience as failure in prayer” (2728). This is perhaps the devil’s most devastating tactic, to convince us that we cannot possibly pray, that we are wasting our time, that no one is listening, that we only talking to ourselves, speaking into the void. But we must insist that every minute spent in this chapel, or in our room, or in our car in prayer is full of grace, no matter what it feels like.
John Paul II on Prayer
In an address to young people in 1979, the young Pope John Paul II called them to pray without growing weary. “It must be humbly and realistically recognized that we are poor creatures, confused in ideas, tempted by evil, frail and weak, in continual need of inner strength and consolation. Prayer gives the strength for great ideals…it gives the courage to emerge from indifference and guilt… it gives light to see the events of one’s own life and of history in the salvific perspective of God and eternity. Therefore, do not stop praying. Let not a day pass without your having prayed a little! Prayer is a duty, but it is also a great joy. Every Sunday, Holy Mass; if possible, sometimes during the week. Every day, morning and evening prayers, and at the most suitable moments!”
We do pray a lot here at TAC. We have a beautiful chapel in which to pray, and beautiful people with whom to pray, and an inspiring campus. When I raise my eyes to the mountains that surround our College, my soul naturally gives praise and thanks to God. But we must also take the time, and the trouble, to pray, many times a day. Begin the day with a morning offering, visit the chapel at least once a day between classes, pray the rosary or a part of the rosary each day, and continually lift up your mind and heart to God. Our Lady will teach us to pray. Begin with the rosary, and stay with the rosary, and you will preserve your faith, so that when the Son of Man comes, he will find faith on earth.