In today’s Psalm we’re told to lift our eyes to the mountains, that our help will come from Mount Zion and the Temple—the dwelling of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Joshua and the Israelites, in today’s First Reading, are also told to look to the hilltops. They are to find their help there—through the intercession of Moses—as they defend themselves against their mortal foes, the Amalekites.
Notice the image: Aaron and Hur standing on each side of Moses, holding his weary arms so that he can raise the staff of God above his head. Moses is being shown here as a figure of Jesus, who also climbed a hilltop, and on Mount Calvary stretched out His hands between heaven and earth to intercede for us against the final enemy—sin and death
Jesus told the parable of a persistent widow, using her as the model to pray always and not lose heart. Someone wronged her, and she sought justice. It was normal during her time for people to accept their fate. This widow was different because she did not accept her fate. She repeatedly visited the judge saying, “Grant me justice.” When the judge refused, she kept coming. The judge finally granted her justice so that “she may not wear me out by continually coming.” Jesus then asked if he would find this amount of faith on earth.
The widow modelled faithfulness in prayer. Her actions expanded the idea of prayer to include the believer’s entire and whole life. So, Jesus uses the widow is his parable to model faith and prayer. Her only weapon is persistence. Thus the widow, conventionally powerless, has claimed a righteous power and brought about justice and vindication.
The widow showed what is called continual prayer. Continual prayer differs from continuous prayer.
Some churches have continuous prayer on Holy Thursday leading into Good Friday, with groups of people praying hourly through the night before the Altar of Repose. Continuous prayer is prayer that starts and stops and starts again.
Returning to God in prayer day after day is continual prayer.
Prayer is conversation with God. Christians believe that God initiates prayer. When we pray, it is the Holy Spirit speaking to us, calling us to prayer.
God is always communicating. We are not always listening. Prayer is a conversation beginning with God and flowing to us. Our response to God completes the prayer cycle.
Catholics used to have the tradition of “Paying a visit” to a church usually always open in daylight hours. Unfortunately, now often not possible, however there is still the important tradition of Catholics having an altar or sacred place in their homes, a place to return day after day to pray. The altar can be a table with candles, a crucifix, bible, small statue, or Holy Picture. On the other hand, it can alternately be an unassuming place near a window overlooking nature’s beauty, or a spot in the garden. This becomes a place of continual prayer.
Returning to the same place to pray trains the body to pray. Crossing the prayer threshold signals to the body it is time to pray. This is significant since there will be times in your life when you cannot find the words to prayer: a loved one dies; life’s circumstances weigh you down. Prayer in those moments are the “sigh prayers” of Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
Like the Israelites and the widow in today’s Gospel, we face opposition and injustice. We, too, must lift our eyes to the mountains—to Calvary and the God who will guard us from all evil.
Proclaiming the word and sharing our faith is really not an option, it comes from our baptism. Others get a picture of the word, our faith, and us, whether it is a positive view or a negative one, whether we think we are sharing anything or not. The option is in the quality and accuracy of what we choose for others to see and hear.
As Paul exhorts Timothy in today’s Epistle, we need to remain faithful, to turn to the inspired Scriptures—given by God. We persist, so that when the Son of Man comes again, He will indeed find faith on earth