I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
Each of today's three readings exhorts us in one way or another to persist.
In the first reading we hear of Moses' persistent prayer before God as his homeless army of men, women and children withstood Amalek's assault. So long as he held the staff aloft in prayer his people had the better of the fight. When his arms grew weary and the staff came down, they were forced to retreat. Finally, Moses' aging lieutenants, Aaron and Hur, stood on his left and right, hold his arms; and the Israelites under Joshua's command, "mowed down Amalek and his people
with the edge of the sword."
The Gospel also urges us to pray without ceasing and Jesus gives us this comical story of the corrupt judge and the persistent widow. Jesus doesn't tell us the woman had a legitimate grievance; it doesn't matter. She got what she wanted because she was harassing the magistrate to an early grave.
Finally, we should notice in the reading from Saint Paul's second letter to Timothy his charging us to
"...proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
His word "charge" is important. He speaks with the authority of a spiritual father who has mentored Timothy and appointed him as "bishop" of the Christian community. Twenty centuries later he speaks to us as an apostle whose word is the Word of God.
Hearing these three readings we should understand that persistence cuts both ways. We should be persistent in prayer, asking God continually for gifts and graces; and we should persistently stand before our neighbors and fellow citizens, "proclaiming the word."
Persistent prayer is our vocation and duty, our privilege and our pleasure. It's what we do and who we are. In his first preserved letter -- the oldest document of the New Testament -- the same Apostle urged us to Pray Always. The Church of every age has honored that command with our daily Masses and the Liturgy of the Hours.
If we do nothing else, we pray. If we don't pray, we do nothing else worthwhile.
The Church is not powerful as we were during medieval times, and that's a good thing. We don't have the military, economic, cultural, intellectual and social power of Pope Innocent III. The great gothic cathedrals of Europe were built almost a millennium ago and we've never had that much artistic and spiritual license since.
But that loss of power doesn't excuse us from persistent prayer before the throne of God and persistent calls for justice and mercy before the powers of this world. The Church mediates between heaven and earth, begging God for mercy and begging the powerful for mercy.
Whether it is convenient or inconvenient; we should convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
Karl Marx reminded the world that if you don't take care of the poor, they'll take care of you. And you won't like what they do for you. But Marx was only partly right; the power of righteous revenge is not with his "workers of the world," it is with the Lord who hears the cry of the poor. As Mary sang, "He brings down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly."
Predictably, the powerful will not want to hear our warnings, nor will they prefer our invitation to practice mercy, but they cannot ignore our persistence. We can pray they do not suffer the death of Nabal, whose wife Abigail interceded on his behalf before (the future king) David. In the end they will thank us for our persistence.