20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

            I have come across a beautiful prose which I’d like to share with you: “I look at a stone cutter hammering away at a rock a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it.” “Yet, at the 101st blow it splits in two.” “I know it was not the one blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” This is a good illustration of persistence.

            In one of my homilies in the More Green Thoughts, I quoted the words of Thomas Edison, the great inventor, about persistence –or more accurately, about failure in persistence. Edison says: “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” I am also struck by Elbert Hubbard’s words on persistence: “The line between failure and success is so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it.” “How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success.” “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”

            Today’s gospel tells the story of a Canaanite woman with a persistent and persevering faith. Nothing could deter or discourage this woman –whose daughter was possessed by a demon. At first, her cry for mercy was simply snubbed by Jesus. Then the annoyed disciples tried to get rid of her. Finally, Jesus addressed her contemptuously as a ‘dog’.

            But because she was really determined and persistent, she managed to say: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their master.” This woman, kneeling at the feet of Jesus, let it be known that she would be satisfied with dog food. At last the Lord acknowledged her indomitable spirit – saying: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

            We can compare faith to a conduit or channel that is plugged in to a water supply. And when it is opened conveys water. God would like to supply us with his grace; he’d like to convey his blessings to us. Pero para matanggap natin ang kanyang biyaya, kailangan bukas ang pagdadaluyan nito. Faith is the opening of this conduit through which the supply of blessings flows on us.

            Today’s gospel challenges us to ask ourselves: How persistent and persevering is our faith? Is it unwavering enough to enable us to hold on to our dream, refusing to let go, regardless of the obstacles? Is it steadfast enough to keep us faithful to people who do not seem to respond quickly enough to our help? Is it patient enough to keep us hoping when there are no quick results from our noble causes and relevant projects?

            Higit nating kailangang maging matiyaga at mapilit sa pagdarasal. We should be persistent in prayer. Bakit ba kailangan nating maging matiyaga o mapilit o persistent sa pagdarasal natin? Sobra bang abala o busy ang Diyos, hindi pa niya tayo maasikaso, kaya kailangan pang balik-balikan natin siya? Maganda ‘yung payo sa atin ni St. Ignatius tungkol sa pananalangin: “Pray as though everything depends on God; but act and be aggressive as if everything depends on us.”

            Maganda rin ‘yung paliwanag ni San Agustin – sabi niya: “We pray with perseverance and persistence in order to expand our heart and our will so as to be able to see what God wants to give us.” Minsan o madalas daw, talagang pinaghihintay tayo ng Diyos bago niya tugunan ang dasal o kahilingan natin, nang sa ganun daw ay lumawak ang puso natin at maging bukas ito sa pagtanggap natin sa nais niyang ipagkaloob sa atin. We pray, not so much to persuade or convince God about what we want or about what we think we need. but to prepare ourselves and be open to receive what we really need from God.

            Fr. William Toohey, the former campus minister of Notre Dame, said, “Prayer is not working on God to manipulate him into granting our requests or wishes, as if he were some kind of Aladdin’s Lamp.” “Rather, prayer is a surrender to God in faith and trust to experience his ‘presence’ even without his ‘presents’.” So we have to persevere and persist in prayer, not to persuade God to give us some gift, but to prepare ourselves and open our hearts to receive him who is the Giver of all gifts. We need to persevere in prayer, not because God is hard to reach, but because we are. We need to pray more and even harder until we are ready to relinquish our will to his –until we are ready to receive him into our hearts.

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