A crowd-favorite British athlete competed in the quarter finals of the 400-meter sprint in the summer Olympics of 1992. Everyone expected for him to earn the gold medal for the event as his track record showed excellence in his sport. He was leading through half of the race until his hamstring tore. He collapsed to the track ground and the crowd could see the pain in his face as he tried to physically carry himself on. But it was impossible for the moment. The medical crew rushed to assist him but he resisted. Instead, he painfully got to his feet and began to move unsteadily to get back to the race. The crowd was transfixed; the officials did not know what to do. An older man came down to the track and placed his arm around him. The older man was his father.
“You don’t have to do this, son,” the father said.
“Yes, I do,” the persistent athlete replied.
“Then I will be with you in this race until we cross the finish line.”
The father and son went on to finish the race with the father’s strong shoulders carrying his son in physical and emotional pain.
The crowd, mesmerized, emotional and proud, applauded what became the defining moment of the Barcelona Olympics. The athlete who strived to finish the race even in agony is no less than Derek Redmond.
Generally, the term perseverance is defined as “not giving up.” It is the steady persistence and determination to do something and to keep doing it until it is completed, despite the roadblocks. In the Old Testament, perseverance refers to “either confidence in or tense expectation of (‘waiting on’) the power or faithfulness of God, who delivers his people. It is closely linked with the idea of hope.” Among the numerous characters in the bible who exemplified such virtue, it is Job that first comes to mind. Job’s experience in his life reflected perseverance when he remained steadfast amid difficult situations. While Job persevered and endured in faith, in the end, the blessings and grace of the Lord were bestowed upon him. St. James draws this conclusion describing the Lord as “full of compassion and mercy” [James 5:11].
In the readings today, we are once again reminded of God’s mercy and faithfulness to his children. We are constantly encouraged to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16), to be persistent in prayer (Colossians 4:2), to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-8), and to pray always and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1-8) for the Lord is a just God, He sees our actions and knows our intentions. In the first reading, when Moses prayed with outstretched arms for victory to his people, God granted victory to Israel while Amalek was defeated (Exodus 17:8-13). The communal efforts of Moses, Aaron and Hur in seeking the Lord’s favor to defeat the enemies, plus the determined action of Joshua in the battlefield, indeed led to God’s refuge. Moreover, in the second reading, Paul remained faithful to the teachings of his youth to use the scripture “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. It is through the scripture that we learn about the salvation that our Lord provides.
Likewise, in the gospel of St. Luke, Jesus assures us that perseverance in prayer and faith leads to God’s generous revelation of His plan for us. In the parable, the persistent widow was granted justice by the judge as she kept bothering him. The judge “neither feared God nor had respect for people” [Luke 18:2] but his response to the widow was kind enough just because the latter kept coming to him and asking for justice. Jesus tells us that this should be true with our behavior towards praying. We should never cease to pray, not to lose heart because our God is a loving and merciful God who grants “justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night” [Luke 18:7]. If the unjust judge in the parable granted favor towards the persistent widow, what more our merciful God will answer if we ask, seek and knock with reverent perseverance. It is the divine nature of the Father to love us without conditions. He promises that if we only foster and maintain that intimate relationship with Him – by perseverance in prayer and faith, His grand plan for us will be revealed.
We know that there is a time to ask God for something just once and trust in His ways, so we should not force it. But there is also such thing as ‘persistent faith’ where, as described in the readings, we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking on God’s door until we are granted the promise. This doesn’t mean we doubt the Lord, instead, we show Him our heart consistently and persistently, thus making that connection with Him more intimate. It is one thing to pray for something once, and it is another thing to keep praying – keeping that relationship with the Lord – even if we’re not asking for anything. Persistent and constant praying transforms our heart. Inspired God’s divine nature through the readings today, even if God does not directly and immediately say ‘yes’ to our fervent petition, we should ask ourselves the same question that Jesus asked in the gospel: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Father God, thank you for your mercy and compassion for me. You have showered me with so much blessings that I sometimes forget to glorify you for your generosity. You are my Almighty Provider, you know exactly what I need and do not need each moment of my life. I am sorry if often times I ask too much. I am sorry too if I seldom speak to you in prayer. Please grant me a heart that seeks only you. Amen.