Prayer and Black Eyes: We Are Not God’s Indirect Objects!

Once upon a time, Mary teaches her three-year old daughter, Caitlin, the Lord’s Prayer. For several evenings at bedtime, she repeats after her mother the lines from the prayer. Finally, Caitlin decides to go solo. The mother listens with pride as she carefully enunciates each word, right up to the end of the prayer: “Lead us not into temptation,” she prays, “but deliver us some E-mail. Amen.”

Today ‘s topic is prayer and black eyes!

About prayer- always persist.

Look at Moses.  To win the battle, Moses climbs the hill and raises his arms and hands in prayer in the orans position.  When he tires and drops his arms, the Israelites begin to lose the battle.  But when he gets the support of his brethren, Moses continues his prayer all the way to sunset and the Israelites win the battle.  The lesson is this- persist in prayer and never give up.

But there’s more…because God does not want us to be passive prayer people.  Faith is not a passive event.  We are not God’s indirect objects.

Look at St. Luke’s widow. There is nothing more fearful than an angry widow.  Widows must have been feared in St. Luke’s community.  For one, St. Paul instructs the widow’s family to take care of the woman.  And if the family is unable, then it is the task of the Christian community to provide for the “older woman who is not married.”  When justice is not served in the community, what can the widow do?  In the first century world, it is a man’s world where women are marginalized.  It is a society filled with bribery, injustice and backroom deals.  In this context, St. Luke tells us a parable about a widow who badgers an unjust judge.  He fears that she will walk up to him and give him a black eye.

Personally, there was no one more formidable than my 89 year-old paternal grand mother, Emilie.  Of Polish decent and small in stature my “nanny” had a loving heart and a strong sense of justice. If you cheated her in her grocery bill, watch out!  If you did not give her the senior citizen’s discount, watch out!  If the social security check was late, watch out!  My grandmother was so tough that when she realized she was getting off the wrong exit on the highway, she would stop and turn the car around fearing no one or no thing!

My grandmother, the widow of the Gospel and many other widows throughout the world teach us how to persist in prayer AND to demand justice from that prayer!  Whether convenient or inconvenient, if we really want something form the Lord, we need to pray and get ready to give it a black eye.  When we read that the government shutdown cost us $24 billion dollars with no childcare for military families and small businesses closing in the Washington area due to cancelled contracts, we pray hard and then give that issue a black eye.  When we listen to the news that the largest poverty group in our country is women and children, we pray hard and we give it a black eye.  When we read about Church clericalism dominating parish life, we pray hard and then we give it a black eye. Black eyes come in many forms, brothers and sisters:  speaking truth to power; writing letters to the editors; marching for peace; walking for justice; sending money to different causes; scheduling appointments to speak with elected officials.  Sometimes we would like people to receive the black eyes…some of us may even want God to get a black eye.  Of course, we speak metaphorically.

The Eucharist is a time to not only pray for poor widows but also a time to give social issues a good black eye. The Eucharist we receive in our churches is the same Eucharist that extends out these doors…into the hallways…into the dining rooms…into our apartments…into our chapter rooms…onto our sidewalks!  May we be persistant in prayer and ready to give injustice a black eye so that when Jesus returns, he will find faith on earth!


The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

29th Sunday

Ordinary Time

Cycle C

Charles Wells drawing

Etching of Dorothy Day

by Charles Wells

copyright St. Procopius Abbey


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