Jesus calls us to persevere in the life of faith – Catholic Philly

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Msgr. Joseph Prior

(Readings from the Holy Mass – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Long distance sporting events require a great deal of training, planning and endurance for the men and women who participate or compete. A marathon is 26.2 miles – elite athletes can complete a course in less than three hours; average athletes take four and a half hours. By bicycle, the “Century” or 100 mile ride can take seven and a half hours for the average cyclist. In triathlon, the Iron Man consists of a full marathon, 112 bike ride, and 2.4 mile swim; for the so-called “average” participant, it takes about thirteen hours. One of the common traits of men or women who practice these sports is perseverance. They have to go through long periods of training, conditioning, and practice just to compete. Perseverance permeates their efforts.

I recently read an article that recalled the efforts of Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell to “free climb” El Capitan from Yosemite National Park. The mountain’s “wall of dawn” is three thousand feet tall (for comparison, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is 2,717 feet tall). It took just under three weeks to make the dangerous climb. Between climbs, they rested in tents suspended hundreds of feet in the air. Time and time again they slowly climbed the cliff, fingers being sliced ​​on the razor-sharp rock and they moved forward. They used social media to communicate their efforts and many people followed. Jorgeson then speculated on why he thought people would be so interested. He said: “It’s a big dream, it takes teamwork, determination and commitment. And these are not climbing-specific attributes. These are common to everyone, whether you’re trying to write a book or climb a rock. At one point during the trip, he recalled a particularly difficult day: “Razor-sharp grips ripped both the tape and the skin off my fingers. As disappointing as it may seem, I’m learning new levels of patience, perseverance and desire. I am not giving up. I will stay. I will try again. I will succeed.” And they succeeded, completing the ascent on January 14, 2015.

Perseverance is one of the themes of today’s liturgy. The end of the liturgical year and the beginning of a new one are fast approaching. At this time of year, we focus on the purpose of life, not just our individual lives, but those of all peoples of all times. Likewise, it is good for us to hear the word of encouragement and the call to perseverance.

Jesus, using a so-called “apocalyptic” literary style, speaks of the tumult of the last days. The “last days” indicate when the world will be transformed. Transformation comes with the return of Jesus Christ and the ultimate victory of good over evil. Restlessness comes with this struggle. We can easily understand this battle when we see the conflict unfolding in the world around us. When we see the quest for justice, when we see an oppressed people or person yearning for freedom, or when we see communities in the throes of violence. We can also see it in ourselves as we struggle to choose the good and avoid the bad. Jesus uses “apocalyptic” imagery to indicate when this battle will reach resolution and good will triumph and evil will be contained forever.

Jesus encourages us to remain faithful by saying, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives. However, Jesus does not speak only of the “end of time”, because as he tells us elsewhere: “you know neither the day nor the hour”. (cf. Matthew 24:36-44) He encourages us to live our lives well and well, now. Perseverance is essential.

An element of the passage can help us gain self-confidence to deal with life’s challenges that can cause fatigue, worry, pain, disappointment, or even fear. It is the permanent presence of Jesus. This appears in the passage when Jesus speaks of the faithful being persecuted and brought before a judge (in this case, kings or governors). He says, “Remember that you must not prepare your defense in advance, for I myself will give you wisdom by speaking which all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” Jesus is present in our lives. He knows well the challenges, big and small, that we face. He is there to help. He is there to defend. We are not alone.

The first reading echoes a similar “end times” theme. In this “day”, “all the proud and all the wrongdoers will be stubbled”. The faithful are encouraged by the hope “for you who fear my name, the sun of justice will rise with its rays of healing”. The “sun of justice” is the “Son” Jesus who conquered death in his resurrection and who will return for the final victory. Hope in him strengthens our perseverance.

Saint Paul exhorts the Thessalonians of the second reading not to be “busy people” but to work diligently. The context here, unlike the other readings, is not about the “end times” or the battle against evil. On the contrary, it is more day to day, responding to the requirements of good living. In this case, not assuming someone else’s kindness but persevering in working for the food we eat. This too requires perseverance. He sets himself and his companions as examples for them: “…have not acted disorderly among you, nor have we eaten food received freely from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day, we labored, so as not to be a burden to any of you. The passage is a good reminder that all of our endeavors in life are interdependent and part of the whole of who we are. Paul encourages us to persevere in doing good even in one of the most fundamental elements of our daily lives: work.

The definition of perseverance, according to Merrin-Webster, is “to persist in a state, enterprise, or enterprise in a peak of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement.” Jesus urges us to persevere in the life of faith, knowing that he is with us to help, guide and encourage us because in the end his victory will be achieved among us.

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, in Penndel, and former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of the Séminaire Saint-Charles Borromée.

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