“I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence…”; “…to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Lk: 11:8;10)
When we speak of Christian spirituality we use terms like endurance and perseverance. Less often do we speak of “persistence”. Most likely the reason for our reticence in talking about persistence is that it has the connotation of vice not virtue: individuals who “persist” can be rather annoying at times. Hence, it would seem improper to be persistent with God. However, His beloved Son Jesus gives us explicit permission to be just that in our approach to His Father in heaven.
Even the parable of Jesus which we read about today in Mass does not at first glance portray an admirable picture of human persistence. Jesus presents a man who wakes up his friend in the middle of the night for loaves of bread. Not even the town baker (who probably gets up before the town rooster) is awake yet! Still, the man lodging the unexpected visitor shows up pleading for and expecting bread from his friend at a most unexpected hour.
If we compare the man in this parable to the bridesmaids or virgins in another parable, shouldn’t the man in this parable also be chided for being unprepared (Mt 25:9) i.e. without bread in his home? Should not the man, like the virgins, find the door locked due to his lack of preparedness (Mt 25:10-12)? In truth he should not; for the man did not expect his guest and his persistence was for the good of another, while the foolish bridesmaids knew that the bridegroom was arriving yet still they went out to meet him carelessly without extra oil for their lamps.
In the spiritual life we need not worry much about erring through persistence (as long as we are not stubbornly self-entitled in our petitions). This is because we do not go about disturbing a human person who is sleeping but rather a divine person who is waiting. God desires our persistence, especially when it comes as endurance of faith and perseverance in prayer.
For this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a painting by the 19th century Austrian Romantic artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller entitled, The Charity (1865). Like many romantics. Waldmuller painted images of societal traditions and sought to portray optimism concerning the human condition. He was the primary mover of the Biedermeier style which sought to exhibit the beauty of nature and the piety of pastoral life.
Our own instructional use of this work is focused here on the old beggar. His shoes are worn out through persistence. He has endured much and persevered through many trials. His age is only important to us a symbol of his diligence and devotion: “to knocking on the door” again and again to gain entry. His persistence has paid off in peace. He is now able to sit, rest, and receive. He does so gently, by thankfully accepting; not by greedily taking. His eyes are lowered and his hat is off in noble reverence; for the door has finally been opened to him. He receives his bowl as it were the cup of salvation.
– Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services