About the resurrection
Johnny, a very bright 5 years old, told his daddy he’d like to have a baby brother and, along with his request, offered to do whatever he could to help. His dad, a very bright 35 years old, paused for a moment and then replied, ” I’ll tell you what, Johnny, if you pray every day for two months for a baby brother, I guarantee that God will give you one!” Johnny responded eagerly to his dad’s challenge and went to his bedroom early that night to start praying for a baby brother.
He prayed every night for a whole month, but after that time, he began to get skeptical. He checked around the neighborhood and found out that what he thought was going to happen, had never occurred in the history of the neighborhood. You just don’t pray for two months and then, whammo- a new baby brother. So, Johnny quit praying. After another month, Johnny’s mother went to the hospital. When she came back home, Johnny’s parents called him into the bedroom. He cautiously walked into the room, not expecting to find anything, and there was a little bundle lying right next to his mother. His dad pulled back the blanket and there was — not one baby brother, but two!! His mother had twins!
Johnny’s dad looked down at him and said, “Now aren’t you glad you prayed?”
Johnny hesitated a little and then looked up at his dad and said, “Yes, but aren’t you glad I quit when I did?”
What is prayer? From this story God looks very much like Santa Claus and Johnny as a good boy wishing to receive his Christmas present. At a first glance, it looks like Jesus wants to teach us about prayer, and this is partly true but it does not show us the whole picture. In order to have the big picture then, we may have to look at this reading more closely. What we will see is that this parable is about God’s vindication, that is, God upholding, justifying, exonerating and confirming more that a lesson about how to pray.
The parable assumes that God’s people are like litigants in a lawsuit, waiting for God’s verdict. What is the lawsuit about? It seems to be about Israel, or rather now the renewed Israel gathered around Jesus, awaiting from God the vindication that will come when those who have opposed his message are finally routed.
Now, why in the gospel of Luke does Jesus feel the urgency to reassure his followers that God will vindicate them?
The context in which this gospel was proclaimed was a very difficult one for the early Christian community. They were going through a time of persecution and hardship that made them feel weary, and as result of that they began to “loose heart”. By Luke’s time, several generations had passed since Jesus had taught his disciples to pray, and enthusiasm and faithfulness can be eroded by time alone, as well as by suffering and abuse.
We can easily sympathise with them and even identify ourselves with them. Some of the hard times we go through in our daily Christian life can certainly make us feel weary and begin to “loose heart”. When we look at the world we live in, and see the endless injustice which seems always to hit the poor and the most vulnerable people, and never touch the corrupted and powerful people, we might be tempted to loose faith in the Lord’s prayer words: “Thy kingdom come”. It is extraordinary easy to forget. Sometimes it seems that we have the three seconds goldfish memory (which by the way is a myth because scientists proved that they can remember things for up to five months).
Let’s take the financial crisis of 2008. The other day I watched a movie called the “Big Short”, that I highly recommend you to watch. It is a movie based on the true story of four outsiders who saw what the big banks, media and government refused to: the global collapse of the economy. Through their own research they discovered that the US mortgage backed securities market was a bubble about to burst, and they invested accordingly. What they didn’t initially know was how structurally flawed the MBS system was, the level of corruption in the market…and the impact on the average person when the bubble burst. The last scene of the movie gives us a good snapshot of the level of global injustice and corruption. After one of the four men clearly realises that buying swaps and betting against the real estate market would mean having massive unemployment and poverty, he talks with his colleague -who is asking him whether they go ahead buying or not, and as a way of convincing himself keeps repeating: “But at least someone would go to jail, right!”- and says: “I have a feeling that in a few years people are going to be doing what they always do when the economy fails, they would be blaming the immigrants and the poor people”. And the voice of the narrator says: “And that exactly what happened except that this time they were teachers”. Do you know how many bankers went to jail in the middle of this massive crisis and endless fraud? One, just one. Does this sound familiar to you?
I know that there is enough to be very angry, frustrated and despondent, but this is the inner tension we have to feel in our minds and hearts when we say: “Thy kingdom come”. We fight for a kingdom of justice that we struggle to see coming. This is why we gather here for the Eucharist. We bring our weariness and long for meeting the only one who can assure that God “will vindicate us”, will uphold, justify and confirm us. Moses’ arms upheld in prayer while Israel’s army is fighting against Amalek’s army is a wonderful symbol of that. It is God who is uploading Moses’ arms. He is also the only one who can confirm that what we do every day in God’s name and with God’s love is not in vain. “Thy kingdom come”, we say today again. Say it and feel it. It is this uncomfortable feeling of the “now and not yet”, that is very much part of the essence of our identity. “Thy kingdom come”, we say as a commitment to bring more justice and love in a world where injustice and violence seem to prevail. This was, is and will be our true prayer until thy kingdom come in fullness at the end of time.