Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
You will love the story of “the boy who saved Holland.” Hans Brinker was a little boy living in Haarlem near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. His family was poor, and he had a dad who fell while working from a dyke, the wall that kept the sea from flowing into the city.
One day Hans was returning from visiting an elderly friend of the family when he decided to chase butterflies along the dyke. He played for a long time, and when it was getting dark, he decided to run home.
But something got his attention. He heard the trickling of water, and on a closer look, he discovered a small hole in the dyke that allowed the seawater to flow freely, and he guessed rightly that if left, Haarlem and, indeed, the entire Holland would be eaten up by the sea by sunrise.
Hans did something amazing to solve the problem. He put one of his fingers in the hole, and the water stopped. But he had to go home as it was getting dark, but there was no help in view. In short, he decided to stay the entire night with his finger, which was now numb with the cold, stuck in the hole and blocking the seawater.
Help only came early in the morning when a priest visiting the sick was passing that way and heard someone groaning in pain. The priest alerted the government, and repairs were done on the dyke immediately. So, Hans Brinker saved Holland with just a finger stuck in the dyke the entire night.
Raising the Staff of Prayer
The First Reading (Exodus 17:8-13) tells us about the battle of Rephidim, which was Israel’s first physical combat against another nation. Note that the battle came shortly after the people complained about thirst and the subsequent miracle of the water from the rock from God through Moses.
Moses gave the rules of battle engagement by asking Joshua to choose some men to go and engage the Amalekites in battle while he would ascend the mountain with Aaron and Hur and raise the staff of God.
If Moses’ hand was up with the staff of God, the Israelites prevailed, but when he lowered his hand, the Amalekites prevailed. So, to make his posture steady, Aaron and Hur made Moses sit on a stone while they supported his hand with the staff pointing to the skywards, and Israel had victory.
Question: “what is the connection between a raised hand with the staff of God and the victory over Amalek?” The simple answer is that the raised hand was a physical expression of spiritual activity; in other words, it was the hand of prayer. Just as the finger of Hans Brinker physically stopped the seawater from drowning Holland, Moses’ hand and the staff pointing to God in prayer brought an amazing victory to Israel.
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus explored the need to pray without getting wearied using the parable of the importunate widow and an unjust judge. The woman continued to worry the unfair judge to give her a just decision against her adversary.
The unjust judge, who lacked compassion for humans and fear of God, eventually yielded to the widow’s appeal for a just decision for no other reason apart from her persistence which became burdensome for him.
The Power of Persistence
The Fall of man was due to disobedience. Still, if we push our inquiry further, we will discover that the disobedience was a result of the persistence of the serpentine tempter (Genesis 3:4-5).
Persistence is a powerful tool in attaining any level of success; in fact, you need the power of persistence to prevail in anything, including your prayers. In the instructions to Timothy in the Second Reading today (2 Tm 3:14-4:2), St. Paul encouraged him, among other things, to be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.
Moving Forward: Activating the Persistence Software in our Prayers
Persistence does not just happen. Some powerful virtues fertilize and vitalize persistence. Learning these virtues would be highly beneficial.
Faith: The Letter to the Hebrews (11:6b) says that whoever comes to God “must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Faith does not just believe in God it is trusting that God can do everything.
Persistence will be baseless if there is no faith. Moses could keep his hands up with the staff of God because He trusted God to grant them victory in the battle.
Obedience: Isaiah (1:19) says, “if you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.” Obedience is a major key in our relationship with God, and it has to do with submission and compliance with God’s will.
To be persistent, we must not fail to be obedient. Obedience helps us to subscribe to higher intelligence, and the ability to stay connected to that intelligence is the fruit of persistence.
Patience: Patience is the ability to stay in the game even when the odds are high. In other words, patience calls for waiting. The Book of Psalms (40:1) gives us a classic example where he says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”
We should wait on the Lord because He is never late, even when the circumstances around us tell us otherwise. Imagine what would have happened to Holland if Hans Brinker did not wait. The same applies to Moses and the widow, who remained patient and got a better outcome. Persistence is unrealistic without patience.
The quick lesson we should learn today is that we should face the odds of life with the raised hands of prayers accompanied by intentional persistence, and to persist, we must come with faith, obedience, and patience.
God bless you!