“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” are Our Lord’s prophetic words at the end of today’s Gospel, and we have to ask ourselves: is that a rhetorical question? They are prophetic words because, by referring to himself as the Son of Man, he is referring to his return in glory. If it were rhetorical it would mean that he was just putting a little melodramatic foreshadowing into his discourse and doesn’t really mean what he’s saying. The only problem with that theory is that his question comes at the end of his discourse. Rhetorical questions usually come at the beginning of one. These words should cut right to our hearts. We know Our Lord means what he says: he is saying we must do our part.
This weekend we celebrate World Mission Sunday by remembering in our liturgy all those generous Christians who bring the faith to the corners of the world where the Gospel hasn’t yet arrived. When we survey the faith in our world, we see that the mission fields are not just in remote islands or distant continents full of strange tribes and peoples: they are in our own society, our own homes, even our own families. So we come together in the liturgy and raise up our prayers on behalf of the People of God, like Moses did in the today’s First Reading. Does Christ find faith on earth? We hope to answer yes with our worship and our lives. “Will he find faith on earth?” is his invitation for us to see the mission field to which he has called each of us. It’s not necessarily in far off continents or distant cultures; it is right at our doorstep. Some people say that the two things you should never talk about are politics and religion. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on missions, entitled Fidei Donum – the gift of faith. As Pius XII said,
“it is faith that allows us to draw near to the hidden mysteries of the divine life; it is faith that encourages us to hope for everlasting happiness; it is faith that strengthens and consolidates the unity of the Christian society in this transitory life, according to the Apostle: ‘One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.’ It is chiefly by reason of this divine gift that our grateful hearts of their own accord pour forth this testimony: ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all that he hath rendered unto me?’”
When someone gives you a gift, you talk about it, you even share it, don’t you? If you don’t, what does that say about the gift or what you think of the giver? Missionary work starts right in our own hearts by accepting the gift of faith that Christ has given us. It means letting that faith influence our outlook, our lives, our actions and decisions. Missionaries receive the gift of faith before they can go out and share it, or else they go out with empty hands and hearts, if they go out at all. I remember long ago, when my priestly vocation was just a thought in the back corner of my mind, I was having lunch with a Protestant co-worker, and how struck I was by his saying grace at meals. Something so simple. Sometimes I relish when I’m having a phone conversation with someone who doesn’t know I’m a priest: calling the post office or something, and when I end the conversation with a “God bless.” there’s an awkward pause, and then “um, same to you; or thank you; have a nice day.” Wishing God’s blessing on someone is never something that just stays at the level of polite conversation.
Does society find faith today as the judge in today’s Gospel parable found it in the widow? Her persistence made an impact. Even though that judge feared neither God nor man, by the persistence of that widow he knew he had to judge justly in her case. You notice he, as thick-skinned as he was, didn’t say simply that he would decide in her favor. He said he wouldn’t rig the trial: he said he would judge justly on her behalf. The Church in many ways and in many fields reminds the world today of its rights, but also of its obligations. We know that there are important truths related to the Gospel message that everyone can understand: the dignity of each human person in every phase of their life, the importance of the family, good friendships, and solidarity to help promote a family of nations. All that has come to light thanks to the gift of faith we’ve received. If we do not get the word out, they won’t hear it from anyone else. It takes convincing and persistence, just like the widow.
The battle for the world’s soul today is much like Moses, arms upraised, in today’s First Reading. With the staff of God, the authority of God, in his hands, Moses keeps his arms upraised in prayer, and Joshua and the Israelites triumph over the Amalekites. But when he tires, Amalek gains the upper hand. We are grateful to God for the Pope and all the bishops who ceaselessly raise their arms in prayer for the people of God in battle for the world’s soul. They count on us. Aaron, the high priest of Israel, like the priests and clergy, and Hur, a leader of the people, one of the elders who helped Moses govern the people, bring him a rock to sit on, and then support his arms because they know he can’t do it alone. Everyone united in prayer and work has to strive to win the Promised Land: eternal life.
Let’s ask Our Lord today for the grace to keep united in prayer and work to share this great gift of the faith he’s given us. Let’s ask for the grace to keep the little ways of showing that – saying grace before meals, praying the rosary together as a family, spending time with him – in our homes and families. Let’s ask to not be afraid of sharing our faith with others. Let’s ask for vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and the missions, and and for the light and strength to be his missionaries in whatever walk of life to which he’s called us.
Readings: Exodus 17:8–13; Psalm 121:1–8; 2 Timothy 3:14–4:2; Luke 18:1–8. See also 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.