This week’s readings are all about persistence when it comes to prayer. Jesus wants the disciples to pray, persevere, and not grow weary like Moses did during the battle against Amalek where he held his arms on high so that Israel would defeat its enemies. Persistence is the key to prayer as we see in the parable that Jesus offers of the widow who keeps asking the judge for justice. Our God is a God of justice who will give us so much more than what the judge gave the widow because we cry out to him and more importantly because we are his chosen ones.
Today the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday and we are called to be persistent in our prayers for all missionaries throughout the world. Here we turn to the co-patroness of the missions who despite her young age, despite never leaving the convent, and despite ailments that afflicted her until her untimely death at 24, always prayed unceasingly and offered up her suffering for the missions and for the spread of the gospel. Of course, I am talking about St. Therese of Lisieux who longed to be a missionary. We look to her as a model of how fervent our prayers should be for all those brothers and sisters throughout the world who sacrifice so much to bring the message of Jesus Christ and the compassion and work of his Church to people that desperately need it.
Today we pray for the Salesian Sisters in Chennai, India who dedicate their lives to rescuing girls from child trafficking and modern day slavery (yes it still very much exists in the 21st century, sadly). There in Chennai little girls are sold off and have to work in households from 5:00am to Midnight every day cooking, cleaning, and looking after babies despite being only 9 or 10 years old. The Sisters rescue these girls and give them a loving home where they give them an education and restore their dignity. (You can see more about the good work of these Sisters and the plight of these girls by watching this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jk5GGHdoS3w) There is so much good that the Church does throughout the world that we don’t even know about it. It’s not as simple as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick anymore. Missionaries around the world risk their lives every single day to do the work of Christ and proclaim his glorious Name even in countries where it is illegal to do so just so that their brothers and sisters could have a better life. That is what the Salesian Sisters do in Chennai, India, and that is why all these missionaries need our constant prayers. A missionary has to be as persistent as the widow in the gospel and as bold as St. Paul tells Timothy to be in the second reading.
I’ll end with this story about our dear Bishop Román who spent years and years going out to visit the Miccosukee Indians to celebrate Mass for them even though no one there was Catholic. Yet, he persisted. He would go again and again without a hint of discouragement, and many years into his ministry there, he finally got one person who embraced the Catholic faith. Bishop Román would tell this story with so much joy. So many would have given up after a year or two and so many would have thought one conversion over so many years a failure, but the good bishop kept pressing on and he rejoiced when all that hard work paid off because one heart now belonged to Jesus Christ. This holy man reminds us that we too are all called to be missionaries by virtue of our baptism, and that we are called to invite others to share in the joy that we experience every Sunday here at the Eucharistic feast. There are so many people out there that need to experience the love, mercy, and peace of Jesus Christ. Today, I’m not asking you to go off to India to help the Salesian sisters. I’m not asking you to go off to any distant lands. Today, I just have one simple missionary request: invite someone to Mass who doesn’t usually go. They may and probably will say no at first, but keep at it. Maybe your persistence will cause them to finally give in to your request like the judge in the gospel. And when they do come to Mass and open themselves to the outpouring of grace that takes place here at this altar, the sky’s the limit to what God has in store for them. May we always be persistent in our prayers for missionaries around the world, and may we embrace our baptismal call to be missionaries on this World Mission Sunday and every Sunday by inviting one, just one, person to come to Mass with you next week. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.