Each of the two Scripture readings begins this morning with a thought worthy of a day’s reflection. One speaks of action while the other calls us to consciousness in spiritual practice. In the first (3 JN 5), John is complementary to his readers, saying: “Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters, especially for strangers.” My question to myself is: How often do I consider fidelity to strangers in the same way as I do to my brother, sister and sister-in-law? Admittedly, John could be calling “brothers and sisters” all members of the Christian community gathered to listen to him. Nevertheless, the inference is clearly a call to take more notice of strangers than is my common practice.
In the gospel, Jesus is giving a lesson “about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” (LK 18:1) He’s talking about the widow who keeps bothering a judge for a just decision. He finally gives in because of her persistence. It’s not the parable that attracted me this morning but the necessity of not giving up when we don’t feel like stoking the fires of our spiritual lives. Keeping the habit of prayer can stand us in good stead when things are weighing us down. I was talking two days ago with someone who has recently taken up again the practice of saying the rosary after a long absence. Just holding his father’s rosary is comfort and the consistency of the prayer, the repetition, brings him a peace that buoys him up when little else seems to help. For me, centering prayer is the daily anchor that holds me steady.
Putting these two thoughts together gives me a practice of awareness – one leading to the other: praying for the strangers in my midst and then “noticing” them in whatever way I am called – from smiling as we pass to committing to some work for justice. What a good lead-up to Thanksgiving!