Bored to Death by Rev. Jerry Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, "There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'" The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Prayer can be tedious and boring. Of course anything can be tedious and boring. Sports seasons have expiration dates to prevent popular interest burnout. The changing seasons are signs that we are at once creatures of habit and creatures of desultory interest. Hawaii is a beautiful state with - mostly - beautiful weather. But Hawaii's weather can seem to be tedious to those who have a sentimental attachment to a "white" Christmas. "Attention deficit syndrome" seems to be more the norm than the exception in our fallen nature. Perhaps this is among the reasons Christ tells us in this week's Gospel "about the necessity for (us) to pray always without becoming weary."
Christ continues with the parable of a corrupt judge who finally renders a just ruling because of the relentless demands of an offended widow. Persistence pays off. Justice granted. Prayers answered. Point taken. The discourse, however, concludes provocatively. Christ makes a direct connection between persistence in prayer and faith in Him: "But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" Overcoming "weariness" or even "boredom" in prayer is necessary to sustain faith and is essential to our salvation.
Put another way, cultivating an interest in prayer is necessary to sustain our faith. Football is usually boring to anyone who does not understand the game. Boredom is overcome by taking an active interest in the rules of the game, the capabilities and performance of the players, the relationship of the coaches to their teams, and so on. Greater knowledge and understanding lead to an appreciation for the game and a desire to know more. It is the same with prayer. Persistent prayer deepens our grasp of the mysteries of our faith. In prayer, with God's graces, we unlock the many chambers of the teachings of Christ and find that God alone satisfies a restless heart.
In response to a request by His disciples, Christ teaches us to pray: "Our Father Who are in heaven... ." If we are not careful, even this most sublime of prayers can become tedious. Overcoming boredom requires that we earnestly strive to enter into the mysteries of prayer. Every phrase ought to give us pause: What does it mean, for example, to have a God we dare to call "Father"? He is not just my Father; He is Father of us all. As children of God, we are all brothers in Christ. The Father also reigns in heaven as King. He must have dominion in power and grace over all creation without peer. Parsing the prayers of our faith in this way ought to give us countless hours of interesting and fruitful prayer.
Prayer also can become compelling, if not appealing in times of desperation. When we have exhausted every other avenue of satisfaction, we more easily turn to prayer for answers and relief. Ours is an "age of anxiety" in large part because, for decades, we lived as if peace and security are purchased in dollars rather than earned with virtue and God's grace. (The hackneyed political slogan "It's the economy, stupid!" ought to be replaced with, "It's Christian virtue, stupid!") But anxiety brings with it a powerful incentive for prayer. When God allowed the just man Job to be tested by Satan, Job demanded an answer from God. Refusing to follow his wife's advice to "curse God and die," Job's sufferings rather brought him to his knees in prayer and deeper faith. Suffering can do that to a man. Thus, in view of the suffering in the world, we ought to be highly motivated to pray.
Nevertheless, despite our best efforts, monotony in prayer can be a stubborn affliction. Prayer can easily remain habitual but thoughtless. In the turnoff of an unavoidably busy life, we even might secretly admit that we are bored with the prayers of our youth such as the rosary. Yet our persistence in prayer, even when struggling against tedium, pay big dividends on a deathbed. Persistent prayer leads to and deepens faith and guarantees that Christ will indeed find faith upon His return.
Even the habitual prayers once recited monotonously at breakneck speed can be transformed with faith. Recitation of habit-formed prayers of faith on our dying lips guarantees we will not be bored to death, but rather consoled in our passing from this life to the next. We may even find ourselves eager to pray, "Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
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