We continue to follow the prophet Jeremiah's account of Israel's exile in Babylon. This week the prophet foretells the establishment of a new covenant between God and Israel. After working to "pluck up and break down" his people, God will "build and plant," and in doing so God's law will be more deeply implanted within them. The law ("torah," which means "teaching") was traditionally thought of as being "in the heart," but only as the result of strong teaching, as emphasized in Deuteronomy. What God indicates in Jeremiah's prophecy is that the law will become so instinctual that the traditions of teaching would become unnecessary. This implies that the relationship between God and his people would become ever closer and more intimate; God would "dwell in" them, and they would know the law in a new way.
As Paul closes his second letter to Timothy, he encourages his "beloved child" to be steadfast in his ministry. He is to rely on scripture, to teach it, to use it for discipline in good works. Paul reminds Timothy that his people may develop "itching ears" and want to believe teaching that is attractive to them but unsound, causing them to "wander away" from the Church. His direction is strong: "I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message, be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching." The important thing is not to "slack up," as we might say, but to keep working, pushing forward.
Jesus takes up the theme of persistence as well. This week's parable is prefaced with its meaning, just in case the details aren't readily clear. The parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow is a plain example of the power of not giving up. Although the judge in the parable does not care about justice and has no sympathy for the widow, he grants her request just so she will leave him alone. How much more, then, will God, who is justice and who loves us very much, grant our requests. Still, we must not give up in asking, thinking that because we do not see immediate results from our prayers, God is not at work. In fact, God's answering my not look like we had imagined; it may well be daunting, even terrifying, asking more of us than we want to give. Remember that Jesus had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and that this did occur. The fulfillment of his mission was accomplished in his crucifixion and seeming defeat. But resurrection followed.
We all encounter moments of challenge in life, times when more is demanded of our discipline and devotion that we think we are able to give. Our lessons and prayers this week remind us that the key is not giving up-persevere in discipline. God is with us.