Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 21, 2007 Year: C
Ex. 17:8-13; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:2; Lk. 18:1-8
Living in Faith
 

First Reading...
"Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, 'Choose some men for us and go out with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.'

So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

Whenever Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were stead until the sun set.

And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword." [Ex. 17:8-13]

Second Reading...
"Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching." [2 Tim. 3:14-4:2]

Gospel Reading...

"Jesus told the disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.

He said, 'In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.'

For a while the judge refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, sot that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'

And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, God will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" [Lk. 18:1-8]

GOD'S ANSWERS

“Come in,” God said to me. “So, you would like to interview Me?”

”If you have the time,” I said. 

God smiled and said: “My time is called eternity and is enough to do everything. What questions do you have in mind to ask me?”

”None that are new to you. What’s the one thing that surprises you most about mankind?” 

God answered:

”That they get bored being children, are in a rush to grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health to make money and then-lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live neither for the present nor the future. That they live as if they will never die, and they die as if they had never lived...”

God’s hands took mine and we were silent.

After a long period, I said, “May I ask you another question? As a parent, what would you ask your children to do?”

God replied with a smile:

”To learn that they cannot make anyone love them. To learn that it takes years to build trust, and a few seconds to destroy it.

To learn that what is most valuable is not what they have in their lives, but who they have in their lives.

To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others. There will be others better or worse than they are.

To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but is one who needs the least.

To learn that they should control their attitudes, otherwise their attitudes will control them.

To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in persons we love, and that it takes many years to heal them.

To learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness.

To learn that there are persons that love them dearly, but simply do not know how to show their feelings.

To learn that money can buy everything but happiness.

To learn that while at times they may be entitled to be upset, that does not give them the right to upset those around them.

To learn that great dreams do not require great wings, but landing gear to achieve.

To learn that true friends are scarce.

To learn that it is not always enough that they be forgiven by others but that they forgive themselves.

To learn that they are masters of what they keep to themselves and slaves of what they say.

To learn that they shall reap what they plant; if they plant gossip they will harvest intrigues, if they plant love they will harvest happiness.

To learn that true happiness is not to achieve their goals but to learn to be satisfied with what they already achieved.

To learn that happiness is a decision. They decide to be happy with what they are and have, or die from envy and jealousy of what they lack.

To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see something totally different.

To learn that those who are honest with themselves, without considering the consequences, go far in life.

To learn that even though they may think they have nothing to give, when a friend cries with them, they find the strength to appease the pain.

To learn that by trying to hold on to loved ones, they very quickly push them away; and by letting go of those they love, they will be side by side forever.

To learn that even though the word “love” has many different meanings, it loses value when it is overstated.

To learn that they can never do something extraordinary for Me to love them; I simply do.

To learn that the shortest distance they could be from Me is the distance of a
prayer.”

GOSPEL REFLECTIONS:
The wider context of the story about the widow and the judge is formed by Jesus' earlier statements about the coming of the new age. This coming is two-staged. The first stage is present in His word and work (Lk.17:21). The second stage will be fulfilled when the human One (i.e. the son of Man) comes in glory (Lk.17:26ff). Luke compares this later coming with the flood and then with the ruin of Sodom it will be a time of destruction! A catastrophic time but not for everyone! Jesus also speaks about God vindicating the "elect" who cry out in their plight (vv.1-5).

Then comes the story of the widow, who is not praying in the sense of seeking justice through prayer. She is concerned about justice through action. On one level Jesus offers an image of God as hard-hearted judge - a spiritually bankrupt authoritarian figure to be worn down by human badgering! The early church used this story for its own purpose. Perhaps the Lukan community, feeling the need for more emphasis on prayer, began to use the parable to suggest persistence in prayer, although no prayer is involved in the original story. Interpreting the theme as persistence in prayer comes out of an inclination to see widows in negative terms. Widows were seen as bothersome and drains on the community resources (1 Tim.5)

The original level of Jesus' telling the story of the persistent widow focuses on knowing one's rights and acting to get them. With an active faith in God a person will get justice. Use your voice and ingenuity – and don't give up! It is a pattern for courage and assertive action for today. Women can argue and act for justice. It is example where to be right is not enough. The widow knew that frequently, in order to get what she wants, a person had to stick up for his or her rights and continue until they get satisfaction.

The Greek word for "bother" used in the story means, "lest she come and beat me." The woman threatened to give the judge a black eye! Maybe the violence is in her attitude. She may have got angry with the judge and challenged him on the justice of the case. Another motive for the judge to act is out of fear of the woman's moral strength. The authority role was reversed. In terms of justice the 'woman' tells the mere 'boy' what is morally right and the judge felt forced to acknowledge her rightness (vv.6-8).

Earlier the disciples had asked for an increase in faith (Lk.17:5). Faith was an attitude of unconditional acceptance of responsibility, without a feeling of merit. It seems that God will vindicate those who have suffered for their faith and do it speedily! But when the human One comes, will He find this quality of faith? What seems to be implied is that God is merciful indeed, despite the fact that faith nearly runs out before the human One returns. In the story of the ten men suffering from skin-disease who went to the priests to show the signs of the disease were gone, the priest would have recognised in the absence of signs of disease, the presence of the new era!

Those who wished to be rid of Jesus could say: "We see no such signs. Where are they? When the new era comes, there will be external signs according to the prophet Joel. Where are they?" Jesus replies that the new era is here already and the signs are there for those willing to see them! The evidence is not over-whelming. Goodwill is needed. Those who decide to believe in Jesus (the first stage of the establishing the new era) were regarded by their fellow Hebrews as having been lured away from fidelity to YHWH. In the original story, Jesus assures those who believe in Him--by persisting in seeking justice – will be vindicated by God. In this vindication, through an active faith, the human One is revealed.

 The word "coming" that Luke uses, is the Greek word "parousia." It meant a triumphal arrival of an emperor. It was a political term. Jesus seems to be saying that there will be a lot of suffering in history before the establishment of the new era. These terrors, persecutions and contradictions are inevitable! But don't be alarmed. Today it is strongly felt that the world is going to be destroyed. But in Jesus' terms, its the end of the world of exploitation. It is really going to be a new beginning--a new heaven and a new earth!! And women are called to be the bearers of courage to confront the structured evils of patriarchy. They have an important role by joining those who criticize the system. Their voices nudge the collective conscience of the powerful. 

Jesus announces "good news" for the oppressed, but assertive, widow. He announces 'bad news' to the powerful, rich judge. The feminine earth is to be set free from the structured evil of patriarchy. She will be liberated! The story shows Jesus affirming the feminine persistence in search of rights. It is more than a story about perseverance in prayer. The Christian community has tended to interpret the story that way. One of the reasons, we suspect, is because the church has shared a negative attitude towards "bothersome women!"

[Luke 18:1-8] The particularly Lucan material in the travel narrative concludes with two parables on prayer. The first (Lk.18:1-8) teaches the disciples the need of persistent prayer so that they not fall victims to apostasy (v.8). The second (Lk.18:9-14) condemns the self-righteous, critical attitude of the Pharisee and teaches that the fundamental attitude of the Christian disciple must be the recognition of sinfulness and complete dependence on God's graciousness. The second parable recalls the story of the pardoning of the sinful woman (Lk.7:36-50) where a similar contrast is presented between the critical attitude of the Pharisee Simon and the love shown by the pardoned sinner.

[v.5] Wear me out: The Greek verb translated 'wear me out' means "to strike under the eye" and suggests the extreme situation to which the persistence of the widow might lead. It is used here in the much weaker sense of being 'worn out'.

Pray always and do not lose heart:

Who can pray unceasingly? What does this mean? Even Mrs. Agnes who enters the church at 5.30 am every morning and seems to leave at 7.00 pm every evening still takes an hour off for lunch. Is this an unreasonable request from Jesus to pray always and unceasingly? What do Jesus and St. Paul mean by these words? Is this an idealistic challenge to keep us always reaching for an unreachable goal and thus setting us up for failure? Or is this challenge achievable?

If praying unceasingly means endlessly reciting prayers on our knees, we are in big trouble. However, if praying unceasingly means living and breathing and walking and interacting and laughing and loving in a constant spirit of prayer then this is achievable. Further, I believe this is the essence of the words that Jesus and St. Paul speak.

This is a skill that requires time to develop and one must be patient with oneself in developing this skill. An image that comes to mind in order to pray unceasingly is the discipline of wearing special eye glasses each and every day. When one looks at the world while wearing these special glasses one sees God operating everywhere, in everything, and in every person. While recognizing all these things in the course of the day In addition to public and private prayer and worship, one prays unceasingly.

Again, this skill is not developed overnight, but over a lifetime. However, the more often one feels the warmth and love of God shining on his face in the noontime sunshine and the more often one perceives the goodness of God in a small kind gesture of another person and the more often one hears the consoling voice of God in a few words of concern by a co-worker at the water cooler and the more often one feels the loving embrace of God from the arms of a child and the more often one feels gratitude to our God while appreciating the awesome beauty of nature and the more often one hears and sees the majesty of God in beautiful music and breathtaking artwork one begins to develop this skill of praying unceasingly.

There will be mornings when we forget to put our special glasses on. There will be days when we step on our glasses and crush them however, the challenge is to repair them or to find them and to put them back on and to not get discouraged by our failures.

The end of the gospel asks the question: Will Jesus find faith on earth? Perhaps at the end of time Jesus will most easily recognize the faithful by who is wearing these special glasses and perhaps we will most easily recognize Jesus by wearing these special glasses.

In the world today being examined for new glasses, having glasses made, and paying for these new glasses can be time consuming and costly, however, in our prayer lives these special glasses are obtained through an act of the will, with perseverance, and especially by being patient. This is what it means to pray unceasingly and this is how we will be sure that Jesus will find faith on earth when He returns. 

  Click here for other Sunday Homilies 

A New book from Fr. Rudy :
Short review of the book: This book is an out come of a serious exegetical study on the important words and texts from the writings of St John of the Cross. The study deals with a short life and writings of the mystic and then does a complete study on GOD, MAN and WAYS to EXPERIENCE GOD. The book is available at: St. Joseph Church, Near Holy Cross Convent School, Mira Road East, Thane Dt. Maharashtra State - 401 107, India. Books can be ordered through email: rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

The cost of the book is Rs. 125/- pp.xviii + 234, The Title of the Book is: THE DYNAMISM OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH - An Exegetical Study on St. John of the Cross, author: Dr. Rudolf V. D' Souza, OCD, MA. PhD.

Dear friend, my homilies will be posted on Thursdays and you can benefit them and if you need more resources, you could contact me on rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

Let us make this ministry fruitful one so that the Word of God becomes a source of joy for me and for you and help people become more aware of its riches. You are also welcome to share your feedback with me. Thanks and God bless. 

 

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