Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Exodus is the source of this weekend’s first reading. As might be assumed from the book’s name, Exodus is a chronicle of the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt, where they were slaves, and their passage to the land God promised them.
Along the route of this passage, across the sterile and unforgiving Sinai Peninsula, they encountered many problems. Many of these problems arose simply because of the terrain. Then, as now, water was in short supply. They ran short of food. Without any sense of where they were going, they wandered.
They also faced human enemies. Amalek was one of these enemies. He fought them with swords. They had to defend themselves or perish. While they fought with great intensity, they still had to deal with a mighty foe.
Moses did not fight. Rather, he extended his arms over the battle, as if to bring down upon the Hebrew warriors the strengthening presence of God. When he lowered his hand, the Hebrews fell back.
Although merely a human being, Moses was God’s instrument. If Moses relented in obeying God, everything was upset. God has the powers, but often it unfolds through human instruments.
For its second reading on this weekend, the Church again turns to the Second Epistle to Timothy. Its message is that Timothy, converted to Christianity, a disciple of Paul, and ordained a bishop by Paul, must be faithful to the Gospel despite all odds, whatever the cost.
In this reading, Paul stresses the fact that he is the spokesman for the Lord. He is an Apostle. He has the credentials to speak for God, but he also is completely committed to speaking for God.
St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. This lesson refers to a judge who is anything but honorable. The Gospel says that the judge respects neither the law of God nor human law.
The judge was human. Applying justice, in a real sense, he too was God’s instrument. By dishonesty, and by disdain for anyone, this judge distorted the process. The widow had to hound him.
Widows were the most vulnerable in Jewish society of the first century AD. They had no means of support, unless perhaps children helped them. The Hebrew tradition required special attention to the needs of the poor and the weak.
Obviously at risk and probably poor, the widow should have assumed that, by sacred tradition, the judge would consider her case promptly and rule justly. He indeed ruled, but only to her demands.
By contrast, no one needs to hound God, the source of justice and mercy. He “speedily” will act justly and with compassion. God is true and constant, quickly to see our needs.
We are not all judges, but each of us is bound by God’s law. Humans, when tempted, often fail, as the Lord regrets.
Perhaps the greatest wound that original sin inflicted on human nature was tricking us into thinking that we are much more in command of situations surrounding us than we are. This wrong impression leaves us with a foolhardy assumption that we do not need God.
We naively assume that the only realities are in what we can see, hear, or imagine. We lose sight of the eternal. We misperceive life. We fail to see the bigger picture. We exaggerate ourselves. All is great.
Then we face reality. We must cope with real-life circumstances, nervous and anxious, as was the widow before the judge, as the Hebrews dealt with Amalek.
God loves us. He will protect us lovingly, willingly, unfailingly. No pressure needed. How? He sent Moses, Paul, and Timothy to the faithful. God comes to us in grace, in Revelation, in the Church.
He comes to us, but we must accept God.
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