Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalms 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Second Timothy 3:14--4:2
The topic of being at war is in the air and what we pray for is a world at peace with Justice. As much as we want victory, we do not want killing and violence in the defense of any injustices. We hear today how Moses prayed for victory as a blessing from God which included such terrible warlike realities.
The theme of prayer will center today’s and next-Sunday’s liturgies. In today’s First Reading, Amalek came and began a war with Israel. Moses has Joshua pick out good fighters while he climbed to the top of a hill with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses held his hands up in a gesture of prayer and faith, the battle went well for Israel. The fighting lasted longer than Moses’ strength and so a stone was brought for Moses to sit upon and his companions held his hands upwards. Joshua defeated the enemy of Israel, but the power of his sword was surpassed by the saving power of the God to whom Moses prayed.
At this time in our country, and in parts of this world, war, battles, slaying and conquering are too graphic of images for us. We are praying that the outstretched hands of Jesus on the cross will plead for peace from the God Who listened to Moses. Peace with Justice will be victory and so our hands and hearts are raised. We have our spirits supported by the faith and fidelity of those around us. Their fears, their wonderings, their hope keep us asking, pleading, trusting, and praying without discouragement.
Jesus tells His disciples the first of two parables about praying. To experience the intensity of these stories, it is important to read the last sixteen verses of the previous chapter which form the setting. Jesus has told His listeners that there is going to come a time of trial. There will be His own passion and signs which will frighten and cause doubt. The Disciples will long for the comforts of His presence and they will want certainty about His being with them. It is in this field of tension that Jesus speaks of praying with faith and persistence.
The parable in today’s Gospel is directed to the hearing of the Disciples after their hearing of the predictions at the end of chapter seventeen. Their natural response would be about how they deal with their fears and their trust in Him through it all. The story is quite simple, but the implications for the Disciples and ourselves are challenging, of course. A widow complains to a judge to settle a grievance she has against somebody. The judge was not a God-fearing person, nor did he worry about what others might think of him. He refused to listen much to her, but she kept on pleading. He decides to render a judgement in her favor. He did this not according to a sense of justice or in accordance with the Jewish tradition of special care for widows, children, and travelers. He did this so she would not come and, literally, “give him a black eye.” This “black eye” would be either socially or physically.
The importance of what Jesus says to His listeners is more important these days since the disastrous attacks. “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?” “He will see that justice is done for them speedily.”
This parable is about praying for God to share with this world part of Who God Is, Justice, which is an inseparable part of Love. God is intensely attentive to our collective need for loving and treating each other caringly.
I know well that it is not popular these days to speak critically about our nation’s failures in treating other nations and especially the poorer ones, with justice. While praying for peace these days, while asking God to render a judgement in our favor, we might also pray that our giftedness as a blessing from God be shared more universally with “His chosen ones” as well. When we sing, “God Bless America,” we are not complaining that God hasn’t done that in the past, so we want more, but more so as to extend that blessing to all. A peace that continues violence or oppression is not God’s peace, but pretense.
Next Sunday we will hear the second parable about prayer in which the truly prayerful person admits his truth. In today’s Gospel, we hear about God’s truth not being like this nasty judge. God is not a judge, but in the parable is a backdrop to reveal a little more about the person of God. Prayer renders us a little more available to the truth of God’s love and that love is meant to be shared in various human forms including how we promote and live with justice. Prayer can never be selfish or promote greed and isolation. So we, as with the Disciples, wonder how are we going to get through all this to a state of peace. Praying constantly, not just with words, and trusting in the God Who calls out more than we do for peace on this earth. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” He will if we pray for a peace only He can give and if we live more prayerfully His Justice.
“See how the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those who hope in his love, that he may rescue them from death and feed them in time of famine.” Psalms 33
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