Readings & Homily – Sunday 16th October 2022

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Sunday, 16 October 2022
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Readings on p. 1375 and Antiphons on p. 1371 of the Daily Missal and p. 984 of the Sunday Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.

To you I call; for you will surely heed me, O God; turn your ear to me; hear my words. Guard me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

First Reading: Exodus 17:8-13

A reading from the Book of Exodus.

In those days:
Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.
And Moses said to Joshua,
“Choose for us men, and go out, fight with Amalek;
tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill
with the rod of God in my hand.”
So Joshua did as Moses told him,
and fought with Amalek;
and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed;
and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.
But Moses’ hands grew weary;
so they took a stone and put it under him,
and he sat upon it,
and Aaron and Hur held up his hands,
one on one side, and the other on the other side;
so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people
with the edge of the sword.

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 (R. see 2)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm

R/. Our help comes from the Lord,
         who made heaven and earth.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
from where shall come my help?
My help shall come from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will keep your foot from stumbling.
Your guard will never slumber.
No, he sleeps not nor slumbers,
Israel’s guard.

The Lord your guard, the Lord your shade
at your right hand.
By day the sun shall not smite you,
nor the moon in the night.

The Lord will guard you from evil;
he will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going and coming,
both now and forever.

R/. Our help comes from the Lord,
         who made heaven and earth.

Second Reading: 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2

A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy.

Brothers and sisters:

Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed,
knowing from whom you learned it
and how from childhood
you have been acquainted with the Sacred Writings
which are able to instruct you for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus
who is to judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingdom:
preach the word,
be urgent in season and out of season,
convince, rebuke, and exhort,
be unfailing in patience and in teaching.

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia, Alleluia.
The word of God is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Luke 18:1-8

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.

At that time:
Jesus told his disciples a parable,
to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge
who neither feared God nor regarded man;
and there was a widow in that city
who kept coming to him and saying,
‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’
For a while he refused;
but afterwards, he said to himself,
‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man,
yet because this widow bothers me,
I will vindicate her,
or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’”

And the Lord said,
“Hear what the unrighteous judge says.
And will not God vindicate his elect,
who cry to him day and night?
Will he delay long over them?
I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily.
Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes,
will he find faith on earth?”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Communion Antiphon.

Behold, the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, who hope in his merciful love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.

Homily

There is an old story about a tailor who visits his rabbi and says, “I have a problem with my prayers.

  • If someone comes to me and says, ‘Mendel, you’re a wonderful tailor,’ that makes me feel good.
  • I feel appreciated.
  • I can go on feeling good for a whole week, even longer, on the strength of one compliment like that.
  • But if people came to me every day, one after another, hour after hour, and kept saying to me ‘Mendel, you’re a wonderful tailor,’ over and over again, it would drive me crazy.
  • This is what bothers me about prayer.
  • Is God so insecure that He needs us praising him every day?
  • Three times a day, morning, noon, and night?
  • It seems to me it would drive Him crazy.” —-
  • The rabbi smiled and said, “Mendel, you’re absolutely right.
    • You have no idea how hard it is for God to listen to all of our praises, hour after hour, day after day.
    • But God knows how important it is for us to utter that praise, so in His great love for us, He tolerates all of our prayers.”
    • This story is from Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book, Who Needs God?

I mention it because both the first reading and the gospel today touch on prayer and how we relate to God.

The Israelites are at war with the Amalekites. It is such a familiar situation – 2 groups of people at war with each other.

Moses, holding the rod of God, goes up to a hilltop and raises his hands in a gesture of need and openness to God.

  • As long as he persists in prayer, Israel is winning,
    • Then Moses gets tired and lowers his arms.
    • When that happens, the Amalekites get the upper hand in the battle.
  • It is a comical scene to imagine Aaron and Hur supporting the raised arms of Moses.
  •  They even move a rock up for Moses to sit on!
  • Of course, Israel went the distance and defeated the Amalekites.

It is a biblical war story so, of course, we want Israel to win.

  • Yet, those of us who have opposed wars these last decades squirm as we cheer on one nation against another.
  • But it is a biblical tale, so we will draw out its possible meaning for us at this time.

Our Jewish ancestors saw little difficulty in the story and saw it as an example of faithfulness to the God of the Israelites and the power of prayer.

  • Early Christian writers agreed with this interpretation.
  • They saw the story as an allegory.
  • These days we need a reminder of what allegory means in terms of the interpretation of Scripture.
  • Since the Apostolic times, the Church has distinguished between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual.
    • The spiritual sense is subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses.”
    • The allegorical sense refers to how any given story in the Bible can be understood in a more profound way by recognizing its “significance in Christ.”  
  • Early Christian writers would see Moses’ raised arms in prayer as manifesting the power of God over human evil and aggression.
  • Thus God’s saving the Israelites,
    •  was a foreshadowing of what God would do to save sinners in Jesus.
  • Some also saw Moses’ raised hands as a foreshadowing of the cross and Jesus’ victory over evil.

Moses standing with arms raised can also be applied to the Christian life.

  • Human beings sometimes have to struggle against evil,
    • but God responds to our prayers with the help we need to overcome the powerful forces against us.
  • Today the Holy Spirit, like Aaron and Hur, helps us keep up our prayer over the long struggle to be faithful.

I have taken time to reflect on the deeper spiritual sense of Scripture because it is important that we don’t just stay with the literal sense of Scripture.

  • A fundamentalist, who only reads the literal sense of Scripture,
    • could read this passage, and then say, God is my side and I can go wage a holy war or go and shoot people because they are foreign like the Amalekites.
  • Exodus 17:8-13, the first reading today, does not pertain to, or encourage a “holy war,” believing God is on our side.
  • Praying for victory will not overcome our enemies just because we persevere in prayer.
  • Rather, in light of what Jesus has taught, we are to love and we are to heed Jesus’ call for his followers to be peacemakers.
  • That is a “holy cause” we need God’s help to win and so we keep our hands constantly raised in prayer.

(2nd reading……)

Some parables have allegorical elements; but parables are not allegories.

  • For the most part the characters and objects in parables do not symbolize, or represent other persons and things in our lives.
  • If parables were allegories, they often would communicate a message contrary to the very core of the gospel.

Today in the gospel we heard the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow.

  • So, for example, what would happen if we allegorized today’s parable about the unjust judge?
  • If we made the judge a figure for God – because we often refer to God as judge of the world – then, we get an image of God as a hardened judge who will yield to us only if we “pray always without becoming weary.”
  • We see how this is a wrong interpretation.
  • Jesus is not telling us an allegory and encouraging us to wear a reluctant God down by our persistent and annoying prayer.

The gospel reading reflects how the rabbis taught.

  • The parable moves from the lesser to the greater.
  • This is one of those “how-much-more parables.”
  • It starts with a human example, like the parent we heard about a few weeks ago who would give bread to a hungry child (Luke 11: 5-13), and the parable says, in effect: “That is just what any good parent would do so, how much more will God…..”
  • Today’s example is similar.
  • Jesus is saying: if an unjust judge would finally relent to constant pleading, how much more will God be inclined towards us – God, who is so much better than an unjust judge.
  • God will render justice for those who pray for it and sustain us in our struggles to achieve it.

The parable encourages trust enough in God that we keep persevering in our prayer, despite a feeling of not being heard and not getting an immediate response.

  • Prayer doesn’t automatically take care of all our problems and make them disappear.
  • Rather, prayer helps us stay faithful, trusting that God is a parent who knows how to give good things to those who ask.

So, the parable of the unjust judge is not only about prayer.  

  • It is about people getting the justice they are due
    • and it is prayer that sustains a person in their quest for justice.
  • It is also about Jesus’ naming what disciples ought to be doing –
    • seeking justice for those in need and when it is hard to obtain,
    • keeping praying so as not to lose heart in the struggle

From today’s Gospel reading:

The Lord said, “Will not God then
secure the rights of God’s chosen ones
who call out to God day and night?”

Reflection:

The judge in today’s parable cannot be taken as representing God, for he “neither feared God nor respected any human being.” But, can we see in the widow an image of our God?

She is a persistent voice for justice for the poor and those without voice in our society. Like our God, she will not stop her cry for justice until it is given.

So, we ask ourselves:

  • What touched me in the readings today?
  • What voice speaks a persistent message for justice in our parish? In our church? In our world?
  • How do those voices affect your choices and actions?

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2nd reading:

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.”

This verse is often quoted to show the supreme authority of Scripture. When read in context, however, the verse only demonstrated the function of Scripture in the community. It was useful to spread the Good News.

When 2 Timothy was written, the Christian message was proclaimed on street corners and marketplaces. The evangelist was frequently faced with a hostile audience (especially from Christian competitors, Jewish synagogues). Many times, the scene turned into a battle of apologetics. Knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures was necessary to defend the Christian position and to advance its cogency among Jews and their sympathizers.

And, obviously, knowledge of the Bible was also useful in the instruction of the neophytes (new converts).

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