HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: Certainty of divine action.
BY: Fr. Jude Nnadi.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY OCTOBER 16 2022
Readings: Exodus 17, 8-13; 2 Timothy 3,14-4, 2; Luke 18: 1-8
“There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary. For a long time, the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it I true that I neither fear God nor respected any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me, I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? will he be slow to answer them? I tell you; he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18).
Sisters and brothers, the figure of Moses praying, with his hands raised towards heaven, forms a background to the liturgy of the Word which has at its center a parable of Jesus that only Luke preserved for us. While Israel confronts Amalek at Rephidim plain, Moses is almost the personification of all the people of God in prayer. Without this prayerful vigil, one entrusts in vain to human commitments and strengths. This idea is beautifully expressed in Psalm 127: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” The efficacy and constancy of prayer in times of waiting thematically supports the story of the judge and the widow.
These two characters in the end became two emblematic figures. On the one hand there is the judge, an individual without faith (he did not fear God) and without charity (he had no regard for anyone). In him we see a fuller representation of the arrogance of power that persists throughout history, clearly denounced by prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who make iniquitous decrees and hastily write oppressive sentences, to deny justice to the oppressed and to defraud the poor of my people of the law, to make widows their prey and to strip the orphans” (10,1-2).
On the other, is the widow who, especially in the past, was a woman most exposed to abuse, so much so that God himself is invoked in the Old Testament as the “defender of widows”, women deprived of the protection of their husbands (Ps 68, 6). But the widow in our parable today has a characteristic very decisive. Yes, a victim, but she never resigned to despair. Her courage was never shaken, and she continued to claim her right that was violated before an arrogant and in-different judge. Her tireless perseverance was stronger even in the face of closed doors, refusals, angry reactions. Nothing could stop her, she kept demanding: “Render me justice!”
The end is the turning point. The sinful judge realizes that nothing can quench her insistence and desire for justice and in order that she does not continually come to bother him decides to grant her the favor. At this point it is necessary to draw the strings from these two figures that dominate the parable.
The first lesson is naturally easy and relates to the figure of the woman. It is her constancy in supplication, in hope, in waiting. In her we see all the citizens of the Kingdom of God, that is, the poor, the afflicted, the famished, the persecuted of the Beatitudes, those whose only trust is in God and God alone. And therefore, their prayer is relentless because it is fueled by hope and trust. Another lesson: if a character as cynical as that judge ends up bowing to the pleas of a poor widow, how much more ready is the Lord, who is a just judge, answer the prayers of his suffering people.
This parable therefore responds to the worries of the faithful to whom it seems that God is apparently distant and indifferent to their situations and struggles in life. Prayerful vigilance and trusting perseverance bring about certainty of divine action. Indeed, God will not make his faithful wait so long but will appear to do them justice at an appointed time. This story from a “lesson” on perseverance in prayer is transformed into a message destined to nourish the hope of the just. Jesus continues appealing to us who listen to him today, “whoever perseveres till the end will be saved” (Mt 24: 12-13).