29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st  Reading — Exodus 17: 8-13

Amalek incurred God’s wrath for attacking the Israelites when they were faint and weary on their journey out of Egypt. (Just before this passage is the section where God provides food as manna, and drink as water from a rock.)  Amalek had set upon the most vulnerable and weak, the stragglers who were too exhausted to keep up with the rest.  Amalek did not fear (respect) God.  His sin is not unlike that of the corrupt judge who “feared neither God nor humans” who we will hear in the Gospel.

Picture Moses: he is sitting on a rock holding up the staff of God with his tired and aching arms supported by fellow believers. This is not meant to be seen as magic or ritual superstition. It is symbolic of the powerful presence of God in our midst. Remember also, that Joshua, who’s name in Latin is Jesus, is the one who defends the people against the aggressors.  Who supports you in prayer?

*How do you pray?  Do you kneel down?  Clasp your hands?  Bow your head?  Our posture can be a part of our prayer.  Being mindful of our body and what it is saying about our attentiveness to God can make our prayer more holistic.  We should be in a state of openness.  Henri Nouwen says, “Praying demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in the darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.  The resistance to praying is like the resistance of tightly clenched fists…When you are invited to pray, you are asked to open your tightly clenched fists…Each time you dare to let go and surrender one of those many fears, your hand opens a little and your palms spread out in a gesture of receiving.  You must be patient, of course, very patient until your hands are completely open.  It is a long journey of trust…”

2nd Reading:  2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2

Do you have a favorite verse or phrase that you find helpful – hopeful – faith-filled?

This reading reminds us that as long as we are laboring at faith, faith is winning. We just need to stay at the task, living with trust in God’s love and doing as God would have us do —  when it is easy and convenient — and when it is not. (John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

Henri Nouwen says, “Often I have found myself saying:  ‘The Gospel that I read this morning was just what I needed today!’  This was much more than a wonderful coincidence.  What, in fact, was taking place was not that a Gospel text helped me with a concrete problem, but that the many Gospel passages that I had been contemplating were gradually giving me new eyes and new ears to see and hear what was happening in the world.  It wasn’t that the Gospel proved useful for my many worries but that the Gospel proved the uselessness of my worries and so refocused my whole attention.”  Here and Now, p. 127

The Gospel – Luke 18: 1-8

This judge is obviously corrupt – nothing like God.  God throughout the Hebrew Scriptures speaks on behalf of the oppressed and the widowed.  The word ‘widow’ in Hebrew, admanah, means unable to speak, a silent one. Chera, meaning forsaken or empty, was also often applied to a widow. The prophets always challenged the people and leaders to care for the widow and orphan, those without power. See Isaiah 1:23; 10:2; Malachi 3:5; Jeremiah 49:11; Psalm 68:6; James 1:27.  (J. Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

Luke’s gospel is often called the gospel of prayer.  What does prayer have to do with faith?  How do you see prayer as important?  How do you keep from ‘losing heart’ about problems?

More thoughts from John Pilch:

The word that is translated, ‘strike me’ literally meant to “give a black eye.” It was used also to imply a public shaming. In other words this pestering widow puts the ‘fear of the Lord’ back in this awful judge due to her persistence and public pressure! The point of this story is that if a helpless widow can get what is needed from a shameless judge, how much more can we trust that our ever-loving, honor-sensitive God will be with us to help us.

If you are feeling like your prayers are not being heard, don’t give up.  Don’t despair.  Don’t relent to your fears.  It is in the persistence.  “Perseverance in prayer is more than true grit that will never quit; it is trust in a God who will never abandon or ignore those who entrust themselves to the divine power, care and mercy in prayer.  With this assurance, perseverance in prayer without losing heart becomes not only possible but a permanent practice in the life of the believer.”  (Celebration, 10/21/01)

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