October 14, 2016

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe 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.

They encountered many problems along their route across the sterile and unforgiving Sinai Peninsula. 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 them. He and his army 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 arms, 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 power, but often it unfolds through human instruments.

For its second reading on this weekend, the Church again turns to St. Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy. Its message is that Timothy, converted to Christianity, a disciple of Paul and ordained a bishop himself, 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. They had no means of support, unless perhaps their children helped them. The Hebrew tradition required special attention to the needs of the poor and the weak.

The woman was obviously at risk, and probably poor. Sacred tradition required the judge to consider her case promptly and to rule justly.

He indeed ruled, but only after her repeated demands.

By contrast, no one needs to hound God. He is the source of justice and mercy. He will “speedily” act with justice and compassion.

God is true and constant, quick to see our needs.

We are not all judges, but each of us is bound by God’s law, even though we at times give in to temptation and fail to follow it.

Reflection

Perhaps the greatest wound that original sin afflicted on human nature was crippling us so that we think that we are much more in command of situations surrounding us than we actually are.

At best, this sense leaves us with a foolhardy assumption that we do not need God. It tricks us into thinking that the only realities that exist 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.

So we must cope with bad circumstances, as the widow before the judge coped, as the Hebrews coped with Amalek.

The lesson of these readings is that God will guide us and protect us. He sent Moses, Paul and Timothy to guide and protect, but we must acknowledge God as we make decisions. We must be true disciples, always true to God.

Every disciple should be God’s instrument on Earth. †

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