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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp

Exodus 17:8-13, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2, Luke 18:1-8

On the Gospel, We Dare to Hope

How many of you have seen this painting of an old burnt-down mountain shack? All that remains is the chimney - the charred debris of what was that family's sole possession. In front of the destroyed home stands an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his dressing-gown with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. The child is crying. Beneath the picture are written the words which the old man is speaking to the boy. They are simple words, yet they represent a profound sense of faith and hope. The words are, "Hush child, God ain't dead!" The man or woman of faith knows that there are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about their situations. Today's gospel presents us with another example, that of a woman of faith, a widow, and urges us never to grow hopeless about any situation in which we find ourselves, no matter how hopeless it may seem.

In ancient Jewish society a woman depended on her husband for sustenance and social status. To lose a husband meant to be poor and defenceless, especially where the widow had no grownup son. That was as close to a hopeless situation as one could ever get. The greatness of the widow in the parable lies in her refusal to accept the oppressive and abusive situation in which she found herself in the pretext that "That's the way things are." Some other less courageous, pious woman would even have told her to submit to the oppression as being God's will. But she knew better. She kept her hope in final justice alive and did everything in her power to right the wrongs inflicted on her by her oppressive neighbours. Finally her dogged determination paid off and she was vindicated. There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about their situations.

Two frogs fell into a deep cream bowl; / The one was wise, and a cheery soul.
The other one took a gloomy view / And bade his friend a sad adieu.
Said the other frog with a merry grin, / "I can't get out, but I won't give in;
I'll swim around till my strength is spent, / Then I will die the more content."
And as he swam, though ever it seemed, / His struggling began to churn the cream
Until on top of pure butter he stopped, / And out of the bowl he quickly hopped.

The early Christians found themselves in such an apparently hopeless predicament. Soon after Jesus left them they found themselves persecuted and oppressed by the Jewish religious hierarchy. What encouraged them to endure the persecution was their belief that the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus was soon to take place. They believed it would coincide with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. But when in AD 70 Jerusalem fell and the Temple was destroyed yet Jesus was nowhere to be seen, the Christians found themselves in a big crisis of faith. Have they hoped in vain? Will the Lord ever come back to reestablish justice, to vindicate the innocent and put their enemies to shame? Should they continue hoping and resisting the injustice of their oppressors or should they just join them since they can't beat them? In other words, the early Christians found themselves in the situation of this widow who, without her husband, her lord, had to wage a campaign of passive resistance against injustice and oppression without knowing when it might come to an end. That is why the parable ends with the words of reassurance and a probing question:

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? (Luke 18:7-8)

The practical implication of the parable for daily Christian living is given, namely that we "ought always to pray and not lose heart" (verse 1). Prayer expresses our hope and nourishes our faith. Let us ask God today to make us strong in our faith, unwavering in our hope, and persistent in our prayer.

On the Epistle, Learners and Teachers

There are two categories of members in the church, the clergy and the laity. Usually we think that it is the role of the clergy to teach, and that of the laity to learn. Many lay people spend their entire lives learning the word of God and never think of teaching or sharing it. Many ordained people spend their lives teaching, forgetting that they too are called to be lifelong learners or students of God's word. In today's second reading from 2 Timothy, we are reminded that, clergy or laity, all of us are called to be learners and teachers of the word of God.

Today's second reading can be divided into three sections: an opening section (2 Timothy 3:14-15) focussing on learning, a closing section (4:1-2) focussing on teaching, and a middle section (3:16-17) focussing on the importance of Scripture. This is a way of saying two things: (a) that Scripture is useful for both learning and teaching the Word of God, and (b) that in order to go from a life of learning to a life of teaching the faith, one needs to go through the Scriptures.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

In the first section we see that learning, like charity, begins at home. Timothy began learning the faith from childhood. His teachers were his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Tim 1:5) and later, the apostle Paul (2 Tim 1:13). The teaching that parents give to children is most important because it is the foundation for life. As the book of Proverbs says, "Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray" (Proverbs 22:6). Secondly, we see that faith learning should be based on the Scriptures, which are "able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." Sometimes parents teach children fables which they abandon as soon as they begin to think for themselves because such fables are not founded on the Word of God. Thirdly, we see that learning and faith go together. Learning is the sure foundation for a strong faith. Timothy had a strong faith because he was well instructed in the faith.

I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. (2 Tim 4:1-2)

This section of the passage dwells on the importance of teaching. We are solemnly urged to proclaim the message at all times, "whether the time is favourable or unfavourable." This reminds us of the saying of St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary." We preach with our lives and lifestyles. Our lives are the only Bibles some of our neighbours will ever read. We preach at all times with our lives; we use words only when necessary. Moreover, we see that proclaiming the message takes different forms depending on the situation. We may aim to convince the doubtful, to rebuke the deceitful, to encourage the weak, and to instruct the ignorance, always with patience.

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Bad teachers tell people what to do without telling them how to do it. Paul is a good teacher. He tells us what to do and how to do it. Having told us how important it is for us as Christians to be learners as well as teachers, he now tells us how to do it: namely, with the help of the Scriptures. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching as well as for learning how to live the godly life. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ, as St. Jerome tells us. Let us take our Christian life to the next level today by resolving to listen to the Word of God and share it with others more than we have ever done.

1 comment:

  1. FR. John Mary K6:31 pm

    always instructional and relevant to situations. thanks for presenting it


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