Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Twenty Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Oct 20, 2019 Views 13 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Exodus (17:8-13)

In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel. Moses, therefore, said to Joshua, "Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand."

So Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses' hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on.

Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8)


(R) Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; whence shall help come to me? My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (R)

May he not suffer your foot to slip; may he slumber not who guards you: indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps, the guardian of Israel. (R)

The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your shade; he is beside you at your right hand. The sun shall not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. (R)

The Lord will guard you from all evil; he will guard your life. The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy (3:14-4:2)

Beloved: Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (18:1-8)

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, "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, "Reader a just decision for me against my adversary." For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, "While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect 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?"

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

Once a parishioner asked his priest why the loud and vehement praying of his earlier days has given way to a more quiet and persuasive manner of speech. The priest laughed and said, "Well, when I was young, I thought it was thunder that killed people, but when I grew up, I discovered, it was lightning. So, I resolved that in the future I would thunder less and lighten more."

The Bible tells us that God is aware of all prayers directed to Him, spoken and unspoken. He knows a person's thoughts just as easily as He hears the person's words. He sees, hears and knows everything that happens in a person's life. No thought, word and deed of a person is hidden from Him. All four gospels note that, many times, Jesus knew their thoughts, Matthew (9:4; 12:23), Mark (2:8; 8:17), Luke (6:8; 9:47), John (2:25). So, whether we are praying out aloud or silently in our hearts and minds, the most important thing about praying is by far the persistence in doing it. Unfortunately, many believers give up praying whenever the answer does not come in however they want it to be. When they don't see immediate answers to their prayers, they feel so frustrated, discouraged and disappointed with God, eventually thinking that it is useless to pray. But today's gospel challenges such notions, Luke (18:1-8).

Today's gospel reading contains a parable that Jesus told his disciples in order to illustrate their need for persistence in prayer and to encourage perseverance in their faith against all odds. Now, to understand the parable, we need look at the social condition of women and the judicial system that prevailed in the Jewish Palestinian society in Jesus' day.

First, what was the social condition in the first century? While most of Judaism applies equally to men and women and despite the multiple examples of women performing significant leadership roles in the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Writings in the time of Jesus, the women were often viewed at the time as inferior to men. They were considered as mere property - first of her father, then of her husband, and then of her son when she was widowed. They were excluded from public religious life and rarely taught the Torah, even in private. They could not inherit property and were among the poorest in society. They could not take a case to court because they were considered liars or unreliable witnesses. They were normally restricted to roles of little authority.

As for the widow in today's parable, we do not know the nature of her problem and yet, we can sense that, on the one hand, her grievance was such that it weighed heavily upon her heart and, on the other hand, she had several things working against her:

  • Being a woman, she ranked low in the social ladder and she could not testify in courts.
  • She was a widow and so, she had no husband or man to speak for her or protect her.
  • As a widow, she belonged to one of the most vulnerable segments of society which was greatly oppressed and often taken advantage of.
  • Being a widow was synonymous with being poor and so, she had no money with which to bribe the judge.
  • She made a nuisance of herself. By repeatedly approaching the judge or by popping up wherever the judge went, she probably made him more adamant in his behaviour.
  • She was desperate. Because of her social and economic status, she had no other solution but press for the judge's favour to grant her justice.

Secondly, in those days, judges travelled around and conducted hearings in makeshift tents. They set their own agendas, and sat regally in the tents, surrounded by their assistants. Most of the cases were public proceedings, so anybody could view them but only those cases, which were approved and accepted, could be taken up for a hearing. That meant the only way to have one's case heard, let alone speedily, was to bribe the judges or one of their assistants.

As far as the judge in today's parable is concerned:

  • He was someone who did not fear God or respect people. In fact, he seems rather proud of it. He spoke openly about how he did not fear God or care about people.
  • He was callous. As a judge, he was expected to be fair and impartial. He was not to be intimated or influenced by others but rather obliged to render justice. Although aware that the widow had a case to make, he did not do what was right for her. He simply turned a deaf ear to her pleas for help.
  • He was condescending. Nonetheless unconcerned to execute justice for the widow, he finally gave in to her demand because he did not want to be worn out by her persistence. He acted not out of a concern to do what was right but rather out of a desire to have some peace.

After telling the parable Jesus encouraged his disciples to pay attention to what the dishonest judge said and then rhetorically asked, "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?", Luke (18:6-7). In other words, Jesus pointed out to the disciples that if a godless, unjust judge actually executed justice on behalf of a widow, God, who is enthroned on justice, will delight in His chosen ones who pray to him night and day. He will not put off attending to His people who cry out to Him day and night. He will answer them speedily.

Jesus finished the parable by asking another rhetorical question, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?", Luke (18:8). That is, when the Lord Jesus returns, will He still find faith on earth?

What is the message for us?

  • There are times when we too, very much like the widow in this parable, face problems, affliction, suffering and hardship of any kind - physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. At times, we might also feel helpless in the face of great injustices. During those times, we bring our requests to God in prayer maybe once, perhaps twice, thrice or even a dozen times. If ever God delays in answering our prayers, we then get discouraged, tired, frustrated, irritated and even angry at God. Instead of persisting, we give up on prayer altogether, because we think that praying is useless. But knowing our human tendency to lose heart, the Lord Jesus encourages us to persevere, not only in prayer but in everything we are called to do. He wants us to cast all of our cares and burdens upon Him. Even more so, He wants us to leave them there with Him, in confidence that He will take care of them.

    So, when we are burdened with worries, fears, cares and trials, let us persist, just as this widow did, in pleading for justice and mercy from God. Let us keep praying despite all the obstacles we face and despite all the signs that show we should just give up. Even when we do not get an immediate answer, let us keep asking and keep believing because God hears our cry for help. He listens to our petitions and begins the process of working them out speedily. Eventually, unlike this unjust judge, God honours our persistence and bring us deliverance in His time.

  • As for our answer to Jesus' question, whether He will find faith on earth when He returns actually depends on you and me. By the grace of God, the seed of faith has been sown and is growing, regardless of a seemingly hostile environment. Jesus promises that even the gates of hell will not overcome His Church, Matthew (16:18). In other words, the Church will endure until the end of time, even in the face of persecutions. So, as Christian believers, we can only hold on unwaveringly to the hope that faith will still be found in the world when the Lord returns in accordance with His promise.
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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