By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - on the Gospel
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We Dare to Hope

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

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.

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