HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
(WORLD MISSION SUNDAY)
Readings: Exodus17:8-13/2Tim. 3:14-4:2
Gospel: Lk. 18:1-8
The 17th Century British poet and cleric John Dunne penned the phrase “No man is an island.” He wrote this in a time of his life that he was ill and viewed sickness, as most Elizabethans did at the time, as a visit from God to show the persons sins that were kept within. This meditation was composed to show that in order to be connected to God, one must be connected to Man. the meditation begins, “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were.” What Donne was expressing is that no one can do things on our own, even if we “have faith the size of a mustard seed” (Lk. 17:6). It is from the faith that we have inside of us that enables us to seek the help that we need whenever we ask for it.
The writings of John Dunne, while not using them specifically, could have been inspired by the readings that were proclaimed today. In The First Reading from the Book of Exodus, a great battle was waged by the Hebrews and the Amalekites. Moses assured Joshua that as long as his arms were raised toward God, his army would be successful. And during those times they were. But Moses got tired and could not keep his arms raised. Those who were with him found him a rock to sit on, while Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses and held his arms up so that they would be victorious is this battle. In any conflict that we get caught up, we may think that our direct prayer to God is the only thing we need. Yet, as Moses exhibited, even the greatest prophet can get weary from pleading to God, and it is at those moments when we who follow can take the lead so that the leader can see the fruits of his labor.
Since we are not Moses (or Jesus), the needs that we have can take a little more than just a simple raising of the hands; sometimes, it takes us to make a more determined effort. In the Gospel proclaimed today, Jesus talks about a widow in a town who for years pleaded with the local judge to render a verdict in her favor. The judge, on the other hand, did not care for anyone nor was he in fear of God. Yet Jesus points out to all who were listening that the judge decides to render a verdict in her favor just for the simple purpose to get rid of her and shut her up.
In doing my research on this passage, one scholar stated that this can be viewed two ways: one, through the eyes of the judge as was just mentioned as rendering a verdict for his own self-serving purposes. So it is from this view that Jesus asks, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen one’s who call out to him day and night?” The other view is to see the widow as some sort of advocate for the poor and down-trodden who comes to view the judge as their oppressor. She is the only one who will cry out for help. The judge, who is fearful of her and what could happen, will rule in her favor in order to preserve the peace. Both scenarios emphasize the need for us to pray to God for help and to seek others for their help. This becomes the answer to the question that Jesus asks at the end of the passage “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Where faith is found in ourselves and in others, we can display the love of God in our application of that faith. This month we have been hearing from St. Paul’s Second Letter to his disciple Timothy. In this letter and the previous one that we heard last month, the writings present to us a way to demonstrate our devotion to God while in service to each other. Two weeks ago, we were reminded to stir into flame the gift of God; a gift of power, love and self-control and not one of cowardice. (2 Tim.1:6-8, 13-14). Last week, we were told that because of this gift that we shall live with the one who died for us. If we accept him he will accept us. If we deny him, he will deny us. Yet if we are unfaithful to him he will still be faithful to us, “for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13).
This week, we are tasked to remain faithful to all that we have learned, as has Timothy, from the Sacred Scriptures. “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.” At the time of this writing, there were many people teaching incorrect lessons of being God’s follower. Rather than follow their example, Paul tells Timothy (and us) to remember those instructions in the Scriptures that began when we were young; given to us by our parents and from those with whom our parents entrusted to help them in their instruction of the faith. This becomes a lesson that even those who are entrusted with actual power are aided with those who have wisdom; for if we wield power without having wisdom, then we have been given neither power nor wisdom.
It is this sentiment that Pope Francis expressed in his message regarding World Mission Sunday. He said, “In many places evangelization begins with education, to which missionary work dedicates much time and effort…in this way they bring forth a new people able to evangelize, who will take the Gospel to those places where it otherwise would not have been thought possible…All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God’s gift to every person. This is all the more necessary when we consider how many injustices, wars, and humanitarian crises need resolution. Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice and peace.”  Whenever we have times of pain and doubt, someone has been there to help us get back on our feet. Now it is our time to return the favor. These missions bring the Gospel to those parts that this mere action we are doing here today is rarely seen and heard due to availability or even under threat of violence. The mission of the Church is to bring the Good News to all who have a need and desire to hear it. Since God is everywhere, then it is everywhere that His voice should be heard.
When I was in college, our choir regularly performed a version of the Psalm proclaimed today. “I lift up mine eyes to the hills; from whence shall come all my help? My help it comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth.” At the time, it was just a poetic song stating how God will be there when we ask for Him help. But now, as I have gotten older, it means a bit more. When we are young and leave school to go to college, we tend to believe that we know everything that we need to know to be a success in whatever we wanted to study. More often than not, we find out that we are nowhere near where we thought we would be. Then four years pass by, and once more we leave college for a new version of school: The real world.
When we get our first job, we think we know everything and can handle whatever comes our way. Then again, we find out that we are still behind the rest of the world in being a success in this “living classroom.” Many of us figure it out what we need to do to make it in this world, but the biggest lesson is that we cannot do it alone. We need those things that were given to us in the past in order to help us in the present so that we know what to expect in the future. We hear those phrases, like “Everything old is new again” and “Those who fail to study History are doomed to repeat it” are not just warnings or prophecies. They are pieces of advice given to us through the Holy Spirit so that we can find the help we need in our times of crisis. Anytime we neglect or ignore someone who offers us help, then that is just as bad as that person had died, and we have lost the chance to be better people to have them in our lives. To quote John Donne “Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
Questions for Reflection:
- Have you ever felt like you were an island? Did someone come and rescue you?
- Jesus asked if the Son of Man will find faith on earth. What would your answer be?
- What was the biggest lesson that you learned once you finished school? How often do you still learn it?
 Keegan, Terence J.,O.P. The Second letter to Timothy in “The New Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament (Daniel Durken, ed.): Collegeville, MN (Liturgical Press), 2009. pp. 708-709.