HOMILY FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C.
THEME: PRAYER THAT OVERCOMES INJUSTICE.
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY OCTOBER 16 29
1. A Serious Joke. Inside a prison in Russia, two victims of oppression were comparing notes. “What did they arrest you for?” asks the first. “I protested against Putin’s unjust and fratricidal war in Ukraine”, said the second. “And what about you?”. “I didn’t protest. I am a plumber, and I was doing my work. One sewage pipe inside the Kremlin got broken. They called me to make estimates for fixing it. I looked and said, ‘Hey, the entire system needs to be replaced.’ So they gave me seven years imprisonment, claiming I was calling for regime change.” Brothers and sisters, today’s 1st reading (Ex 17:8-13) starts with a chilling reminder of organized injustice, of man’s inhumanity to man: “In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.” This was an unprovoked and unjust aggression. Historians call it the “Battle of Rephidim”. It occurred after the Israelites were miraculously liberated from slavery in Egypt, on their way to the Promised Land. It reminds us of all the ongoing aggression and injustice in the world today. Of course, the case of Ukraine stands out, since the unjust aggressor in this case is the largest country in the world in terms of land mass. Yes, Russia covers 11% of the world’s landmass, almost twice the size of the US and yet is spilling blood to grab more land. This epitomizes the foolishness of greed, the foolishness of selfishness, that underlines man’s inhumanity to fellow human beings. How should we as Christians respond?
2. Praying until victory. Today’s Scripture readings teach us to respond to such injustice, with prayer and action for justice and peace. Yes, while Moses was praying, Joshua and others were defending the Israelites. While Moses was praying, Aaron and Hur supported his hands, raised up in prayer. This is how prayer overcomes injustice. While some are praying, some are working. Notice that the prayer continued until victory was won. And our Lord gives this message in today’s Gospel reading (Lk 18:1-8): “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” As usual, our Lord’s parable cannot be improved upon. The widow represents all the victims of injustice in this world. Like a preborn baby in the womb, this widow is the symbol of helplessness, in the face of life’s vicissitudes including wickedness, natural disasters, sicknesses and other misfortunes. But she did something. She was seeking justice persistently even from an unjust judge who neither feared God nor respected any human being. In other words, she was seeking justice against all odds. Her perseverance is the lesson here. For some people in that situation, one would say that she had zero chance of succeeding. Are you in a zero chance situation? Do not be discouraged. Learn from this widow. She persevered in asking and the unjust judge yielded, not out of fear of God, not out of respect for human dignity, but just to save his skin. The lesson is lucid: “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?”
3. Praying after victory. Sisters and brothers, our persistent prayers for justice and peace are being answered and will continue to be answered. Yes, “…men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons — but they are helpless against our prayers.” Sidlow Baxter. St Augustine stated it succinctly, “Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.” And today’s 2nd reading (2 Tm 3:14-4:2) presents Scripture as the reliable source of our work ethic: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness….” Yes, “Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again…” Thus, guided by the Word of God, we’ll have to continue praying and working for justice and peace till Christ returns or till Christ calls us. Actually, this means going from victory to victory.
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