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For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 18 October 2013

29th Sunday of the Year 2013

29th. Sunday of Year (C)

(Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2; Luke 18:1-8)

On looking at our three readings for today’s celebration the most striking passage for me is also the last, those mysterious words of Our Blessed Lord which, enigmatic as they are, can serve as the key to interpret all the rest:

            When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Faith, that is, in Himself, the Son of God made man for our salvation: The Son of God Who, through the Immaculate Virgin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, willed to assume our flesh so that, as Son of Man, He might be able to take upon Himself the burden -- but not the guilt -- of our sins, making an atonement in which He would suffer and die on the Cross of Calvary before, on the third day, rising from the dead in bodily glory and ascending back to His Father in heaven for our salvation.

Jesus was surrounded by questioning voices on the occasion of our Gospel reading:

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” (17:20-21)

The disciples said to Him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”  (17:37)

‘When?’, ‘where?’, also, no doubt, ‘how?’  How often was Our Lord tormented by a multitude of inquisitive and distracted observers, sardonic and critical opponents, as well as some few humble seekers, trusting followers, possibly committed disciples!  Now, somewhat wearied, Jesus simply says, almost sotto voce to Himself:

            When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Let us now look at our readings to find out what help they can give us to appreciate, protect, and hopefully develop our faith in Jesus, our abiding Glory and sure Shield, on Whom are fixed all our hopes and aspirations, in Whom our complete trust and confidence rest secure.

In our first reading we heard that:

Moses, 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.”

The battle was long and hard, going now this way and next the other; and since Moses was old he became seriously tired, whereupon:

They put a rock in place for Moses to sit on, while Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

Looking at Moses we can see prayer losing its ease and probably some of its fervour, but, what we most certainly need to clearly recognize in Moses and re-discover for ourselves today, is his unflinching and unyielding appreciation of the absolute necessity and ultimate efficacy of the prayer to which he was committed.  At this crucial juncture Moses’ prayer was, indeed, far from easy, time was dragging on and pressing down hard upon him, but it was, as Moses could see, saving prayer.   Looking on the battle raging below him between the children of Israel under Joshua and the pagan tribe of Amalek he was forced to forget himself, to humble himself, and to trust God through ‘thick and thin’, as the prospect of victory switched again and again from one side to the other, from the marauding, pagan, nomads of the southern desert land to God’s ‘chosen people’ under Joshua. 

            When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Yes -- Mother Church who has juxtaposed today’s readings assures us -- Jesus will find the faith He expects in all who will to pray like Moses, in all who are earnestly looking for, and are seriously willing to suffer for, the well-being of God’s People and the advancement of God’s purposes and glory, rather than supinely allow themselves to become alarmed at, or be dissuaded by, the opposition of others or the personal experience of difficulty or distress.

This understanding  is confirmed when we recall that St. Luke explicitly tells us, Jesus told His parable in today’s Gospel so that:

Men always ought to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1 NKJV)

Was it because of the danger of such weariness overwhelming some – many? – of His disciples, then, now, and in the future, that Jesus went on to say:

            When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Our Blessed Lord, therefore, told the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow to encourage ‘men’ to pray, and to strengthen them for perseverance; and yet, immediately, so that it seems almost to be part of the parable, He says aloud, or ‘sotto voce’:

            When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

It would seem quite certain that Jesus was acutely aware of the threat to mankind’s redemption and salvation posed by worldly dissipation and distraction, self-love and faint-heartedness.

Our first two scriptural readings today certainly fit in with such an interpretation; for faith in Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man, conqueror of Death and Lord of Life, our Saviour, totally true, loving, and sure, proclaims and demands that despite whatever may threaten us from within our own selves or from without, we can never be forced, nor should ever allow ourselves, to yield to weariness or despair.

Let us now turn our attention to the second reading from Paul’s pastoral letter  to Timothy his protégé:

            Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed!

Those words can be regarded as another example of St. Paul’s remarkable fidelity, not only to Our Lord’s Gospel teaching but also to His Personal pre-occupations and desires.

Let us find out how Paul would back-up the teaching and encouragement of Jesus’ parable.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, proclaim the word; (because) all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  (Be) persistent, whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand (and) encourage, through all patience and teaching.

‘Proclaim the Word’, that is, proclaim Jesus as the Christ of God in accordance with the Scriptures.  Too many ‘supporters’ of Jesus and even some, always too many, priests think that they have to make Jesus popular; and they aspire to do this ‘good’ by tampering with -- watering down – aspects of Gospel teaching labelled extreme, and the so-called inhuman rigidity and ‘objectivity’ of Catholic doctrine; and/or by trying to make themselves (especially priests, so closely aligned with Jesus) popular, in the hope that their personal popularity might brush off, so to speak, on Jesus.  Paul, however, had no sympathy with popularity polls of whatever sort, for he insists that Christ be authentically preached and proclaimed:

            persistently, whether it is convenient or inconvenient;

neither does he shrink from risking popular abuse and personal vilification by insisting that Timothy:

            convince (and) reprimand (as well as) encourage, 

in order to teach patiently, which means inevitably, perseveringly.

How many priests today are intimidated by the fear of appearing to teach!  Children, O.K., but teach adults who may like to think they already know!!

Yes, I repeat, Mother Church -- who has juxtaposed today’s readings -- assures us that Jesus will find the faith He expects in all those who, in accordance with Paul’s advice to his beloved Timothy treasure what has been handed down to them in Mother Church, will proclaim what they themselves have experienced, learned, and come to know in accordance with the Scriptures of Mother Church solely for love of Jesus and the ‘gospel-good’ of those who will hear them, without fear for themselves or pandering to popular opinion.  But always and in all things, with Christian patience and sincere humility.  

There is still one further aspect of Jesus’ final words (or thoughts) in our Gospel passage: namely that Jesus does not seem to expect what commonly concerns most Catholics, namely a desire for the Faith’s popularity.  The proclamation of the Gospel, love for others, does not require, does not even directly involve, personal popularity, but rather a concern for integrity and humility: integrity -- at the personal, institutional, and doctrinal levels -- in our proclamation, preaching and presentation of Jesus; humility in our response to and relations with those we personally  serve or encounter.

The implications of popularity are widespread and often they are most harmful to Mother Church, of which we have a quite recent and baleful manifestation.   We have a splendid Pope in Francis and a splendid pope-emeritus in Benedict, Francis a blessing from God because of the evangelical simplicity of his following of Jesus, and Benedict because of His inspiringly beautiful writings on the teaching and Person of Jesus.   Why do some people think that to praise Francis they must in some way denigrate Benedict??    

Dear People of God, let us endeavour to give thanks to God with wholehearted simplicity for His unfailing goodness and beauty, especially as we have just been allowed to appreciate something of the wondrous wisdom He has bestowed on Mother Church as has been evidenced for us in her choice of texts made to accompany the Gospel for our celebration today.