29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
"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?" (Lk 18:7,8)
One of the hallmarks of an authentic Christian life is to try and act according to the three great virtues of faith hope and love, part of this will be to deal with others justly and to see justice done where it is necessary and right. We often quote the prophet Micah as a helpful guide on this area of our lives;
" …And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God". (Micah 6:8)
Unfortunately, as we know all too well, justice does not flow like a river in our world, too much injustice stains our politics, the pages of our newspapers, passes us by on our iPods and TV Screens, and we often walk on by, trying hard not to notice the plight of those who suffer! So perhaps our worldview is the slightly cynical one rather like that of the small ditty by Charles Bowen:
"The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella."
That may be funny, until you yourself become the just unjustly treated, when the safety and comfort of the umbrella of life is snatched away. Once that has happened, life is never quite the same, you either learn from the experience or close up. But according to Jesus we haven't really that option! It's small consolation in todays Gospel of Luke that the unjust Judge finally acts 'justly' after the widow has been so persistent, a real nuisance, demanding he act as he ought! We know people who have the energy and capacity to do that, stand up, bang on and on about the injustice they see and drag our often reluctant attention to it. This type of action requires a lot of courage because those who take up the cause of justice are frequently castigated and relegated to the sidelines, especially by those who are called out.
But Jesus isn't simply pointing out the need to act justly, his focus is the faith that the widow shows, in the nobility of those virtues of Truth and Justice leading us into knowledge and love of God, that somehow in the depths of his heart, that judge will find it in himself to live out his commitment to act as a proper wise Judge, that he will rediscover the virtue of faith, belief in something good and greater as it is to be hoped we will!
So what of us? Will the Son of Man find faith when he comes right into our hidden lives, when we like the widow are called to testify to truth in the face of injustice? It is to be hoped so, for our world, our planet, all living creatures and more are in need of God's justice, not human beings ideas of it.
What do we do? Well we take from the unjust the umbrella of righteousness and hold it firmly over those who need our care!
Saint John Henry Newman
"I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared: "Go down again - I dwell among the people."
"Animals have done us no harm and they have no power of resistance. There is something so very dreadful in tormenting those who have never harmed us, who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power."
Thomas Merton: Thoughts in Solitude
"True gratitude and hypocrisy cannot exist together. They are totally incompatible. ... We cannot be satisfied to make a mental note of things, which God has done for us, and then perfunctorily thank him for favours received. ... Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful man knows that God is good, not by hearsay, but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference."
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