Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan for October 20, 2013

• Exodus 17: 8–13 •   2 Timothy  • Luke 18: 1-8 • 29 Ordinary C’13 •

Scripture Readings: Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Print PDF: Weekly Homily 10.20.2013

jim hoganMany of us remember the popular “Billy Graham Crusades.”  Those crusades were symbolic of a movement that eventually blossomed into mega-churches and the political movement known as “the religious right.”  As some churches experienced optimism, growth and wealth, they adopted the principles and structures of 20th century corporations. Then the attack of “911” drew our nation into a war against terrorism.  Many churches endorsed that misadventure.  The Crystal Cathedral went bankrupt.  The Willow Creek Community Church stagnated.  Rome seemed intent on restoring clericalism in our household of faith.  The sex abuse scandal exploded. Today there is widespread frustration and discontent among members of all denominations.

Against that background I have been reading “A Secular Age.”  In this book, the philosopher Charles Taylor analyzes why increasing numbers in the North Atlantic world no longer seem cognizant of or connected to some notion of ultimate reality.  He notes the absence in contemporary politics, business and education of any meaningful engagement with that Gracious Mystery we name “God,” other then a few moments of ritual or prayer.

A few centuries ago “God” was present at all levels of society.  Religion was everywhere and interwoven with every sphere of life.  People lived with an awareness of divine presence.

Taylor makes the point that “belief in God” is not quite the same today as it was 500 years ago. Then it was virtually impossible not to believe in God.  Today, it is relatively easy to live without reference to God.  It is common for many to do so.  He concludes that we live in a secular age.

Now please consider the parable of “the widow” and “the unscrupulous judge.” This parable commonly is understood as encouragement to pray.  My intent in this homily is to suggest an alternative and perhaps a more significant meaning.  I think we can do so by considering the symbolic possibilities in the two characters of the parable.

I think of “the unscrupulous judge” as symbolic of the dominant culture in which we live. Dominant cultures typically oppress and exploit people.  Then I think of “the widow” as symbolic of any and all who are oppressed, exploited and suffer injustice.

I hear this parable challenging us to hear and respond to the cry of all who are oppressed, exploited and suffer injustice.  Responding to their cry means standing up with them and working for change in the social, political and economic systems of the dominant culture.

If that makes sense to you, then let’s now direct our attention to the rhetorical question Luke attributes to Jesus at the conclusion of this pericope. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Initially the question seems strange, but you know what?  That question is existentially relevant for all of us who live in a secular age when it is relatively easy to live without reference to God.

Apparently for Luke faith is expressed by solidarity with those on the margins.

Luke’s Jesus was a man of faith.  He was deeply aware of the meaning and purpose of his life because he was cognizant of and consciously connected with that Gracious Mystery we name God.

 “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” For Jesus of Nazareth, as for all of us, faith is always a work in progress.  We are called to imitate the one we name Christ!  To do so means delving deeply into the meaning and purpose of your lived experience. Even in a secular age such as our own, God is present in and among us.  When we allow ourselves to be empowered by that divine presence, we will stand with all those symbolized by ”the widow.”  When that happens, it is, and will be clear that — “yes,” there are people of faith!

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