A Reflection on the Readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
First Reading: Ex 17:8-13
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Second Reading: 2 Tm 3:14-4:2
Alleluia: Heb 4:12
Gospel: Lk 18:1-8
In our first reading today, the name “Amalek” could refer to an individual, the leader of the people who attacked Israel. But it probably should be understood as the people themselves; in other words: The Amalekites. And the Amalekites were believed to be the descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau, the brother of Jacob. If you remember Genesis 25, Jacob and Esau were twins born to Isaac, the son of Abraham. There was enmity between Jacob and Esau because Jacob, through deception, took away Esau’s birthright as the eldest son and received their father’s final blessing, receiving a double portion of the inheritance. In Genesis 27, Isaac said that Esau would serve his younger brother Jacob and that he would live by the sword.
Fast forward to the time of Moses, and we have the Amalekite people, who were believed to be the descendants of Esau’s grandson and were considered to be the original inhabitants of Palestine, an aboriginal people. And we are led to believe that the enmity between Jacob and Esau continued into the Exodus as the Amalekites were the first people to mount an unprovoked attack on Israel during the Exodus. Consequently, Judaism considered the Amalekites to be the archetypical enemy of Israel and believed that God condemned them to extinction. (As a side note, some late 19th and early 20th century Rabbis, even before World War II, considered the Germans to be the descendants of the Amalekites. The rise of Nazism may give a little credence to that belief).
The Book of Exodus was written several hundred years after the events described in that book. At the time of the Exodus (probably 13th century B.C.), the people who participated in the Exodus were a loose confederation of Hebrews and non-Hebrews (see Ex 12:38) and were not yet a nation with well-formed laws and religious practices. They were a people on a pilgrimage from slavery to freedom. But, because of their deliverance from Egypt, they believed themselves to be the chosen people of God and that God would always protect them, make them prosperous, and deliver them from their enemies. That God would justify Israel before all the other nations.
The depiction of Moses in our first reading with his arms raised should be understood as Israel’s prayerful appeal to God for justice for the chosen people through victory over the archenemy. So if we accept the Judaic belief that the Amalekites are the archetypical enemy of Israel, then the message of this first reading is Divine Justice for the Israelite people – deliverance from bondage in Egypt and deliverance from their enemy, the Amalekites. But the message isn’t only for the Israelites. If we apply the concept of divine justice to ourselves in the 21st century, then we should see ourselves, and all faithful people, as the chosen people of God and should prayerfully appeal to God to keep us steadfast in our faith and protect us from our archenemy the devil, that we may receive divine justice on the Day of Judgment.
In our gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest judge. Eventually, the dishonest judge is won over by the widow because of her persistence, which could be understood as her persistent prayer for relief. We are not told that she prayed for relief, but we can assume it is because God caused the judge to change his position. This parable is a reminder for us to be vigilant in our prayer life. It is true that God knows our needs before we utter them in prayer, but we need to spend time each day putting ourselves in the presence of God through prayer. And Jesus assures us that God will “secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night,” in other words: God will bring forth Divine Justice for his chosen ones.
Then comes what may be the most poignant line in this gospel passage and the one most important for us to consider and pray on: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Our world is full of dishonesty and sinfulness, and we, as societies in both the United States and in nations around the world, have become complacent. We seem to have come to the point where we just accept the world the way it is. Complacency and indifference are a lack of faith. There isn’t much any of us can do to change the world, but we can pray. As St. Paul reminds us: pray always and everywhere. “Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” Pray the Rosary and pray always and everywhere for God’s Divine Justice.
Author: Ric Cross