My friends, Ordinary Time, which is soon coming to an end, challenges us around the ordinary “stuff” of our lives, instructing us to find the answers to what makes life meaningful in the everyday, realizing that our faith will be lived out in our present lives, if at all. There is nothing “out of the ordinary” that God asks of us , only that we engage wholeheartedly in the endeavors of each day.
We are called as baptized Christians to proclaim the Gospel and we do that primarily by the way that we live our lives, the choices we make for good, for the care of others and our world.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, American poet and author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, speaks of “calm” and within that attribute encourages us to powerful actions, in the midst of “a stormy world.” She challenges us to “show our souls.”
I believe we saw evidence of “soul showing” this week in a speech given by First Lady, Michelle Obama denouncing Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump for the deplorable way he has treated women, for the deplorable way he speaks of them and for having bragged about abusing women. As she so rightly says, this goes beyond politics to what is basic, human decency. She went so far as to say that his kind of rhetoric not only angers her, but it makes her afraid for our country. This is the definition of “showing your soul.” All of today’s readings additionally call us to perseverance in living our lives of faith and as St. Paul says, “When convenient and when inconvenient.”
The first reading from Exodus encourages perseverance in prayer—the second, perseverance in preaching the gospel and the Gospel passage from Luke encourages us to fight for justice until we have it!
The first reading is problematic for many Christians today because of its violence. It would appear that the power of God is assisting Moses and the Israelites to wipe out Amalek and his army and not only to defeat them, but, “to put them to the sword.” It is important to remember that there is a cultural difference that we are dealing with as we read this story from the ancient Israelites and try to insert it into our own culture.
The place of war and battle and God’s part in it meant something different to them in their relationship with God than it means for us today. We have the benefit of Jesus’ teaching that they did not.
This reading does hold richness for us though. The richness comes from understanding the persistence of the Israelite people and that translates for us the same way—we must be persistent in asking God for what we need, trusting that God will provide, no matter how hard the difficulties we face.
The other piece that is so significant in this reading from Exodus is the importance of humility on our parts-realizing that we aren’t self-sufficient-that we need help beyond ourselves to sustain the strength needed to persevere. God answers our prayers for assistance through our communities of faith and care. Aaron and Hur assisted Moses in the battle by holding up his arms-he became tired and couldn’t remain strong by himself. Each of us have found ourselves in such predicaments-we know the right thing to do, but the fight often becomes tiring-we need a supportive friend to say, “I understand, I support you, I’ve got your back!”
The opposite is also true-sometimes the “shoe is on the other foot” so to speak. Someone else needs a friend, needs the support-how often do we lift a hand-speak a word for another who is perhaps discriminated against and is standing alone, facing the status quo group who doesn’t want to be bothered?
Paul’s letter to Timothy in today’s 2nd reading gets into this issue. He is admonishing Timothy as a baptized follower of Jesus, the Christ to persevere in following the Gospel–not only when easy and convenient, but when hard and inconvenient. We can all look to our own life experiences and name times when the way was clear as to what was needed to be done, in a relationship, in our family, or within our business place, organization or elsewhere-yet to proceed with what was needed would certainly not be convenient or initially, very peaceful. Even so, the way we needed to be/to go, was still clear—this is the kind of perseverance that Paul is challenging us about today.
This is the perseverance that Michelle Obama was talking about in her speech. She struggled with saying something and ultimately realized that her integrity as a person was at stake—for all the daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts who have been belittled and abused, she needed to speak!
The First Lady follows a long line of strong women beginning with the widow in today’s Gospel. Michelle Obama understands the plight of the gospel widow—as a woman herself and a black woman at that, she already has two strikes against her and in a culture that still doesn’t openly and immediately disavow the disgusting rhetoric of an individual running for president simply because he happens to be male. The First Lady realizes that she and all and each woman must speak up for justice until the “judge” gives her some.
Our baptisms call us to continually keep our eyes on Jesus, attempting to live with love and compassion for our sisters and brothers, whoever they may be. We are called to gentleness, to mercy, to forgiveness, and to truth. Speaking the truth when needed is often not the most pleasant thing to do-it is often easier to remain silent, hoping that someone else will do it. But friends, change doesn’t happen when we enable bad behavior that is not Christ-like to continue–whether we see it in our families, in our friends, or in our Church. The skill is to learn how to do it with love.
And as Clarissa Pinkola Estes said so well: “There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones, I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that Spirit—I invite you to consider Pinkola Estes’ words: “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe; there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”