Homily – 29th Weekend in [Extra] Ordinary Time

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, is one of my favorite women writers for her ability to give women a voice in society.  She came into my life at a time when I was heading back to school to complete work for a master’s degree and she spoke to my heart.  When I read Women Who Run with the Wolves, I said, “Finally, someone has put into words what I have been thinking for so long!” And, it was especially poignant that it was a woman who said it!  In a nutshell, which is hard to do for this woman author; the over-reaching thought was that women do have minds, unique thoughts, experiences and urgings for life—it is in their DNA, and they do need to be listened to!

Throughout her literary career, Pinkola Estes has challenged her readers toward, “showing their souls”—a very Christian idea and one, I believe, Jesus would approve of.  In the seeming, mish-mash of readings for this weekend; we might wonder if there is a common theme and I would offer that “soul-showing” is part of it.

On reading the selection from Exodus, my first thought was to not include much on it due to the violent picture of God depicted there. Exegetes though, tell us that we should cut the writers of this text a break as they lived in a different time and culture and didn’t have the benefit of Jesus, as we do, to reflect on, regarding their actions toward Amalek.  As is often a good plan with Scriptures; we must go deeper for what is ultimately the nugget to take to heart.

The words of the psalmist today, “Our help is from God, who made heaven and earth,” seems an appropriate response to the Exodus reading.  In other words, our take-away really should be, that no matter what life brings, our God will be there for us!

If we were looking for an overall theme though for today’s readings, clearly, “persistence,” exegetes tell us, would be it. Back to the Exodus reading—we see that more than anything else, the Israelites are persistent in asking God for what was needed, as they perceived it.  The larger image for all of us is to persevere in prayer.

We see in Paul’s letter to Timothy that same persistence—we might say, perseverance, as he encourages his young disciple to preach the gospel, “when convenient and [more so] when inconvenient.”

And finally in Luke, Jesus encourages us to persevere in fighting for justice till we have it.  If someone like the unjust judge in today’s gospel, who clearly cares nothing for people or God, in his own words, will finally relent giving the woman what she asks for, simply to get rid of her, think of what God who loves us more than we can imagine, will do through persistent prayer.

So friends, as we think about persevering in prayer, preaching the Gospel and fighting for justice, till we have it, my earlier comments on “soul-showing” seem appropriate.  Our call as followers of Jesus our brother should move us beyond being idle by-standers—lamenting what is.  Hearing his message, deep in our souls should move us to action in our world that so needs us to show our souls—what it is in fact that we deeply care about.

At the risk of being political, which I don’t mean to be, I’d like to share a recent example that demonstrates this lack of “soul-showing.”  This happened at a recent town hall meeting with our national representative, Jim Hagedorn.  At one point, we challenged him to  consider that when he stands by, saying nothing about the abhorrent behavior of the president, on a number of issues, which he agrees, he does not support, he is in fact, saying that he condones it.  He acted surprised to know this!—that lack of saying something is perceived as, agreement.

One of my pet peeves, no matter the political party, is the absence of “soul-showing,”  “intestinal fortitude”—read, “guts,” as former principal of Cotter High School, here in Winona, Father Paul Nelson used to say, when it comes to anyone holding public office and refusing to speak out on a controversial topic for fear of not being re-elected!  In my mind, such a person is not worthy of the office, because they have no idea of what serving the people means!

There used to be a time in our country when congresspeople worked, “across the aisle,” doing what was best for the American people—while maybe not getting everything they each wanted, but getting something!  “Soul-showing,” I would say, in this regard, seems a thing of the past and we so need for it to return in people who ask to serve our country.

I heard a talk that Barack Obama gave a year ago as he was receiving an award wherein he appealed to our “better angels.” He went on to say that in our world, “working to make something “better, is good!”  Again, while it may not be everything that we want, if each party, in any dispute, gets something, “this is good!”  This, my friends, is an example of, “soul-showing.”  And again, not meaning to be political, this “soul-showing” stuff is beyond, “political”—this is the message of our brother Jesus, calling us to be our best selves!

To do nothing, until we can have everything we want, does not work, whether it is in Congress, the Church, or in our daily lives because it is simply ignorant of the human condition and selfish with regard to others and their needs.

The message of Jesus, my friends, calls us to so much more—to show our souls on a consistent basis.  In conclusion, I’d like to end as I began with some eloquent words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes that I’ve shared with you before, but bear a repeat as they are really a blueprint for our lives as followers of Jesus.

“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.”

My friends, I am not sure I could have said from my heart all that Clarissa Pinkola Estes said here from hers, but I know that I am mightily challenged by her words!  In that spirit then, in a world that needs each of us every day to persevere in good, truth and justice—basically, love, in broad strokes;  I invite us all to consider these final words from her:  “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!”  Amen? Amen!