Sunday, October 16, 2022

Between Insanity & Hope

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Readings: Exodus 17: 8-13; Psalm 120 (121); 2 Timothy 3: 14-4: 2; Luke 18:1-8

Picture: cc Flickr badjonni

My dear friends, do you know the popular definition of insanity? According to an often-quoted saying, it is to keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. I imagine it’s like repeatedly banging my head against a brick wall, expecting more than just to get bruised and bloodied. But is it really always insane to keep doing the same thing, and expect a different result? Are there exceptions? It may already be obvious to some of us why I’m asking this question. It’s because, in our scriptures today, we find people who keep doing the same thing. 

In the first reading, Joshua is asked to march out and to keep engaging the Amalekites in battle. At the same time, on a hilltop, with the help of Aaron and Hur, Moses keeps raising his arms in prayer. Praying on a hill-top, and fighting on the plain. If these repeated actions don’t look insane, it’s only because their positive effects are seen immediately. As long as Moses keeps his arms raised, Joshua keeps winning the battle. But what if Moses insists on keeping his arms raised, and Joshua stubbornly keeps on fighting, even when the Amalekites seem to keep winning? Would that be insane?

And what about the situation in the gospel? Despite being repeatedly rebuffed for a long time, the widow still keeps pestering the unjust judge for justice, expecting a different result. And Jesus uses her example to illustrate the importance of persisting in praying for justice, even when God delays to help. To keep crying out to God, even when we may seem to be ignored. Is that insane?

Even more, in the second reading, Timothy is encouraged to keep doing the same thing too. Not just to persevere in prayer, but to keep living according to the gospel, and to keep patiently proclaiming its message – to refute falsehood, to correct error, to call to obedience. And to persist in doing all this even when unwelcome! To insist on proclaiming a rejected message. Even one that may attract persecution. Isn’t this like repeatedly banging one’s head against a wall?

It’s difficult to deny, isn’t it, that what the scriptures are asking of us looks a lot like insanity? And yet, don’t oppressed people continue to do similar things around the world? And don’t we Christians, in particular, have good reason to heed this call? It’s the same reason we gather around this Table of Word and Sacrament. Whether it’s in the face of global issues like the climate crisis or oppression, or in cosier but no less challenging settings of family, work and parish, if we foolishly choose to keep bruising our heads against a wall, isn’t it because Christ first allowed his body to be broken for us on the Cross? We follow his example, expecting no less than what he received when he was raised to life. For what popular opinion calls insane, faith sees as hope born of love.

Sisters and brothers, the gospel ends with Jesus posing this poignant question, when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth? How might we give the Lord a better response by embracing just a little insanity in our lives today?

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