16th October 2016 29th Sunday of Ordinary time, cycle C
The first reading is a story from the Book of Exodus, telling the tale of one of the many incidents from that epic journey of escape from slavery in Egypt, through many ups and downs until the entry into the promised land. The whole book was put together from various collections of stories that had been passed down through at least four or five centuries of retelling. The point of the whole and of each individual story, in general terms, is to say something about God and ‘the people of the Book’ and the relationship between the two; to teach people about their responsibility towards God and about His attitude towards them. The details in this tale about warfare and the rod of Moses, if taken literally, say nothing we would regard as true about the relationship between God and people; it was this rod that seemed to clear the sea for the people to cross when escaping the Pharaoh’s army, and this rod that produced water in the wilderness. But we get closer to the point of the story’s transmission and survival in our sacred Scriptures, if we see its significance for us today; it reminds us that the power of God is in everything, though we usually think of various sacred objects as reminding us of this.
In the second reading we hear how we should interpret the word of God that has been passed down to us. This is a message to the early Christians, especially the leaders, about how to make use of the traditions that have been passed down about Jesus and those contained in the Old Testament (since the New Testament books were only just being written and this second letter to Timothy will be one of them). It is the word of God that needs to be applied to how we conduct ourselves, and the leaders must persist in helping to make this relevant to the people in their ordinary lives.
In today’s gospel we hear from the next chapter after last week’s text. Luke records this simple parable of a pragmatic and secular minded judge, who will give a rightful hearing to the poorest of individuals if he is pestered enough by them. And this is told to encourage persistence in prayer to God. There is a note of urgency at the end of the excerpt because there is still the feeling that the final days of the world are drawing near – and if not for the world at least for any individual. In the flow of Luke’s gospel, Jesus and his disciples are approaching Jerusalem and what will be the final days for Jesus, though the disciples scarcely realise this but Jesus, who realises it, urges them to keep faith.