Readings (Year C):
Exodus 17:8 – 13
Psalms 121:1 – 2, 3 – 4, 5 – 6, 7 – 8
2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2
Luke 18:1 – 8
Reflection: Don’t lose heart.
Don’t quit, don’t give up, don’t lose heart. Keep going. This encouragement is at the heart of this week’s readings. Moses holds up the staff of God, his arms supported by Aaron and Hur, for hours, during a battle. Paul challenges Timothy to remain faithful to the ministry of proclamation, even in the face of resistance. And Jesus tells the story of a widow who persists in demanding justice from an unjust judge until she wears him down and is given her due.
The widow’s extreme vulnerability makes this courage even more striking. According to the social norms of the time, a male family member would have gone to plead her cause on her behalf before the judge. Presumably, she has no one to do this, so she confronts the judge herself. We can presume the dispute was to do with property or possessions, resources she needed for her very survival as a widow in a society without a safety net.
Where did this woman’s strength come from? How did she find the inner resources to demand justice from this powerful authority figure? What allowed her to continue to raise her voice and defend her dignity without losing heart?
Jesus explains that the widow is an example of how to persevere in prayer, trusting that God will do justice. His closing question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” is meant to draw his disciples into reflection. Where do we find the strength to be faithful, and not lose heart?
This question is communal as well as personal. And it’s particularly relevant for this moment in our global church. Pope Francis has initiated a synod and invited all baptized Catholics to participate. The word “synod” means walking together, and the purpose of the synod is “not to create a new church, but to create a different church.” As part of the synod, people from around the world, especially those on the peripheries, have shared in listening sessions over many months. It’s possibly the largest consultation in human history!
Truly showing up and staying in the synodal journey, trusting that God is present in the process, requires something of the widow’s courage. Continuing to walk together as the People of God, amid deep polarization, mistrust, and weariness takes faith. Continuing to walk together, when the voices of cynics, skeptics, and critics are so loud, takes perseverance.
Depending on our position and privilege, we will have different temptations in the synodal journey. There is the temptation to think only my voice, my perspective, my experience matters. There is also the temptation to think my voice doesn’t matter at all, or that I have nothing to say. Depending on where we stand, we may be called to magnanimity, or we may be called to humility. Some of us will need to speak up and others will need to quiet down, for all voices to be heard.
The purpose of the Synod, according to Pope Francis is not just to create documents but “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, and allow hope to flourish.” That needs the presence of you, of me, of each of us. Let’s persist in continuing the journey. Let’s keep walking together without losing heart.