29th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  After a funny parable and an encouraging promise of God’s ability to respond to our needs, that line seems to come out of the blue.  I think it is the most haunting question in the New Testament.  “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Why does Jesus ask the question in the context of this story?  It is a great story by the way.  The persistent widow, a woman with no status and power demands a just settlement in a case from a judge, “who neither feared God nor respected any human being.” All she has on her side is the demand of God that widows and the poor be treated fairly.  But that will not budge this wicked judge.  So she simply wears him down, nags him until he gives in.   He explains his relenting, “because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.” (Actually, the Greek says she might give him a black eye.  Isn’t that great!)  Of course in comparison, God is anxious to hear our prayers and swiftly answer them.

Perhaps Jesus asks that haunting question because he knows what usually happens.  He knows the widow does not usually get her way. That when power is arrayed against the weak, they lose.  The system really is rigged and often we must surrender. When the wave comes in, we know it is easier to ride it.  And when the breeze stiffens, we can turn our back and walk with it.  We choose the easier, the more convenient.  But that is not the way of faith.

I would say the wind is blowing against us right now, wouldn’t you?  It is true of people of faith, those who love peace and certainly for Catholics.  Our faith is asking us to walk into the wind.  So many, with perfectly understandable reasons, have left.  They still have faith, but they try to go it alone.  The problem is, it does not appear it is meant to work that way.  Look at the first reading.  Moses needed help.   Jesus chose to have help – dim-witted, timid, and slow to comprehend help even.  Yet, he knew he had to show them every loving act for he placed his bet that these disciples would share his story and win the world for him.  He is counting on us to do the same.

Let’s go back the first reading.  Israel sends picked men to battle Amalek, but as always, it is God’s fight so as long as Moses raises his hands, Israel wins the battle.  But when his arms sag, Amalek has the better of the fight.  As a guy who has to raise his arms a lot each hour, I feel for Moses.  But eventually his friends find him a chair and support his arms until Israel routs their ememies .  When the Lord asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” I don’t think he is asking if this person or that person will have faith.  I think he wants to know that we will be there for one another to lift wearied arms.  I think he is asking will we go after lost sheep and comfort the hurting and do other holy and inconvenient things.

That is why when I see someone’s faith slipping or fading away, I will never, never, never, never give up.  Just like you never, never, never, never give up on anyone you love.  I think we were made for this moment.  To lock arms and march into the wind.  To be strength for wearied arms and be breath for tired souls.  Then our care for each other will be the faith Jesus finds.