Today’s scripture passage from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom is a poetic summation of the story of the Israelite’s dramatic exodus from Egypt. Remember, the Israelites languished for many years as a persecuted and enslaved minority, prisoners of the god-king of the Egyptians called the Pharaoh. The God of the Israelites defeated the false gods of the Egyptians, including the Pharaoh, and God’s victory allowed the Israelites to return to their ancestral homeland.
God’s victory over the gods of the Egyptians and the return of the Israelites to their homeland was celebrated in ritual, song and story and you heard an example of this solemn commemoration today.
The liberation of the Israelites from the thrall of the false gods of the Egyptians is understood by the Church as a foreshadowing of Christ’s victory over the fallen powers of sin, death, the devil and all their worldly conspirators. The victory of God in Christ frees his disciples from living in bondage to these fallen spiritual and worldly powers and open up for all the possibility of a new way of life. This new way of life is for the Christian the route of access to our true homeland that is heaven- communion with God.
The paths to heaven take us through this world and the world prepares us to receive heaven. The journey through this life is a necessary, though at times difficult one. It prepares us, like the training of an athlete for competition, for our heavenly mission. Now is the time of our liberation and our exodus, a liberation and exodus that we celebrate in ritual, song and story in the worship of the Church called the Mass. The Mass, in its deepest significance and profound mystery, is our participation in the here and now of our heavenly homeland that is yet to come.
Last week, Christ the Lord employed an image of worldliness, that of a shrewd man who through his cunning saves himself from financial ruin. This image is used by Christ as a means of contrasting the indolence that afflicts too many disciples with the sense of urgency that characterizes the worldly in their aspirations. Threatened with the loss of faith, hope and love what will the believer do? Too often we do little or nothing.
Today, Christ the Lord employs another worldly image, one of a corrupt magistrate finally worn down by the persistence of a woman who wants the judge to rule in her favor. Finally the magistrate gives in, not because he cares the least for the woman or her cause, or even for the sake of justice, but because the woman is admirable in her persistence.
The quality of persistence is so often manifested in our pursuit of worldly attainments. Consider the effort people will employ to accomplish worldly goals, what people will willingly undergo for wealth, pleasure, power and honors? But what about truly spiritual attainments? What is the quality of our persistence in terms of the attainments of faith, hope and love? How easy we give up in these attainment of faith, hope and love! How often we refuse to aspire to virtue because such aspiration will not be easy!
When in today’s Gospel, Christ the Lord laments that when he returns will he find faith on earth, the object of his sorrow are all those who claim to be his disciples, even lay claim to the benefits of being a follower of Christ, but through a manifest lack of urgency and persistence, reveal that they don’t really follow him at all.