Have you run into those churchy types whose very presence makes you aware that you don't measure up? They don't have to publish their religious résumé. Something about their bearing broadcasts it without any need for a printed copy.
When we meet the judge of today's parable, we are quickly informed that the widow can't appeal to his good side -- he doesn't have one. So, faced with his stony heart, she becomes the water that drips incessantly until something is worn away.
Humans have a penchant for cultivating an "us and them" mentality. In the ancient world, some among Jesus' contemporaries had grown up with such a mentality, and it was difficult to overcome. For centuries, the Jews had been accustomed to their special role as God's chosen people. They were to be uniquely instrumental in God's plan of salvation for all people.
Growing up, we each had chores so that we might contribute toward the family's well-being and learn responsibility. One of mine, not my favorite, was to keep the fire going when my dad set up the grill for a cookout. After the charcoal was lit, it was my job to keep fanning the embers so they'd glow with heat until all the food was cooked.
A few months ago, a section of the Chicago Sun-Times Sunday edition bannered the headline "Promise of a new Dawn." The article that followed described a new model Rolls Royce with a starting price of $340,000. It's already sold out through the 2017 model year.
This week, the Scriptures invite us to consider profit and loss and grace.
When he announced the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote in Misericordiae Vultus, "We want to live this Jubilee Year in light of the Lord's words: Merciful like the Father." In his Gospel, the Lucan Jesus made a similar plea: "Be merciful just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).
We approach the sacred texts today by reminding ourselves that Jesus is the face of God made visible, the wisdom of God revealed and the One who daily challenges the quality of our discipleship.
St. Paul, in today's reading from Galatians, summarizes for us: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." With the urgency and detachment of the 72, we go forth daily, bearing the good news of Christ. Then, as St. Paul says, we will be "a new creation."
One day one of our sisters told me she wondered whether people listened to one another in the participatory prayer of the faithful. She wished she could test if they were really praying together instead of going through the motions, and admitted her ongoing temptation to use a sweetly pious voice and softly intone the request: "Loving God, let this holy roof with all its heavy beams fall in on us at this moment." Then, slightly louder, "For this, let us pray to the Lord."