Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

Kevin M. DePrinzio, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Exodus 17:8-13
Psalm 121:1-8
2 Tim 3:14-4:2
Luke 18:1-8

I can remember when I was in initial formation, a pastoral counseling professor devoted an entire class to the importance of posture and body language and how often both speak more than words could ever say, communicating things you might not have the intention of saying. The common sitting posture of crossing one’s legs could potentially mean to another that you are closed off to what others are saying. Keeping your arms folded could convey the same thing. Leaning in could suggest that you are really listening, while perhaps slouching backwards could say, “I really don’t care” or “I’m too tired to listen to you.”

Of course, none of these are hard and fast rules, but I have found them to be helpful, as I often find myself paying attention not only to my own body language but to other people’s in regular interactions.

Today’s readings, I think, are concerned with body language, with posture, with one’s stance in life. In the gospel we have the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow. These two descriptions alone hint at the type of body language that went on in their interaction with one another. We are told that the judge neither feared God nor any human being. It seems that he could not care less about anyone, but was solely focused on himself. We might imagine him sitting in a number of ways, with his arms closed, folded, perhaps not making eye contact. Maybe he was leaning his head on his hand, working on other things when the widow came in. Whatever his body language was, it was something that said “whatever” to the widow, and to anyone who would enter his company. He was closed off. Indifferent.

And then we have the widow, whom we are told was persistent in her interaction with the judge. She might be pictured walking quickly with determination, or someone who appears seemingly out of nowhere. She is bold nonetheless, with much strength. It is interesting to note that in the time of Jesus to be widowed meant a woman was even more voiceless in society than she was before; because no man is attached to her, she is completely vulnerable.

Yet this particular widow will not be culturally bound; she uses her voice and finds a way to speak up. She wants justice and doesn’t give up until she gets it. And as we hear, the unjust judge gives in. While he says that he fears neither God nor anyone, he does begin to fear – to fear public embarrassment from the widow’s persistence.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that God is just the opposite of the unjust judge, intently listening to us, open to us, loving us. The image of Moses with outstretched arms in the first reading is a familiar image, reminding us of Jesus’ own stance of openness to God’s will and to the people he encountered along the way, literally along the way that led to the Cross, the ultimate posture of being outstretched and opened – a truly embodied language of the love of Christ Jesus, that we as his followers should model, whether convenient or inconvenient as St. Paul charges us.

Christ the Protector Statue, located in Central Brazil.

What is our body language? What is our posture? What is our stance in life? What is it that we communicate? Are we closed off from one another, to each other’s voices, ideas, concerns? Do we listen to one another, or are we too busy looking the other way? Or are we open to each other, looking at each other in the eye? Do we stand tall and bold against the face of injustice, like the widow? Or do we think we have no voice?

In a few moments, we will make a stance toward Eucharist, and we will be face-to-face with the Body of Christ, as St. Augustine reminds us, with our deepest identity, who God calls us to be. We are challenged to pay attention closely to this Body – the Body of Christ – and to what this Body communicates to the world. May we use our voice and say Amen to it.