29th Sunday, OT "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." advises the author of 2 Timothy, setting a challenging agenda for all of us involved with God’s word. The first reading offers a mysterious and troubling scenario: When the Exodus community was struggling through the desert, pressed by the many troubles we have heard on other Sundays, they were attacked by Amalekites--a group who persists as in the biblical narrative as a primordial enemy (turning up in 1 Samuel 15, Esther and elsewhere). A similar motif occurs in the prophet Obadiah and in Psalm 137, where we learn that in the midst of being taken into exile, Israel was not assisted or pitied by a near neighbor--to the contrary. God is called upon to even the score, to avenge ancient wrongs. The widow and judge story is normally allegorized by casting the widow in the role of human plaintiff and the judge in the role of God, though the parable does not inevitably prescribe those choices. (See Megan McKenna’s work for an alternate view: God the widow, ourselves the judge.) My question: What is the impact over our lifetimes, and over the lifetime of our Christian interpretive tradition, when we insert God into roles of vengeance and retaliation? The reading from Timothy would seem to challenge us ask how these readings work salvifically. If we are existentially, experientially convinced that violence and retaliation are not God’s work, what hermeneutic can help us do better with these readings? It seems urgent to find--and use--one. Barbara Green, O.P.
A God of Violence?