This saying used to be, perhaps still is, current to describe a person who is self-satisfied with their lot. They have a job, a house, a car, an insurance policy and a pension waiting for them. It implies that they have taken care of themselves and feel no responsibility for anyone else. Others should do as they have done. End of story.
We know well that this is an untenable attitude of anyone who has an ounce of thirst for justice in our world. We cannot be truly content if others are suffering. Nelson Mandela once said, ‘no one is free if all are not free’. Pope John XXIII decried, years ago, ‘prophets of doom’ – people who saw no way out of the mess as the future of the world seemed so bleak. At that time – the early sixties – the threat of nuclear war hung over us.
Sixty years on we are still there on our planet and the threat of nuclear war has receded. But we have new worries while at the same time we have our share of those who say, ‘we’re alright, Jack’. Our biggest worries centre round global warming and the number of people in powerful positions who refuse to do anything about it. Their refusal is based on their sense of being ‘alright’ and they have no wish to make any decision that might threaten how they see themselves.
So when, for example, it is written, as it was in last week’s Zimbabwean,
‘as drought grips the region, the flow on the Zambezi river has dwindled to a third of what it was a year ago, limiting power generation’
they pay no attention or they shrug it off as ‘fake news’. Having crossed the Zambezi several times in the last year I have seen the water level drop and even as a layman in the world of meteorological science I can sense the creeping catastrophe.
This October does not feel like October as we have known it. There are cold winds and none of the oppressive heat that used to signal the approach of rain. So we already have a drought with all its multiple consequences for food and farmers. Yet there are many among us who persist in saying, ‘I’m alright.’
In today’s gospel Jesus tells a story of a widow who is persistent in demanding justice from a careless judge who has no respect for anyone. In the end he gives her what she wants, not because it is his duty but because he fears she will ‘box his ears’. (This is the meaning of the Greek word used).
It we are to make progress in halting and reversing global warming we need people like that widows who are not afraid to box a few ears.
20 October 2o19 Sunday 29 C
Exodus 17:8-13 2 Timothy 3: 14-4:2 Luke 18:1-8