This Weeks Homily
Every week we will feature a homily prepared by one of our distinguished clergy for your spiritual enjoyment.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle “C”
It doesn't take a Mel Brooks to see the comic potential in the First Reading (from Exodus 17:8). The scripture (Ex.8:11) reads “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. The image of the battle ebbing and flowing, only in relation to Moses holding his hands up or down—you have to admit—is pretty funny. Mel Brooks already proved that he could find hilarity in Moses, and this scene holds true. I am sure he would create an iconic visual moment, just from the sight of Aaron and Hur, at the top of the hill, holding up the arms of Moses.
As we chuckle a little imagining the awkwardness of Moses, arms outstretched and held, like logs, by Aaron and Hur, standing on a rock, watching the progress of the battle blow...... Arms outstretched, in pain, and it is hard to breath, and He is dizzy and thirsty. The health of Israel, and the lives of the soldiers below, depends on, is sanctified by His suffering. Wait a second, this sounds very familiar...maybe it is not really all that funny. Maybe it is a lesson—that the One or the few must accept suffering for the good of many. Moses here is again a type of Christ. The image of Moses recalls that of the Crucified Christ. With his arms raised in supplication of God, Moses is praying for Israel. He is a priest praying for his people.
The crucifixion of the Lord, Jesus Christ is the ultimate prayer—a sacrificial prayer—a blood-price payed (and prayed) by One standing alone for so very many. It is a prayer begun hours before in the Last Supper, and completed (“It is done”) on a bloody Cross of wood on a rocky hill outside Jerusalem. It was, in essence, the inauguration, the authorization, of the Mass itself-- The most perfect prayer in all creation—the prayer we are doing right now. It is the central prayer of perseverance—the 45 minute prayer that is about, among other things, perseverance in prayer.
The Gospel reading from Luke (Lk. 18:1-8) is explicitly about persevering in prayer. Prayer builds faith—by remaining in prayer, we remain in stronger and stronger faith. The relationship with God is built and enhanced through prayer. Even though the judge is neither a good man nor a good judge, there is a limit to how much nagging he can take. He breaks down, and gives the widow what she asks for—vindication from her adversary. Is that not what we should pray for—vindication from our adversary, the Evil One?
The point of the scripture is that if a bad man and judge can be swayed, so much more so will be a Loving, Holy God? “And will God not vindicate his elect, who cry to Him day and night? Jesus assures us in the next verses that He will. We can expect our prayers to be answered.
God can and will answer our prayers, and with very few limits and restrictions. The
1stEpistle of John clarifies this perfectly:
1. Avoid false teachers and preserve the faith as you received it.
2. Pray only in accord with the will of God.
3. Pray sincerely—and pray for others.
4. Pray often, and trust in God through prayer, praying mainly for this day you are living.
Christ Himself gives us the Lord's Prayer, which is a perfect prayer to the Father but also a guidebook on how to pray. It is itself a central part of the Mass “Let us pray in the words our savior gave us.” Observe how much the prayer is about God, rather than about us. See in it how exquisitely it addresses God's will. Hollowed be thy name; thy Kingdom come; thy will be done. Give us this day our daily bread.” For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory! And if you ever wondered, like me, why the Stations of the Cross seemed designed to be uncomfortable, now you know. We are seeking union , in some tiny, minuscule way, with the suffering of Christ on the cross, as He prayed the prayer that would take away the sin of the World.