INTRODUCTION “For I, Yahweh, your God, I grasp you by your right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I shall help you” (Isaiah 41:13). This is one of those beautiful passages that give us the assurance that we never walk alone on the path of the struggles of this life. God is with us as a Faithful Companion. Therefore, if we must survive the “valley of war”, we must learn to climb the “mountain of prayer.” It is only in this secret place of prayer that God offers us his hand to hold for a connection capable of disconnecting us from the troubles of this life. The first reading and the Gospel reveal to us one of indispensable characteristics of a true believer; “A search for God through persistent prayers”. And the second reading highlights another important element; meditation and faithfulness to the “Word of God.” Thus constant prayer and love for the Word of God are two pillars in the life of a believer and sure ways to stay close to God always.
FIRST READING: Exodus 17:8-13 The distance between the Egypt of slavery and the promise land of salvation was characterised by a lot of ugly experiences. The wandering people of the desert had it rough and tough, but is was through these experiences that God communicated himself as their God who did not just set them free from the clutches of the Egyptians, but as one who was guiding their steps towards the promise land of “total freedom.” The first reading today reveals that the Israelites had barely left the “Desert of Sin” to Rephidim when the Amalekites decided to wage war against them. This was their first open confrontation since they left Egypt. And apart from the fact that they were less prepared for the war, they were also tired having wandered through the desert. If there is something they needed at this moment, it should be rest (which is the meaning of the name Rephidim-“a resting place”) and not war. However, the appearing of the Amalekites symbolizes an obstacle in this glorious journey. But since they have been destined for the promise land, they must fight every obstacle on their way come what may. God granted them victory over their enemies, thus revealing Himself as “Yahweh Nissi” because his banner was over his people to protect them (Ex 17:15). In this narrative, the author pointed out few important figures who played significant roles:
Moses Moses displayed his character of a true leader by taking the greatest part of the war (the spiritual warfare). He understood that in order to win the war, he must have recourse to God. Thus, as a great intercessor, the raising up of his hands which explains the image I used above was a way to connect with God’s hand. It is a physical sign of a spiritual connection. But the hand of Moses grew weak in the process. Yes it must grow weak. It symbolically reveals that the power of God is so enormous that no man can withstand it, and His strength exposes the weakness of man.
Aaron and Hur These men were attentive to the role of Moses and cooperated with him. They understood that their climbing of the mountain was not for picnic neither was it to admire what Moses was doing. They took part in the spiritual warfare by providing Moses with the necessary help. Notice that, as good servants, they equally understood that it can only be the hand of Moses and no other hand. This is why they did not replace the hand of Moses with theirs, but rather supported it to remain up.
Joshua It is not for nothing that the reading mentioned the name of Joshua. In fact, it was the very first time in the history of the people that the name of Joshua was mentioned. And the role he played in the account is very symbolic. He will eventually be the successor of Moses and the one to lead the people into the promise land.
SECOND READING: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 From the tone of this letter, we can easily understand the circumstance that surrounded St. Paul’s message. At the time he was writing to Timothy who was the bishop of Ephesus, some groups were mounting pressure on him (Timothy), trying to force him to relax some of the doctrines of Faith. Therefore, Paul reminded him of the obligation he has got to “preach the word, stay with the task, whether convenient or inconvenient, correcting, reproving, appealing, constantly teaching and never losing patience.” This he must do whether the time is favourable or not. By this message, St. Paul highlights the importance of the Word of God as a revealed truth about the Christian faith in God and as an instrument of salvation. Hence, a christian without the Word of God is empty. And in the language of St. Jerome, “ignorant of the Scripture is ignorant of God.”
GOSPEL: Luke 18:1-8 The background of this Gospel is culturally verifiable in the sense that although the Laws offer protection for widows, orphans and strangers (Dt 10:18-19, 24:17-21, Ex 22:22-24) but there wasn’t any clear cut Law that allows the widows to claim the property of their late husbands. Moreover, during this time, there were corrupt judges who were often bribed by the rich to thwart the Law and bend justice to their favour. Prophets like Isaiah, Amos and Malachi strongly opposed any form of oppression of the weak. This type of social inequality and injustice was equally obtainable at the time of Jesus. Thus, in the parable we are meant to understand that the widow was aware of her plight. She equally understood that the only way to puncture the conscience of the unjust judge is by making her appeal public. Therefore, the judge was forced to grant her justice not because he understood the need for justice but simply because of the constant disturbances from the widow and probably his pretentious display of a good public reputation. Meanwhile, the parable reveals two things: (1) God is the Judge who grants justice to the poor, and (2) They must learn to obtain this favour through perseverance. Thus, the virtue of perseverance is the heart of Jesus’s teaching in the parable. What is the context of the message of this parable? Evidently, Luke wrote this Gospel when many Christians were losing faith as a result of the delayed Parousia (second coming of Jesus), and all was happening at the heat of their persecution by their Jewish counterparts as well as the Roman emperors. Thus, they were finding it very difficult to carry on since their faith in the promise of the imminent coming of Christ was failing them. Therefore employing this parable, Luke taught them the need to persevere in their faith even in difficult times. It is an assurance that God is not deaf to their persistent faith and prayers and that he will certainly grant them justice at last.
LIFE MESSAGES: From the first reading we learn that:
1. The figure of Moses pre-figures the person of Christ who raised his hands on the Cross for our victory. And like Moses on the Mount of Rephidim, He did it at Mount Calvary. And as a perfect revelation of God, Christ differs from Moses in the sense that the battle at Calvary was exclusively His, and needing no one to help him fight for us.
2. It also reminds us that on our journey in this life, we must certainly fight battles and these battles are both physical (Joshua and the soldiers of Israel) and spiritual (Moses, Aaron and Hur). But more importantly, our victory depends on our spiritual strength, since God alone is our source of victory. Thus, we must never put Him aside in our daily struggles relying only on our physical strength.
3. Moses understood the logic of the battle. He took Aaron and Hur along. We must learn to seek the help of others when we climb “the mountain of prayer” because their prayerful support can be instrumental to our victory.
4. Similarly, we learn that sometimes if not always, great leaders need help. Without the cooperation of the subjects (ex. Aaron and Hur) their “hands of leadership” can grow weary to the point that they will not be able to handle public affairs. And once the hands are finally dropped, the subjects will suffer the consequences (whenever Moses drops his hands, the battle will go in the favour of the Amalekites).
5. The Gospel tells us to take our worries to God, the Just Judge. He understands our needs. Though He may take time to open the door, but that is because sometimes He wants to know if we are convinced of our faith. He equally allows us to go through persistent prayers in order to purify our intentions so as to understand that prayer is not what we want but what He wants best for us. It takes faith to understand this. We may be praying for a particular need thinking that it is truly a need for us, but we forget to ask God whether it is truly what He wants best for us. Jesus is our model of the will of the Father. We must learn first to seek for the will of God in our prayers than imposing our will on God. When we seek for the will of God in prayers then whatever be the outcome, we will persevere because His will is always for our good. But when we go into prayer to ask for our wish and it doesn’t come through, then crisis of faith may set in. Let us learn to say, “Father let your will be done” (Mt 6:10; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42).
6. The second reading invites us to learn to discover the hidden treasure in God by meditating on his Word. If only we know the power in the Word of God, then we can’t afford to push it aside in our daily struggles. It bring consolation and comfort. It is a powerful instrument for our spiritual warfare. Jesus defeated the devil at the hour of temptation not because He fasted for forty days and nights but because he was equipped with the Word of God and was able to counter all the scriptural references of the Devil.
7. Finally, let us find consolation in the words of the Psalmist and know that when all around us become rough and tough, we must learn to look up to “The Mountain” (contemplate the face of God). For our help can only come from Him the maker of heaven and earth. Even if our conditions of life are asleep and stagnant, and we need to fight a battle of fear, let us be assured that the Lord, the guard of Israel never sleeps nor slumbers.
MAY THE LORD BLESS HIS WORD IN OUR HEARTS TODAY AND ALWAYS. AMEN. PAX VOBIS!