16 October 2022 – 29th Sunday (C)
16 October 2022 – 29th Sunday (C)
(1) Book of Exodus 17:8-13
When Moses prays with arms outstretched, God gives victory to his people
Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.
Responsorial: Psalm 120
R./: Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains:
from where shall come my help?
My help shall come from the Lord
who made heaven and earth. (R./)
May he never allow you to stumble!
Let him sleep not, your guard.
No, he sleeps not nor slumbers,
Israel’s guard. (R./)
The Lord is your guard and your shade;
at your right side he stands.
By day the sun shall not smite you
nor the moon in the night. (R./)
The Lord will guard you from evil,
he will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going and coming
both now and for ever. (R./)
(2) Second Epistle to Timothy 3:14_4:2
Timothy stays with the sound doctrine he has been taught since childhood
As for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
Gospel: Luke 18:1-8
Like the persevering widow calling for justice, we are never to grow discouraged
Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Praying from the heart
There is a way to pray with the heart, which reaches out to God, who is sure to answer. To speak from the heart is also to speak to the heart. God can read the human heart, and knows me better than any words I might use; better than I know myself.
Late in Autumn, a family were sitting around eating their dinner. For whatever reason, Christmas came into the conversation. Smiling, the mother asked her son what he wanted for Christmas, and, after a long pause, young John said “A bicycle.” The months went by, and the word “bicycle” was never mentioned again, not even when the mother bought roller blades for John at Christmas. She had decided that, if he really wanted a bicycle, she would have heard about nothing else for all the weeks coming up to Christmas,
There was something that the widow wanted, and, despite all his toughness, the judge simply had to give in to her eventually, because she showed no sign of giving up. If I met an alcoholic who wanted sobriety, my initial question would be, “How badly do you want it? Do you want it enough to do what it takes to stay sober?” A young lad wanted to work for a particular firm, and they had no vacancies. So he went back there eleven times in one month, until the personnel officer threw his hands in the air, and gave him a job!
After speaking about the evil judge Jesus speaks of his Father. If even the judge gave in to persistence, how much more will our heavenly Father respond to our prayers? God can read the heart, and knows whether we really want and need what we ask. If sometimes prayer goes unanswered, perhaps it is that God gives us what we ask, unless he has something better to give us.
The prayer in today’s gospel is an acute petition. This is a normal form of prayer, of course, but not the most important. Praise and thanksgiving are the highest form of prayer; but that is greatly helped when my prayers of petition are granted. If my prayers are always prayers of petition, I run the risk of being selfish and self-centred; except, of course, when the prayers of petition are for others. Like one of the ten lepers, I can ask, and, when my prayer is answered, I can return to give thanks.
Not giving up
Rome was not built in a day: No great work can ever be achieved without long and patients effort. Look at the art of Michaelangelo, the Beethoven concertos, the cathedral of Notre Dame (How many chisel-strokes to release the Pieta from its marble shroud? How many brush-strokes to transfer the Last Judgment from Michaelangelo’s teeming imagination to the sanctuary wall of the Sistine?.) Not just the world’s teeming artists and leaders, but everyman, are/is involved in a work of great significance, needing persevering courage to see it through to a successful conclusion; and that work is our salvation. To achieve it, we must co-operate vigorously with God, and in a sense struggle with Him. Today’s liturgy invites us to consider two picturesque examples of perseverance in prayer, and the final success that this achieves.
Moses, the man of God, stands on the hilltop interceding for his people who are struggling for their survival in the valley below, attacked by the violent tribe of Amalek. His arms are raised in the classic gesture of intercession (later immortalised in the Cross of Christ, and still used by the celebrant at Mass.) When, out of sheer weariness, his arms begin to droop, Israel fares badly in the battle. With the help of friends he manages to persevere in his mediating prayer, until victory is won. A beautiful prophetic image for Christ, whose prayer continued even when his soul was sorrowful, even unto death. It supports the ideal of intercessory prayer on behalf of others-not, however, in a superficial way or for petty requests; but for matters of life and death, for salvation, release from sin, recovery from depression, strength to cope with problems, perseverance. And when we pray these things for others, we must do so seriously, with a love that is ready for practical service too.
The widow’s dogged perseverance is reflected in the lives of many strong women. History recalls the struggle of various women to achieve particular aims. Think of the persistence of Joan of Arc, of the suffragettes, the feminists who protest at all inequalities based on gender; the mothers who face up to all bureaucratic barriers on behalf of their family. Their styles of campaign may be different; but the perseverance and the courage are the same. Today we have the story of the widow, who kept up her petition until finally she forced the judge to try her case and give her justice. Her situation was that of a poor person under threat, but with the law firmly on her side. There was no doubt about the justice of her case, but the problem was to get a judge to hear it.
That persevering widow encourages us to pray constantly, for ourselves and for others. We recognise our needs (especially for peace, love, grace and salvation), and ask for them. Our God is not like the unheeding judge of the parable, though it may often seem so. We need to persevere and never abandon hope. In this spirit, eventually all will be well, and into his presence we will come, happy to have reached our final destiny.