20 October, 2019. 29th Sunday (C)

1st Reading: Book of Exodus 17:8-13

When Moses prays with arms outstretched, God gives victory to his people

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

Response: 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./)

2nd Reading: 2 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 favorable or unfavorable; 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?”


Persevering in prayer

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 immortalized 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 recognize 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.


Gan Géilleadh

Spreagann an bhaintreach, a sheas an fód,  sinn chun guí de shíor ar ár son féin agus ar son daoine eile.  Tuigtear dúinn  a bhfuil in easnamh orainn (go háirithe  i dtaobh na síochána, grá, grásta naomhaithe agus slánú) agus casaimíd ar Dhia lenár nguí.  Ní hionann an Tiarna agus an Breitheamh anuasal sa bhfáithscéal, ach uaireannta is dall sinn ar thoil Dé.    Caithfear guí le dóchas agus le spiorad agus ag deire an lae beidh gach rud i gceart .  Beimíd i dteannta an Tiarna, slán sabháilte le cúnamh Dé.



  1. David Lupo says:

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Seamus Ahearne says:

    The Scrum of faith:
    Schmidt has retained his front row with Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong. I expect Rory will be held up like Moses and I hope his praying will do for the All Blacks what was done against the Amalekites It is a wild and crazy story but at least the idea of Communal support can be dragged from the image and shows that together, we can do anything. God is in there in the struggles of life.

    The little stories thrown into the mix of a persistent widow and a reluctant Judge link well with the Canaanite mother and the crumbs from the table and the troublesome neighbour looking for bread, milk, sugar or whatever during the night. These are familiar and lovely. Our Seanachai-Jesus is marvellous. And this Story Teller could excite his listeners, and his story- telling rattles down the centuries. Even ourselves who are somewhat sluggish and lacking in the poetry of the story, can occasionally find the nugget/treasure in the colourful picture, and even get the message.

    A Dying Church:
    The characters in the Stories can be observed; even admired and enjoyed rather than be seen as suggestive- whispers of ourselves. These theatrical descriptions of persistence and patience – somehow gets to me. Where does Prayer come into it? Mission weekend can take us on a journey to other places and other times and other people. We can even give generously but I wonder about our own Mission and Prayer. It is often said that we are a ‘dying Church.’ We meet most people at funerals. Many only come to Church for funerals. And the notion of a funeral, is not a bad description of the Church at present. What then is Prayer?

    What is going on at Mass?
    I asked a question at a Scripture Conference during the week. Is our Mass prayerful? Is it a prayer? How do we make it prayerful? And finally what do we think we are doing, when we are at Mass? What does a priest think he is doing, when he is leading Mass? We had a discussion on this. There was a view that Eucharist without music and song is almost an obscenity! The music and song can’t be a side-line performance of experts; it has to stir the innards of all present- singing in tune or out of tune. (Up with people/ And together they were singing!)

    Altar robots:
    There was the idea that too often, Mass is a take-over by the priest as if the Mass was about him. The rest are passive and silent except when they jump up and down like robots and blether off half-hearted responses. The savage observation was made that so often the priest looks bored; seems like a mechanical performer; words are mouthed; he is dressed up and is a wooden actor on a sacred stage. Nothing touches the heart. Sursum Corda. Hardly. The language of the New Missal too, is crude and unintelligible. It knows nothing of Liturgy which should throb with the words/music/feelings of those present.

    Crude language:
    But Mass isn’t about the priest. We are all celebrating. We all lift up the hearts. We all help each other to be aware of the presence of God. (Or don’t). We all share our experience of God in life. We all use a language that speaks out of our daily existence. There are too many intrusive words with too many lumpy latinisms distorting the Mass, which are an obstacle to praying. Who on earth needs the words of the present Confiteor or the Gloria or the Creed? The three Readings idea is ridiculous and has no understanding of basic psychology. We are in a scrum of faith at Mass. And prayer has to erupt from us. The priest is inspiring us into prayer. The Community is inspiring the priest into prayer. If it isn’t a Prayer for the Priest; if it isn’t a Prayer for the Community – Eucharist has not been celebrated. It doesn’t matter how elaborate the so called Liturgy is, or how solemn the performance is, or how dressed up and beautiful the scene is. The heart has to be touched. ‘Raising our minds and hearts to God.’

    The Mission:
    The Mission of all, even for young Timmy is to stir the embers of faith; to become aware of the awesomeness of God; to see the leaves turn; to watch the moon speaking; to soak up the wind; to recall our ancestors who inspired us in faith; to be patient with those who haven’t found the stories enlightening; to make every gathering for Eucharist or anything else, moments of real grace, where God becomes flesh among us and wakes us up. That is our Mission. This is Praying. We cannot give up in causing this to happen. We are like the widow in ensuring that our Mission and our Praying is central to our lives as Church. Whatever it takes; all of us have to do everything – like the burning bush (Ex 3); like the mountain top experience (gentle breeze) 1 Kings 19; like Jacob’s ladder Gen 28.16.

    Seamus Ahearne osa

  3. sean walsh says:

    Paul to Timothy. Second Reading. “Proclaim the message.” Three words – what words! He does not say – “Read the Good News…” Reading/reader – quite misleading. The term ‘reader’is a misnomer. Proclaim is the operative word. The Good News – joyous, enthusiastic, sharing… should sound in the voice of the one at the ambo! Don’t mumble, hurry, glide over… Say it out, let it ring out! And notice Paul uses the term, ‘message.’ Rather than the more usual ‘Good News.’ I read into that a sense of urgency. One word rather than two.
    Seamus A Hearne above and I quote: “There was a view that Eucharist without music and song is almost an obscenity!” I venture to state: A ministry of the Word that does not proclaim does a disservice to God and Man.”

  4. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Exodus 17:
    The Moses painted here is a humorous picture of a seanchaí kind of Moses, a man totally committed to prayer and intercession. It is like the story of St Kevin and the blackbird: while lost in prayer, a blackbird built a nest in his hand and laid her eggs, so Kevin held his hand until the fledglings fly. Séamus Heaney gets it right in his poem “St Kevin and the Blackbird” – “a prayer his body makes.”
    A few of the lines (read the whole poem):
    [Kevin] “finding himself linked
    into the network of eternal life
    is moved to pity …
    And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
    Imagine being Kevin. Which is he? …
    A prayer his body makes entirely
    For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
    And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.”

    Luke 18:
    A story to bring a chuckle to the hearers: a widow, the most voiceless in society, overcomes the obduracy and indifference of one in power. Struggle with bureaucracy is a common experience. She cannot appeal to his good side, because he hasn’t got one – he acknowledges that himself. The Lectionary translation says he changes his mind because she “will worry me to death.” No English translation that I’ve seen gives the force of the Greek: “she will give me a black eye!” – she will humiliate him publicly if he does not vindicate justice.
    Jesus does not imply that we need to treat God like that – rather, the complete opposite. One as obdurate as the judge gives in to the widow. The God of justice and compassion is quite the opposite.
    Does prayer succeed? A story of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is that someone asked her what use her work was, when it could make little difference in the face of the awful suffering. She replied: God does not call me to be successful. God calls me to be faithful.

    Mission Sunday:
    How many Catholic missionaries are there in the world?
    The latest statistics available (December 2017) is that there are 1,313,278,000 baptised Catholics in the world. 1.3 billion. http://www.fides.org/en/news/66809
    So that is the number of missionaries. Mission is the consequence of Baptism.
    Go forth on the mission.

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