Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 20, 2019 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
Sunday Reading Meditations
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In today’s first reading, Moses says to Joshua: “Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle” (Ex 17:9). Christian life is a battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Amalek symbolizes everything that impedes the fulfillment of our lives, all the obstacles that prevent us from reaching our destiny. In this life, we need to battle constantly to conform our will to God’s will: "not my will but yours be done") Lk 22:42).
We can conquer Amalek through prayer. Moses says to Joshua: “I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand” (Ex 17:9). In our daily life, we need to climb the hill and detach ourselves from the battlefield in order to be efficient soldiers. Activism is the great temptation of our times. We tend to prioritize action over contemplation. To a church that often forgets the better part, Jesus says: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Lk 10:41-42).
We are brave fighters when we receive God’s grace through prayer: “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight” (Ex 17:11). Through prayer, we grow in the certainty that God is our protector. As today’s responsorial psalm says: “My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 121:2). Prayer allows us to experience God’s protection. Today’s psalm also says: “The LORD will guard you from all evil; he will guard your life. The LORD will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever” (Ps 121:7–8).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about the necessity to pray always, without becoming weary (cf. Lk 18:1). Sometimes we can grow weary of praying: “Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands” (Ex 17:12). In addition to personal prayer, we also need communitarian prayer. We need the support and example of others to help us remain steady in the presence of God. Even when we pray alone, we are in communion with the whole Church. Our brothers and sisters in faith help us remember Christ. Through them, we hear Jesus’ words: "Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test" (Mt 26:41).
“Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (Ex 17:13). The sword is the word of God: "The world of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart" (Heb 4:12). Our prayer should be based on the word of God. In today’s second reading, Saint Paul says: “[t]he sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). The meditation of the Scripture introduces us little by little to the contemplation of God. The word of God nourishes our faith, which is the means for our union with the Trinity. Jesus concludes the Gospel by asking: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 17:8). His words admonish us to be faithful to our prayer life.
In the second reading, Saint Paul tells Timothy: “Be persistent” (2 Tim 4:2). In prayer, the most important virtue is persistence, “whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Tim 4:2). Jesus says: "By your perseverance you will secure your lives." (Lk 21:19).
"The LORD will fight for you: you have only to keep still" (Ex 14:14). Christian life is a battle that has already been won for us by Christ. We only need to allow Jesus’ victory to live in us. In prayer, we submit ourselves to God and let his grace fill our hearts. Prayer is a peaceful battle. Amen.