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God's Word on Sunday: Strength is drawn from those who inspire

  • October 16, 2022

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Oct. 16 (Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8)

In armies of the ancient world, the charisma and presence of the military leader made the difference between victory and defeat. As long as the leader stood tall and continued to fight, the warriors could take courage and continue the struggle.

Leading from the front has always been the preferred tactic of successful generals. But there is a catch — if that general or leader should be killed or seriously wounded, the will to fight on the part of the soldiers often collapsed. Not only would the battle be over, but it would also usually be followed by a rout and a slaughter.

Moses was a good psychologist — he posted himself in a prominent place where he could be seen by the Israelite warriors. He then extended his arm — the same arm that worked miracles during their exit from Egypt. Did he bestow special powers on his men? That is difficult to say, but the men doing battle were convinced of the power emanating from his arm and took heart. He did not dare lower his arms, for that would be signalling weakness to the men, and when he did so, they began to falter. Those with him propped him up so that his arms would stay extended, which enabled the Israelite troops to prevail. Amalek was defeated, but their attack was never forgiven. In 1 Samuel 15:3-19, the prophet Samuel ordered Saul to attack and exterminate all of the Amalekites as payment for their treachery.

What does this story mean for us? People draw strength from those who inspire them or pray for them. Being positive and encouraging to those who are struggling is very important. Praying for others is even more effective when those for whom we pray are aware that we are doing so. They feel less alone and will be more hopeful and open to the graces that the Lord may send them. In the difficult times in which we live, it is vital that we be persistent and visible in our prayerful and loving support of those who are suffering and struggling.

In the same vein, the author of 2 Timothy urges his followers to be persistent at all times and in all circumstances. They are to proclaim the message but there are many ways to proclaim. One’s way of living out faith in Jesus is one such method and a very effective one.

But he also directs them to the Scriptures — and at the time this was written, that meant what we call the Old Testament. He insists that it is still in force and is quite useful for spiritual and intellectual formation, as well as for reformation of life. We need not go on a frantic search for direction in our lives — all that we need is right in front of us.

Tax collectors, corrupt judges and crooked managers were all part of life in Galilee. Jesus used them in His parables, and we can almost see the smiles and smirks on the faces of the people as He related the story. A widow brought her case to the judge and begged for justice. There was a problem: the judge did not care one bit for people or for God — he was a totally selfish individual. The woman pestered and nagged him until in irritation and exasperation he gave her what she wanted in order to shut her up. Jesus urged His listeners to have the same dogged persistence as the woman in the story.

We might ask why — do we have to wear God down like the corrupt judge? Not at all — it is our intensity and persistence that forms a connection and channel through which God can bless us and accede to our requests. No half-hearted and anemic prayers will do. The three readings convey the important message of the absolute necessity of persistence and steadfastness in prayer.

Jesus ends the parable with some of the most chilling and sobering words in the New Testament: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on Earth?” This question is especially challenging in our own day. That question we must ask ourselves continually, as we strive to keep the flame of faith burning in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.