Thursday, October 24, 2013

HOMILY 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C St Austin, Austin, TX 10/20/2013

          In our first reading Moses instructs Josua: “Pick out certain men,
and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.
I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand."
I happen to have here an in-exact replica of the Staff of God that Moses used, the same staff that Moses held out over the Red Sea in order to part the sea in two and that Moses used to ensure victory in today’s reading.  Perhaps you’ve seen the movie, with Charlton Heston playing Moses. 
          Anyway Josua goes and does as he is told, engaging the horrible and dreaded Amalek in battle.  Moses goes up to the top of the hill, with the staff of God, and raises up his hands, presumably holding out the staff, like at the Red Sea.  (Hold out staff.)
          Now admittedly I am not in very good shape.  None-the-less, this is not easy to do for very long.  If you don’t believe me, try it.   In any case our reading tells us: “Moses’ hands, however, grew tired;”   I bet they did.  But Moses couldn’t let his hands down to rest, because when he did Amalek started winning.  Only when Moses had his hands raised with the staff did Joshua win.  I can picture poor old Moses, standing up there, holding out his hands with the staff, saying to himself, “Oh Josua, come on, get with it, hurry up!”  But the battle was dragging on. (put down staff)
          What was poor old Moses to do?  He could not keep his aching arms up on his own, and he could not put them down to rest lest Josua be defeated and the Israelites be massacred.  So what did he do?   Moses relied on other people.  He did not rely on his own strength, but accepted the help of others.
          The reading states:  “they put a rock in place for him to sit on.
Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,
one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
          That was a long time.  Moses could never have done it on his own.  He had to rely on the help of others.  But it did the trick:  “And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”   Gory but effective.
          Now hopefully you don’t want to mow down some other tribal leader and his people, or anything as bloody as that.  But if you are human then you do have some things you need and deeply desire:  health and protection for your family,  especially your children.  Wisdom and guidance in some difficult ethical situation.  Strength to tell the truth in the face of opposition and the courage to do what is right.  Assistance to be able to use your talents to better yourself and support your family.  Patience to bear an illness or to deal with difficult people.  Guidance to find a life partner, significant career decisions, or direction in life.  And many other needs and basic desires.  And so we have to pray. 
          Jesus in the Gospel tells us a parable that teaches us to be persistent in prayer.  The Gospel begins: “Jesus told his disciples” – that is you and me – “a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary
          That is hard.  It is difficult to pray always without becoming weary.  Just try it.  Being humans we get tired of asking, we get discouraged, we become impatient, we become disappointed, in short we become weary.  We don’t have to physically hold up that staff, but praying always is still work, it still takes effort, and we still get weary.   We pray and pray and pray and nothing happens.  We get weary and disappointed and then we give up.   Then old Amalek wins.   YUCK!
          What should we do?  I think we should take a leaf from Moses’ playbook.  We need to get other people to help us to pray.  We need to rely on other people.  Like Moses, get someone to put a rock for you to sit on.   This is not a physical rock.  I think this is rather someone’s strong, rocklike faith.  When we are in the presence of someone of strong faith it is a comfort.  We sort of lean against their faith, that allows us to rest, to relax, to find comfort.  Just as the rock was not bothered or harmed by Moses’ resting on it, so their faith supports us without harming or weakening them in any way. 
          I remember in another diocese where I was first pastor we had a Dean – a priest who is the local representative of the Bishop who was far away in another part of the state.  And this Dean was a very unpleasant and difficult man, a regular Amalek.  He was a Monsignor, you see.  Anyway we were celebrating Confirmation at the parish and the Monsignor showed up just before the ceremony and wanted to change everything around.  I was upset and intimidated.  So I went to see my rock, the Director of Religious Education - Sr. Doris Faber who weighed about 90 pounds “dripping wet” as they say. 
          When I informed her what was happening she hustled over to the Monsignor and explained clearly and directly in her most authoritative nun voice how the ceremony was going to go.  And so it did.  She was a rock I could lean on. 
          If you know someone whose faith is strong and secure then lean against that person’s faith to strengthen your faith.  Take them as an example and a support.  Let them be your rock.
          Then Moses had Aaron and Hur hold his arms.  We are told “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”   Who can be an Aaron and Hur for you?   Who can you ask to support you in prayer, so that you do not become discouraged and tired and give up?  Who can you ask to pray with and for you? 
          Better yet, for whom can you be an Aaron or a Hur?  Who can you lift up and support in prayer?  It goes both ways.  The support is mutual.
          You see, when we pray we are not alone.  We are very much in this all together.  We support, encourage, help one another as we pray.  It is one reason while at least once a week we need to gather together as the Christian community to pray and worship and give thanks.  We need the reminder that we do not pray alone.  We are part of a much greater undertaking, and are supported by our fellow Christians on earth, and by all the good people - the saints - that have gone before us, and also by the angelic choirs.  That is a lot of support.  The prayerful support stretches vastly through space and through time.
          When it comes to prayer we are not rugged individualists.  We pray in, and as part of, a community of faith.  And that makes our prayer much more meaningful.  

          Today’s second collection – for world mission Sunday – is another tangible, concrete expression of our inter-connectedness with Christians all throughout the world.  I encourage you to be generous.  You are really helping yourself, for we are all in this together.   God bless!

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