The Word for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
As for our readings, we open with Exodus. Moses and the Israelites are pushing into the Southern Canaan where they are experiencing resistance from Amalek. Amalek is the nation inhabiting this region, and the name suggests a relationship to Esau, Abraham’s other son (though this may just be a literary device). Moses holds out his hands (in a prayer position) and the battle goes in favor of Israel, but as Moses grows tired, the tide of battle shifts. With the help of Aaron and Hur, Moses is able to keep his arms up so that Israel wins the day. There are actually two important points made with regard to prayer in this reading. First is persistence: As long a Moses persevered in his prayer, the Lord responded in kind. Second is help from others. As Moses began to tire, Aaron and Hur were there to hold up his arms, acting as intercessors in his prayer, and reinforcing the idea that we all need the help of others from time to time.
In our Gospel from Luke, we hear another story of how one’s persistence in prayer can be beneficial. Continuing from where we left off last week, we get yet again another parable unique to Luke’s Gospel. Here a widow (part of the underclass) keeps pressing her case with a dishonest judge. Her perseverance ultimately leads the judge to rule in her favor, if for no other reason than to get her out of his hair. Jesus’ approach is a little unusual (typical of Luke), but he uses the widow as an example of how we need to be persistent in our prayers to God if we are to be heard. Is persistence necessary in prayer? There are some interesting ideas to explore here… not the least of which is “does God even hear us?”
In our second reading, though not specifically related to our theme, continues with our examination of the 2nd Pauline letter to Timothy. Here again, we see the need for persistence, but in this case, not necessarily in prayer, but in the fulfillment of his ministry. As Paul continues to exhort his younger charge to persevere, he also tells Timothy that the message of Scripture remains true. In fact, this passage from Paul sets the precedent for how the Church views scripture and how it has become one of the pillars of our formation. It is also an example of how we are never left to deal with issues on our own. Even in his absence, Paul is telling Timothy that he has the scripture to fall back on and to support him in his ministry. For us today this is fairly easy to understand and accept, but in the first century this was not necessarily the case. It is also important to note here that the scripture Paul is referring to is fact the Hebrew Bible… the Christian scriptures as we know them didn’t yet exist. Not only did Paul’s teaching encourage us to keep reading scripture, but his ideas encouraged the young Church to document their own testament.
Also in keeping with our theme on prayer, we will spend some time with the Rosary. A prayer that is uniquely Catholic, the rosary holds a special devotion for many. It has an interesting history, with roots that go back to some ancient forms of prayer.