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Saturday, 16 October 2010

29th. Sunday, Year (C)
(Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:2; Luke 18:1-8)

As Moses was guiding Israel to the Promised Land, we heard that:
            Amalek came and attacked Israel at Rephidim.  (REB)
Now, it is important that we notice what followed, for Moses said to Joshua:
Pick men for us, and march out tomorrow to fight against Amalek; and I shall stand on the hilltop with the staff of God in my hand.
Moses was not a bloodthirsty man, in fact, Scripture tells us that:
Moses was a man of great humility, the most humble man on earth (Num 12:3-4);
and yet, as you heard, he went -- as leader with the staff of God in his hand -- to intercede for the army of Israel fighting in battle at his behest :
Whenever Moses raised his hands Israel had the advantage, and when he lowered his hands the advantage passed to Amalek . 
Ultimately, it was thanks to Moses' intercession that:
      Joshua defeated Amalek and put its people to the sword. 
And so, despite being the most humble of men, Moses led his people into war believing it to be in accordance with the will of the Lord.
Moses was also the holiest of men, for Scripture tells us that the Lord:
The Lord used to speak with Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another. (Ex 33:11)
The full significance of this is explained to us in the following words of the Lord:
If he were a prophet and nothing more, I would make Myself known to him in a vision, I would speak with him in a dream.  But My servant Moses is not such a prophet; of all My house he alone is faithful.  With him I speak face to face, openly and not in riddles.  He sees the very form of the Lord. (Num 12:6-8)
Because Moses was totally dedicated to God in his holiness and his humility, he could not be directly involved in the bloody struggle against Amalek taking place in the valley below him; nevertheless, for the sake of God's People, he would share in the battle, in the manner best suited to his particular calling and personal character, that is, by his prayers.  From this we can see that war is not, of itself, evil; but, in our fallen world, it can only become an acceptable weapon for the People of God when used with an intention and for a purpose acceptable to God.
However, as the centuries have passed and human society has developed, the somewhat simple issues over which wars were fought formerly have become, politically, involved and uncertain, while the effects of war have become ever more disastrous.  Therefore the Christian spirit is now increasingly inclined to turn from earthly weapons of war and rely instead upon the God-given weapons drawn to our attention in the Gospel and the second reading.
Timothy was a man totally dedicated to God in his life, but, as with Moses, that did not mean that he could not, should not, fight.  His ministry was indeed to be a fight, and the words of St. Paul in the second reading were preparing and encouraging him to be a fighter in the best Christian sense, for God’s glory and for men's salvation:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
Worldly weapons of destruction are readily, almost inevitably, backed by worldly passions, and too often they result in hatred, violence, and ruthlessness being directed against our fellow men.   St. Paul, on the other hand, explains that the Christian fight is against the devil:
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)
Moreover, the Christian must learn to fight not only against evil in the world around, but also against the evil, the weakness and the ignorance, ensconced within his own heart and mind; and for such a campaign -- one that has to be fought throughout life -- only faith and prayer can enable him to endure and ultimately win the promised crown:
Take up the armour of God that you will be able to withstand on the evil day.  Stand fast; fasten on the belt of truth, for a breastplate put on integrity; let the shoes on your feet be the gospel of peace, to give you firm footing.  And with all these, take up the great shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the burning arrows of the evil one.  Accept salvation as your helmet, and the sword which the Spirit gives you, the word of God.   Constantly ask God’s help, praying always in power of the Spirit.   (Eph 6:13-18. REB)
In armed conflicts emotions naturally arise in the combatants; and, being  instinctive, they can soon develop, becoming so powerful and imperious as to be indeed, passions: forces we cannot simply use, but which rather use us and from which we suffer greatly: impulses and drives blinding and hardening us to such an extent that they overwhelm our judgment and override our conscience.  From such indulged and sated passions there directly arise not only human tragedies and great suffering, but also retaliatory crimes of passion, spreading human misery over an ever longer time and wider field.
The virtue of faith, on the other hand, can never become an overwhelming passion since it is a supernatural gift of God which only develops through our deliberate and persevering faithfulness and humility before God; moreover, faith exercises its power against all that provokes and promotes passions and their excesses, that is, against the multitude of irritations and antagonisms, injuries and vanities, lusts and longings -- not to mention anxieties and fears -- that can so easily fill the lives and stir the hearts and minds of men and women today. 
Therefore, our Gospel passage ended on a very sombre note to which we should give at least some thought here:
When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?
Many Christian men and women lead lives basically dedicated indeed to God; but being involved in the world and living partly for worldly ends, their Christian faith can, at times, be seriously weakened by the dangers and difficulties they inevitably encounter; for there is no doubt that our Western civilization is that of a post-Christian era, indeed a post-religion era, and although there still remain  remnants of Christian teachings, examples of Christian attitudes and values, publicly acknowledged and appreciated or, more generally, hidden in the intimate and private corridors of men’s minds, these are only rarely able to tug at public heart-strings.  Moreover, since many of our contemporaries have lost all direct contact with the living Church, our present-day afflictions are the largely the result of a catastrophic loss of trust in God which has developed over many years, and not only have morals deteriorated in our society, but reason itself, which might seem, as judged from our technological advances, to have been so wonderfully encouraged and empowered, has, in fact, been dreadfully distorted.  Originally given as a unique blessing to enable mankind to recognize and appreciate something of the glory of God in the wonder of creation, the human intellect has increasingly been used by many to glorify themselves whilst seeking to deny any divine power over creation or divine influence in human affairs. 
Moreover, in the Church herself, false and hypocritical piety has gradually led many to use devotions and even the very sacraments themselves wrongly: for, instead of seeking thereby to draw ever closer to their heavenly Father in a personal relationship of loving trust and obedience, they have used devotions to build up a personal pseudo-holiness on a basis of things supposedly done for God, and abused the sacraments to provide themselves with a kind of protecting shield against a God imagined as a threatening Judge.
And yet, because humankind is made for God, we cannot turn away from Him without hurting, bruising, and even, perhaps, ultimately upsetting the harmony and shattering the beauty of our human make-up.  The minds and hearts of many have, indeed, been turned away from God, but still, in the depths of their human psychology they continue to feel a need to be justified, to be at one with the Other, which, if it cannot be the transcendent God, must then be society itself. In difficulties and disputes of whatever sort today the solution of individual problems and general moral issues is so often sought exclusively at the bar of public opinion and common practice: whatever is popular must be right and acceptable, so that we regularly hear such phrases as: “I’m only doing what lots of others are doing”.  And there are yet others for whom it is sufficient to feel at one with their presumed personal fate, with the blind forces at work in society; and these will frequently explain and excuse themselves by such words as
There was no other option open to us; we could not have done otherwise. .
When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?
Will He, that is, find some few still willing to create a silence, a peace, within and without themselves that they might be found listening for His voice, wanting to hear and willing to answer His call?  And if so, will He find among these any prepared -- in accordance with His word -- to sacrifice themselves, with Him, for His purposes, and for the glory of the Father?       
To that end we must remember that Jesus told our parable in today’s Gospel to encourage us to pray continually and never lose heart; and this He did because such perseverance in prayer is guaranteed the ultimate fulfilment it seeks:
Will not God give justice to His elect who cry to Him day and night?  Indeed, I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily.