29th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle C)

Readings:
Exodus 17:8-13
Psalm 121:1-7
2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Luke 18:1-8

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

The two Testaments reveal God's divine plan for humanity, and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Perseverance in Prayer and in Scripture Study
Prayer and studying Sacred Scriptures are two ways of communicating with God and opens the means for God to communicate His divine will to us. The First Reading and the Gospel contain examples of the power of prayer and the necessity of persevering in prayer, and today's Psalm encourages us to pray for God's protection and intervention in our lives.

In the First Reading, Moses, in the company of Aaron and Hur, offers an intercessory prayer that resulted in Israel's victory over the army of the Amalekites. Then as today, the faithful strengthen each other by praying together in their petitions to God, giving additional power to the prayer as we support one another praying in the name of the Lord, as Jesus told us in John 14:13-14. It is for this reason that the Church, united in the Body of Christ, makes petitions to God in the Intercessory Prayers of the Mass.

The Fathers of the Church saw a foreshadowing of the Christ in Moses standing on the top of a hill/mountain, holding his wooden staff, with his arms outstretched, and praying for victory over Israel's enemy. Jesus prayed for the salvation of mankind on the rock of the hill/mountain top of Golgotha with His outstretched arms on the Cross. He prayed and ultimately won victory over humanity's perennial enemy, Satan. The Fathers saw Moses' wooden staff as a conduit for God's power in defeating Israel's enemy just as the Cross of Jesus Christ became a conduit for God's power in defeating Satan.

Today's Responsorial Psalm should remind us that we are pilgrims on a journey. Our journey is through this life on our way to the Holy City of the heavenly Jerusalem. On our life's journey, we should not only pray for ourselves, but we should also remember to pray for God's protection for our brothers and sisters in the human family who share the journey with us so that we all might come to salvation. Speaking of God's parental protection, St. John Vianney said, "Our God never lets us out of his sight; he is like a mother who watches closely over her child as he takes his first steps What consolation the Christian feels to know that God is always watching over him, that he witnesses his trials and struggles, to know that God is on his side" (St. John Vianney, Sermon on Corpus Christi).

In the Second Reading, St. Paul advises St. Timothy on the necessity of studying the Scriptures in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his faith community. St. Paul's advice is as important for the faithful today as in was in the first century of the Church. St. Paul emphasizes the usefulness of all the Scriptures, and by "all" Scripture he means the entirety of the sacred texts that are the word of God written down in human terms that we might understand them and live according to their teachings.

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus gives a teaching on the necessity of persistence in prayer in the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In His teaching, Jesus warns the faithful to remain firm in faith. Faith and prayer are two sides of the same coin. If you have faith in God you will go to Him in prayer; if you pray, you strengthen your faith in God. The question Jesus asks at the end of His teaching is will the professed children of God remain patiently persistent in their faith, and will He find faith on earth when He returns?

Ask yourself this same question. Do you persist in prayer with the persistence of the widow in Jesus' parable or, if you do not immediately receive an answer to your prayer, do you lose heart, patience, and faith, and do you then give up? The reason for unanswered prayer is either because we are not praying for what is good for us, or we are praying for what is not in God's divine plan for us, or He is not granting the petition because God is asking us to have patience and persevere in faith. St. Monica prayed for her son to repent and come to faith for almost thirty years. If she had not persisted, the Church might have been deprived of one of her greatest theologians, the great Bishop St. Augustine of Hippo.

The First Reading Exodus 17:8-13 ~ The Battle against the Amalekites
8 In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel [at Rephidim]. 9 Moses, therefore, said to Joshua, "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." 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. 11 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. 12 Moses' hands, however, grew tired; so 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. 13 And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. [..] = literal translation, IBHE, vol. I, page 188.

In the exodus out of Egypt, with God's help, the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea to escape the advancing Egyptian army (Ex 14:5-31; 16:22). God continued to care for His people, feeding the hungry Israelites quail and manna from heaven on their journey (16:4-36). After they left the northern desert of Sin and made camp, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. It was a location between the Red Sea and Mt. Sinai. The Amalekites were an ancient people first mentioned in the invasion of the kings of Mesopotamia in Genesis 14:4 (also see Num 13:29; 24:20). They occupied the northern Sinai Peninsula and the Negeb of southern Canaan, and at the time of the Exodus, they controlled the caravan routes between Arabia and Egypt. These people probably saw the opportunity to attack a vulnerable band of refugees and confiscate their herds of livestock. From the of this attack, the Amalekites will be considered to be Israel's perennial enemies (Dt 25:17-18, Judg 1:16; 6:3-5, 33; 12:15; 1 Sam 15:3-9; 27:8, 30:1-2, 11-20).

This is the first time Joshua is mentioned in the Biblical narrative. Originally named Hoshea, Joshua is the son of Nun (Num 13:16) a member of the tribe of Joseph. As a descendant of Joseph's younger son Ephraim, Joshua is listed as a member of that half-tribe (Num 13:8). Moses changed his name from Hoshea ("salvation") to Yahshua/Yehoshua ("Yah is salvation") in Numbers 13:16. Yahshua/Yehosua is the same name the angel Gabriel will tell the Virgin Mary to name the Son of God (Lk 1:31). Joshua became Moses' trusted lieutenant (Ex 24:13), and latter be named as Moses' successor, divinely elected by God to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land (Dt 32:44; Josh 1:1-5). In all his years of service to the Lord, Joshua's record of obedience was unblemished. His homily to the assembly of Israel before his death is a testament to his unfailing devotion to God and his fidelity to his life's mission to fulfill God's plans for Israel (Josh 24:1-24). Chapter 34 of the Book of Deuteronomy and the Book of Joshua are attributed to him as the inspired writer.

Aaron (Israel's first high priest) and Hur assisted Moses. Hur is only mentioned here and in Exodus 24:14, and is possibly the same Hur who was named in the genealogies of the tribe of Judah (1 Chr 2:50; 4:1, 4). His name (hr) probably derives from the Egyptian hr, "Horus," the Egyptian falcon-headed god (Propp, Exodus, page 617). Several of the Israelites of the Exodus generation had Egyptians names.

Obedient to Moses' command, Joshua led the Israelite men into battle against the Amalekites while Moses, with his staff in his hand, stood on a hill with his arms and hands raised and stretched out to each side as he prayed for God's intercession and Israel's victory. This position of prayer is called the Orans or Orante position. It will become the priestly stance in prayer for the priests of the Old Covenant Church and continues as a stance in prayer for the priests of the New Covenant people of God.

17 Joshua did as Moses had told him and went out to engage Amalek, while Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses kept his arms raised, Israel had the advantage; when he let his arms fall, the advantage went to Amalek.
So long as Moses continued in his intercessory prayer for Israel with his arms and hands raised, Joshua and his forces were able to push back their enemy, but whenever his arms fell the Amalekites began to gain dominance over Israel. To help Moses keep his arms raised, Aaron and Hur sat Moses on a stone and supported his outstretched arms. Moses remained in this position until sunset when Joshua and the Israelites finally defeated their enemy.

In Moses' position standing on the top of a hill/mountain, holding his wooden staff, with his arms outstretched, and his body forming a cross and his intercessory prayer leading to victory over Israel's perennial enemy the Amalekites, the Fathers of the Church saw a foreshadow of the Christ. Jesus prayed for the salvation of mankind on the rock of the hill/mountain top of Golgotha with His outstretched arms on the Cross. He prayed and ultimately won victory over humanity's perennial enemy, Satan. The Fathers saw Moses' wooden staff as a conduit for God's power in defeating Israel's enemy just as the wood of the Cross of Jesus Christ became a conduit for God's power in defeating Satan (see Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3.18; Cyprian, Testimonia 2.21; Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 2.88).

The role of Aaron and Hur in Moses' intercessory prayer that resulted in Israel's victory over her enemy is also important. When the faithful strengthen each other by praying together in offering their petitions to God, there is additional power in the prayer. We remember the Apostles and disciples praying in the presence of the Virgin Mary in the Upper Room in Jerusalem as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit after Jesus' Ascension. They prayed with one voice and one heart for nine days, and on the tenth day the Holy Spirit came to fill and indwell the Church of Jesus Christ on the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Acts 1:11-14; 2:1-4). We support one another in prayer, and this is why the Church, united in the Body of Christ, makes petitions to God in the Intercessory Prayers of the Mass.

Responsorial Psalm 121:1-7 ~ A Prayer for God's Protection
The response is: "Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

1 I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; whence shall help come to me? 2 My help is from the LORD [YHWH] who made heaven and earth.
Respnse:
3 May he not suffer your foot to slip; may he slumber not who guards you: 4 indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps, the guardian of Israel.
Respnse:
5 The LORD [YHWH] is your guardian; the LORD [YHWH] is your shade; he is beside you at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
Respnse:
7 The LORD [YHWH] will guard you from all evil; he will guard your life. 8 The LORD [YHWH] will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever.
Respnse:

This Psalm is one of the "Songs of Ascents" that pilgrims either sang or prayed aloud on their journey up to the holy city of Jerusalem which they could see in the distance (verse 1). The Psalmist must begin with by expressing his profession of faith and trust in Yahweh who made heaven and earth (verse 2). Yahweh's protection is described in terms a guard/guardian for the psalmist and his people six times (see verses 3, 4, 5, 7 twice and 8). Notice that in verse three the tense changes from first person singular (I) to second person plural (you/your). God guards the psalmist/pilgrim on his journey to the Holy City just as He guards Israel on her journey through history (verses 3-8). The Lord gives His protection to the pilgrim and his people from evil in the same way that "shade" protects the pilgrim from the scorching heat of the sun in the day (verse 5), and God guiddes them by the light of the moon at night (verse 6-7). The psalmist's intercessory prayer for his people is that the daily activities of the faithful ("your coming and your going") fall under Yahweh's divine protection.

Psalm 121 should remind us that we are also pilgrims on a journey. Our journey is through this life on our way to the Holy City of the Heavenly Jerusalem. On our life's journey, we should not only pray for ourselves, but we should also remember to pray for God's protection for our brothers and sisters in the human family who share the journey with us that we all might come to salvation. Speaking of God's parental protection, St. John Vianney said: "Our God never lets us out of his sight; he is like a mother who watches closely over her child as he takes his first steps... What consolation the Christian feels to know that God is always watching over him, that he witnesses his trials and struggles, to know that God is on his side" (St. John Vianney, Sermon on Corpus Christi).

The Second Reading 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 ~ The Godly Inspiration of Sacred Scripture
3:14 Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, 15 and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: 2 proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

When St. Paul speaks of the Sacred Scriptures, he is first speaking of what we call the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures. There are the Scriptures that Jesus taught were fulfilled in His three year mission proclaiming the Kingdom of God, in His sacrificial death and in His glorious resurrection (Lk 24:26-27, 44-45). Timothy was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish-Christian mother from the city of Lystra in Asia Minor. It was Timothy's mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (also a Jewish-Christian) who taught him the Scriptures from his infancy (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim 1:5). Paul provides a gentle warning to us concerning the influence we can have over our children in teaching them the Old and New Testament Scriptures and through them the Gospel of salvation (2 Tim 3:15).

In verse 16, St. Paul emphasizes the usefulness of all the Scriptures. By "all" Scripture he means the entirety of the sacred texts that are the word of God written down in human terms that we might understand them and live according to their teachings. When he says "inspired by God," Paul means "breathed by God." Paul may also be including the New Testament Gospels and other apostolic letters including his letters, which he believes is God breathed as he says in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

In 4:1-2 the tone of St. Paul's letter becomes grave. He is writing from his prison in Rome and believes he will soon face martyrdom. He "charges" Timothy, as though he is putting Timothy under an oath, to carry out the mission of "proclaiming the word." Timothy must preach the Gospel of salvation in the apostolic tradition. He must continue to share the precious deposit of faith that Paul has received from Christ and the Apostles that Paul has faithfully passed on to Timothy. It is Timothy's responsibility to pass on this precious trust to the next generation of believers no matter what obstacles he might face.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation when we complete our baptism. We swear an oath to be apostles of Jesus Christ and to pass on the deposit of faith we have received, in Scripture and Tradition, to the next generation of believers. To fulfill your sacramental oath (the origin of the word "sacrament" the Latin word sacramentum which means "oath" or "sacred obligation"), you have an obligation to study Scripture in the Living Tradition of the Church. Is your responsibility in this regard any less than that of St. Timothy?

The Gospel of Luke 18:1-8 ~ The Parable of the Persistent Widow
1 Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without become weary. He said, 2 "There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 3 And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' 4 For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 5 because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'" 6 The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 7 Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? 8 I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Jesus offers three parables on the power of prayer in the Gospel of Luke:

  1. The Parable of the Persistent Neighbor (Lk 11:5-13) invites us to urgent prayer.
  2. The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1-8) focuses on one of the qualities of prayer which is the necessity to pray without ceasing with the patience of faith.
  3. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14) concerns the necessity of humility.

The contrast in this parable is between a persistent widow petitioning a judge and a Christian being persistent in petitioning God in prayer. The persistence of the widow's petition to the judge got results in the same way the Christian's patient persistence in petitioning God in prayer will get results; not because God finds the Christian irritating like the judge found the widow but because God will reward a Christian's patient and faithful persistence.

8 But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
The "Son of Man" is Jesus' favorite title for Himself. This verse is the crux of the problem facing mankind concerning the Second Advent of Christ. Jesus ends His teaching on the perseverance of prayer with the warning to remain firm in one's faith. Faith and prayer are two sides of the same coin. If you have faith in God you will go to Him in prayer; if you pray, you strengthen your faith in God. The question Jesus asks is "will the professed children of God be patiently persistent in their faith, and will He find faith on earth when He returns?" Ask yourself this same question. Do you persist in prayer with the persistence of the widow in Jesus' parable or, if you do not immediately receive an answer to your prayer, do you lose heart, patience and faith and give up? When God does not answer our prayers. It is either because we are not praying for what is good for us, or we are praying for what is not in God's divine plan for us, or He is not granting the petition because God is asking us to be patient and persevere in faith. St. Monica prayed for her son to repent and come to faith for almost thirty years. If she had not persisted, the Church might have been deprived of one of her greatest theologians: Bishop St. Augustine of Hippo.

Catechism References:
Exodus 17:8-13 (CCC 2577)
Psalm 121:2 (CCC 1605)
2 Timothy 4 (CCC 2015), 4:1 (CCC 679)
Luke 18:1-8 (CCC 675), 18:1 (CCC 2098), 18:8 (CCC 675)

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