Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • Exodus 17:8-13
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
  • Luke 18:1-8

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The First Reading at the Holy Mass today for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time is a wonderful story from Exodus 17:8-13 that beautifully illustrates how our cooperation with God, no matter how painful or arduous it may be, opens up the floodgate of His promise to protect us and to keep us. The nation of Amalek (the Amalekites) had made themselves enemies of Israel, just as Esau, the grandfather of Amalek, had made himself an enemy of his brother Jacob. As Esau tried to steal Jacob’s blessing, so to were his descendants intent on taking from Israel what God has promised them. On this day, Moses called to Joshua and told him to “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.” Joshua did as Moses told him and the next day when the battle ensued, Moses climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur and raised his hand over the fighting. “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. 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. And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”

Moses keeping his hands raised is an incredible image that should remind us of the Priest celebrant at Mass elevating the Holy Eucharist after the consecration and his signs of blessing. Moses being seated and assisted by Joshua and Hur should remind us of our role in assisting our pastors in their work, lest he becomes tired. Yet, most importantly, this narrative should reminds us of the participative nature of the economy of salvation, which is most evident in the liturgy of the Holy Mass. It is true, there are enemies always coming for us; making war with us, and attempting take what God has given us, but just as victory was won by Moses keeping his hand raised, so too are our victories won through Christ raised on the Cross and through our participation in that sacrifice through the Holy Mass and by our remaining in Him through worthily receiving Him who the Priest raises before our eyes; Christ Jesus, the Holy Eucharist.

In the Second Reading today we’ll hear from Second Timothy 3:14-4:2, where the Apostle Saint Paul reminds Timothy about how the Scripture plays an important role in teaching us how to cooperate and participate with God in His good work. In writing, “remain faithful to what you have learned and believed because you know from who you learned it,” the Apostle is clearly referring to the Apostolic teaching of the Church. He then ties the Apostolic teaching to the sacred Hebrew Scriptures, which he says Timothy knew “from infancy”. It is in reference to these sacred Old Testament texts that Paul writes, “All Scripture is theopneustos;” that is, “All Scripture is God-breathed.’ Theopneustos is a very rare and unique word in the ancient Greek lexicon. It is derived from the Greek theo, meaning ‘God’, and pneustos, meaning, ‘to breathe hard’. In saying that Scripture is breathed from God, Paul is equating the inspired writings to the other things that God breathed on or breathed into; namely, breathing into the nostrils of man to give him life (Cf. Genesis 2:7) and authority over the created things and breathing on the Apostles to give them authority to forgive or retain sins (Cf. John 20:22). Indeed, the breath of God gives true life, and in regard to the Scriptures, Paul writes, they are useful for “teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Scripture is useful for these things because it was breathed by God, “so that one who belongs to God may be competently equipped for every good work,” such as being persistent in proclaiming the word of God to convince, reprimand, and encourage, “whether it is convenient or inconvenient,” Paul writes.

It is most certainly true of books and written words, but most especially the Scriptures, that they allow for the possibility of the brain to accomplish four things: (1) Obtain knowledge; (2) Form Thoughts and Opinions; (3) Form Hypothesis; and (4) Form Theories. Yet, until these four things encounter reality, through the tests of firsthand experience, they all remain to be ineffective and inadequate in dealing with real-life situations.  The irony of sacred Scripture is that it is full of stories of people who actually took the time to experience life with God; people who failed and got back up with His help. Inasmuch as all faithful Jews devoted themselves to the study of Scripture, they also understood that to cooperate with God they had to leave the book and go be used by Him. In this way, the manner by which the liturgy is teaching us to encounter God and to participate in our salvation is an image of the Scriptures where we find God’s People doing that very same thing.

Speaking to God through prayer is one way in which we directly encounter and participate with the will of God in this life, and through its repetition of numerous prayers being offered by the Priest and the People, the liturgy is teaching the faithful how to make their words and their actions an unceasing prayer to God.  The liturgy intends for the rhythm of praying and confessing with our whole body throughout the liturgy, to become who we are when we leave the sacred space.

In today’s Gospel Reading from Luke 18:1-8, Jesus’ parable about the necessity to pray always; to pray unceasingly without becoming weary is a reminder about the relationship between prayer and fortitude. Perhaps, the older liturgical rites of the Church that moved slower and asked for more patience of the faithful was a better liturgical teaching mechanism of this truth than the new rite which can be wrapped in about thirty minutes even on a Sunday, but I ask you to just listen to prayers being offered at Mass; listen to how many times we come before God begging Him to heal us and forgive us and receive us and to make us whole to bring us into the light of His eternal glory. Over and over and over again, throughout the liturgy, we are exactly like that “certain woman” in Luke’s Gospel today; that nameless widow, who the judge finally relented in rendering her a “just decision” so that she could stop “bothering” him. This is why the Holy Mass is offered unceasingly throughout the world, from the rising of the sun until it’s setting, because it truly is a fulfillment of the call of Christ Jesus who said, “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? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.” Therefore, immerse your mind, body, and soul deeper into the prayers and confessions of the liturgy so that you might be that People who God runs to.

Altogether, the readings at the Holy Mass for this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time offers us a perfect model of the People of who the liturgy is teaching and training us to be.

This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.