Every Catholic Christian is called to recognize the Word of God and its centrality in our spirituality especially when it is proclaimed at Mass. But sad to say the Old Testament is frequently ignored by both celebrant and the community. It is incorrectly perceived as having less value than the more familiar New Testament especially the Gospels. This is to our detriment. The experiences of “our elder brothers in faith” should be allowed to inform our relationship with God. This is the touchstone for Christ’s preaching . The Church, liturgically, has organized the Lectionary to reflect this. The first and third readings often support one another in bringing forth the same theme. Today’s selections are a good example of this. We hear from Exodus and Luke about prayer and the necessity of persistence in beseeching the Lord. As we all know prayers of intercession or supplication are truly acts of faith in that they acknowledge that God is the giver of all good gifts. He is the ultimate source of life for us as individuals and as a community.
Other lessons about prayer are also given to us particularly in the first reading. Israel , beloved of God, is not having an easy time. They left the slavery of Egypt but there are still enemies about. Their fidelity does not promise them, any more than us, a life free of stress. Indeed that very thing, causes problems for them. The larger society is antagonistic towards these migrating Jews. They are upsetting the equilibrium of the culture. Sound familiar?
Today religious people, in general, are facing marginalization because they have a definite value system. The absolute nature of truth is denied and subject to a person’s individually defined good at a particular moment. Though physical violence, in most cases, is not threatened people of faith realize the pressures they are under need to be brought before the Lord. Moses and his companions realized that the situation in which they found themselves required the assistance of divine grace. The story makes this clear: when prayer is involved God’s help is never far away. But a second lesson is shared as well by the story’s telling.
When we pray we need the assistance of others. Aaron and Hur stay with Moses and keep him steady physically and spiritually. We are told by Jesus that “wherever two or three are gathered in My Name there I am in the midst of them”. This is very reassuring but is it a part of our modus operandi? Do we ask each other to pray for us? Priests often are asked to pray for particular needs of individuals and families. They do so joyfully. But when priests ask their people to pray for them, do they? When Catholics visit their friends in the hospital do they say to one another: “let’s pray”. Or do we fear being looked at strangely and continue talking about weather, sports, or business.
When family gathers around the table at home or in the restaurant do we stop and bless the Lord for the food that is shared. In the story of Moses and his people there is a consciousness of God’s powerful and loving presence. Our popes have often written of their fears that we do not have the same awareness.
Following the ideas postulated in the Old Testament Luke’s Gospel tells us that God is much greater than us in the generosity he show when we call upon Him for the fulfillment of our needs. But he reflects in a concerned way that when the Son of Man returns will He find us watching in prayer. Will He be greeted by people of faith? That is what this Year of Faith is all about. We must remain persistent in our prayer and love. The Lord will not force Himself upon. There must be in us the spirit of Peter who cried out in confession: “Lord’ to whom should we go? You have the words of everlasting life”. Let us pray for each other and for our world to the Lord of life and of salvation.