29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Exodus 17:8-13
The Book of Exodus (the word “exodus” means
“departure”) is the second book in the five books of the
Law (the Torah). This book tells of the oppression of the Israelites in
Egypt, the birth and education of Moses and his flight into the land of
Midian, his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Horeb) (the burning
bush), Moses’ return to Egypt and pleadings with Pharaoh, the
plagues of Egypt, the institution of the Passover, the passing through
the Red Sea, the giving of the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai, the
golden calf, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert.
The time between the crossing through the Red Sea and the arrival of
the Israelites at Mount Sinai was three months. It was during this
three month period that the people complained that they were thirsty.
God commanded Moses to speak to a rock (he struck it with his staff)
and water flowed from it for the people to drink. Jewish oral tradition
must have held that this rock followed the Jews in their 40-year
wandering because no such event is mentioned in the Old Testament. 1st
Corinthians 10:4 however does record this “following rock”.
How different this epistle might have been if Saint Paul had said
“If it isn’t written in Scripture I won’t believe
Our reading today occurs immediately after the rock story and explains
why we (priests and charismatics at least) pray with arms outstretched.
8 [In those days] [ ], Amalek came
Amalek is not a person, but a nomadic tribe listed in the genealogy of
Esau (Genesis 36:12). Just as Jacob fought with Esau, so their
descendants are destined to fight. The Amalekites controlled the
caravan routes between Egypt and Arabia.
and waged war against Israel.
This is the first military activity of the newly freed Hebrews.
9 Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,
This is the first mention of Joshua in sacred Scripture. It is Joshua
who is later designated to lead the Israelites into the promised land.
“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
This requires faith (and acting on it) on the part of Joshua. Joshua will be fighting while Moses looks on.
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
Moses’ brother – later to become High Priest
A contemporary of Moses who later governs the Israelites with Aaron
when Moses is absent. It is strange that a man so prominent in the
early traditions of the exodus should disappear without a trace.
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;
Yahweh fights for Israel only when Moses’ hands are raised. This establishes Moses as a sort of mediator-Christ figure.
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.
Even though Moses is the mediator between God and the Hebrews, he
requires support from the people. This shows our responsibility to
support our Pope, bishops and priests.
13 And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
2nd Reading - 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Remember that Timothy is bishop of Ephesus. This bishop has encountered
some difficulties and Paul now addresses this letter to him as pastor
of his congregation. He invites Timothy to transmit his teaching to
faithful men, urges him to fight as a soldier of Christ, anxious only
to please his Master, to strive as the athlete who aspires to victory,
and to labor as the husbandman who prepares for an abundant harvest. He
is ever to keep in mind the sufferings of Christ, so that he may become
a partaker in His immortal life and reign with Him. He is to remember
Paul’s example as to how to live out the life of Christ.
14 [R]emain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it,
Stand fast. As opposed to the false teachers who lead astray.
15 and that from infancy you have known
Timothy is taught not only by Paul, but also by his family. Jewish
parents were obliged to see that their children were instructed in the
Law when they reached the age of five.
(the) sacred scriptures,
The Old Testament; the New Testament hasn’t been written yet and
books which compose it won’t be decided upon for another roughly
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The true instruction of the Old Testament can be understood when read in the context of the Christian community.
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.
A couple of points can be made here:
1) The author probably can’t imagine any
Scripture texts which aren’t inspired (literally, God breathed).
2) The text doesn’t say only scripture is
useful. God provides a super-abundance, not just the bare necessity.
Sacred Tradition is also useful for the same purposes accorded to
Scripture here. Like what was evidenced in our introduction to the
first reading, some New Testament Traditions are not written in
Scripture (the assumption of Mary and the immaculate conception are two
examples). When you are asked “where in the Bible does it say...
you can answer “where in the Bible does it say not to...”
In fact, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says otherwise.
“‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions
which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter’ (2
Thessalonians 2:15). From this it is clear that they did not hand down
everything by letter, but there was much also that was not written.
Like that which was written, the unwritten too is worthy of belief. So
let us regard the tradition of the Church also as worthy of belief. Is
it a tradition? Seek no further.” [Saint John Chrysostom (between
A.D. 398-404), Homilies on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians 4,2
4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
Paul calls upon two witnesses: God and Jesus. Deuteronomy 17:6 requires two witnesses in a life and death situation.
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.
Paul urges Timothy to be zealous, taking advantage of every opportunity
to preach. This is unusual since the ancients commonly urged speech
only when it would be “timely.” God is the one who keeps
the timetable and the word of God is always in season.
“Let it always be your season, not merely in peace and security
and when sitting in church.” [Saint John Chrysostom (between A.D.
393-397), Homilies on the Second Epistle to Timothy
Gospel - Luke 18:1-8
This week we hear the first of two parables on prayer (we will hear the
second one next week). The question has often been put to Jesus
“When and how will the end come?” Jesus always answered
that we are to persevere in humility so that we will always be ready.
18:1 Then he [Jesus] told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
As the last verse in this reading makes clear, mere continual prayer is
not what He is talking about, but fidelity to God must be the motivator
of this prayer.
He said, 2 “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 3 And a widow
A woman who has lost her male agency in a patriarchal society was powerless.
in that town used to come to him
The woman has faith that justice will be done and is therefore
persistent. We need to remain firm in our faith: faith and prayer go
hand in hand.
and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
Probably a rich, influential man. The widow was too poor to bribe
either the judge or his assistant and these officials did not wish to
alienate important citizens.
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.
Two lessons are drawn via the argument from the lesser to the greater:
1) If the persistent pleading of the helpless widow
is fruitful, how much more will the persistent praying of Christian
2) If an unjust judge yields to the pleadings of a widow, how much will a gracious God?
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,
The parousia may be long in coming, but it will come surely, speedily, and in a completely unexpected way.
will he find faith on earth?”
The question is not about God’s vindication of God’s
persecuted community; God will vindicate them. The question is whether
Jesus’ disciples will remain faithful to Him during the long haul
caused by the delay of His return.
Our Lord has promised His Church that it will remain true to its
mission until the end of time (Matthew 28:20); the Church, therefore,
cannot go off the path of the true faith. But not everyone will remain
faithful: some will turn their backs on the faith of their own accord.
We must stay watchful and persevere in the faith and in prayer even
though people around us fall away.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org