October 16, 2022
The Israelites, on their journey to the Promised Land, have to fight against Amalek. What is the Lord teaching us about the struggles we have to face?
- We have battles if we follow God’s path.
- Human means can help, but they are not enough.
- Moses on the mountain is a sign of the power of perseverance in prayer.
- An example: the great victory of Lepanto was attributed to the Rosary.
- Prayer itself can be a difficult battle.
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
St. Paul told us today that all scripture is inspired by God and useful for training and teaching. So, what is the Lord teaching us in the first reading today? It says, “in those days, Amalek came out and waged war against Israel.” What is the Lord teaching us in this passage? It’s a good example of how God leads us from what is visible, to what is invisible. The Lord, what is visible, what is easy for us to see and understand leads us from that to things which are hidden from us and invisible, the spiritual realities. And so, we have that the whole book of Exodus is a good example of our journey on this earth, to heaven, and there’s their journey, their struggle to get to the promised land. And on this journey, it’s a difficult journey, they have enemies, and here they’re encountering enemies, that are an obstacle for them. And so, it’s also a reminder for us that on our journey, we also have enemies. And so, what is the Lord teaching us in this passage? So, the situation here is different from the situation when they were at the very beginning of their journey, when they came to the Red Sea, they were facing a practically impossible situation. They had the sea in front of them, blocking their passage and then they had the mighty army of Pharaoh coming up to destroy them. And so, in that impossible situation, God acted, almost without any cooperation. Moses had to extend his arms. But it was almost like the Israelites didn’t do anything, it’s God Himself, who completely destroyed the Pharaoh’s army, and manifesting His power. Here, the situation is different. Here, the enemy they’re facing is not nearly as overwhelming, but it’s still a dangerous enemy. And this struggle could also represent many different types of struggles that we encounter, for instance, a struggle against illness, or all the different struggles in this world against different forms of injustice, war, abortion, drug trafficking, human trafficking, so many conflicts, and so many evils that are obstacles to our path. And then there’s all the other types of temptations that come to try to turn us away, block our path, and the spiritual attacks that we face, not just from human enemies, but also from the hidden spiritual enemies. So, what can we learn about all these different struggles that we face? What can we learn from this passage? So, what do they do? So it says, “Moses, therefore said to Joshua, pick out certain men, and tomorrow, go out and engage Amalek in battle.” So here again, it’s very different from the Red Sea, where at the Red Sea, Moses didn’t say to Joshua, okay, gather some men and go out to encounter Pharaoh and his army. But here, the Lord is, through Moses, is telling them to do that, to use all their human abilities in this fight, too. So, they have a more active role in using their human capabilities in this. But then Moses says something unusual. He says, “I will be standing on the top of the hill, with the staff of God in my hand.” What does that have to do with this battle? It doesn’t really have anything to do except maybe Moses doesn’t want to do it. Sounds like he doesn’t want to be too close to the battle. What does that have to do? It doesn’t explain it. But it says, “So Joshua did as Moses told him, he engaged Amalak in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. So, first of all, Joshua waited for Moses to get to the top of the hill, so then Joshua engages the battle. And so, he’s using his human strength, which is necessary. God is calling him to use his human abilities. He is calling the Israelites to use their human abilities in this battle, but it’s not sufficient. So they’re called to use the abilities that God has given them, that God has put in their hands. That’s important, but it’s not sufficient. Say, like, in so many cases, for instance, for our health, where our health is concerned, there’s a certain amount of things we can do for our health, like diet and exercise, and taking medicine and so forth. Sometimes those can be very helpful. And sometimes those can be helpful, but not enough. And so, then what happens? And this is the mysterious part, it says, “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight. But when he let his hands rest, Amalak had the better of the fight.” So that’s an odd correlation. What does Moses’ hands being raised up or down, have to do with the battle that’s going on there in the plains? What does that represent, Moses arms being raised up? That was a typical position for the Israelites to pray with. And so, it seems to be an outward expression of Moses praying and interceding. And so, it seems that Moses’ prayer and intercession is the decisive factor in this battle. But think if you were someone down below watching the battle, how would it look to you there, you will see sometimes the Israelites winning and sometimes the Amalekites winning, and finally Israelites would win. But you wouldn’t know why the Israelites had finally won. What was the decisive factor? That is, the role of prayer is often very hidden, and discreet. And that’s what this passage of Scripture is helping us to realize, this hidden role of prayer, and how it was hidden, but it was also decisive of that battle. This reminds me of another situation. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the Siege of Vienna. And this that I’m going to be mentioning happened more than a century before that, in 1571. Christian Europe was divided. The Protestant Reformation had just taken place, and blasted the unity of Christians, and even the remaining Catholic Kings were fighting among each other with an eye to political advancement. At the same time, the great muslim ottoman Turkish empire was growing and spreading west over the Mediterranean lands. And their superior forces seemed on the verge of conquering Europe. Pope Pius the fifth, who was a great man of faith, a saint, had managed to unite the three European leaders with the biggest navies and convince them to organize a defense of Europe. The Christian forces had never defeated the Muslim navies in a sea battle. This sea battle took place on October 7, 1571, at the Gulf of Lepanto, near Greece. So, it’s referred to as the Battle of Lepanto. On that day, the pope had instructed all the Catholics throughout Europe to pray the Rosary for victory. Pope Pius the fifth, St. Pius the fifth, was a Dominican, and so very devoted to the Rosary. Processions and vigils were held everywhere and Church bells echoed across the continent, as entire countries seem to hold their breath. Don Juan of Austria, who commanded the Christian forces, reminded his fleet that the battle that they would soon engage in was as much spiritual as physical. And that seems to be one of the messages from that first reading of what we read today. And in fact, he had an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This was just a few decades after the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. So, he had an image of those painted according of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and that had been touched to the original image, he had it on his flagship. Priests were offering Masses, and hearing Confessions. And he gave every man in his fleet, a Rosary. And so we’re talking again, just like in the first week, and we’re talking again here, because oftentimes, the spiritual seems to be removed from the real nitty gritty of our world. And so a battle, of course, is whether it’s the battle the Israelites, or this sea battle is very much a critical event in our real world. And so, the Lord is showing us this mysterious connection, and mysterious influence of what is hidden and what is visible. On the eve of the battle, the men of the Holy League, prepared their souls by falling on their knees, falling to their knees, in the depths of their galleys and praying the rosary, because they knew they were outnumbered and outgunned. And so as the battle began, that day, on October 7, they found themselves rowing directly against the wind. So, a very unfavorable position against an enemy, he’s already much stronger than they are. But then, at one point, the winds shifted 180 degrees. And it’s a very difficult battle, finally ended in a route of the Muslim forces. All but 13 of the nearly 300 Turkish vessels were captured ornk, and it’s been called the most important naval conquest in human history. And St. Pius the fifth attributed the victory to the prayers of the Christians and established the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, also called Our Lady of Victories. So, this was the feast that we celebrated just a week ago, Our Lady of the Rosary. And so, these are examples of how both the human efforts, all the soldiers, all the sailors, who were part of that battle, but also the power of prayer. Of course, the sailors could not control the wind, so it’s a little sign of the power of prayer. So, prayer can help in the battle, but prayer also itself can be a battle, can be hard. We see that in the Gospel, where the example that Jesus has given of the widow who has to be persistent because she keeps being rejected and rejected. So, she has to fight this battle, being persistent to finally have her plea heard. And so, prayer itself, we know, it can be hard. Prayer can be a hard battle, as we’re fighting weariness, and boredom, dryness, distractions. That never happens to us, that’s why we never get distracted. And temptations, all sorts of temptation. Some people are surprised. I tried to pray, but all these temptations come. I think why it’s no use for me to be in praying for they’ve got all these temptations, but it’s normal that’s the time when the devil is going to attack you in a special way. And so, what did we see in this in this first reading today? Moses hands were getting tired. It was decisive that Moses persevere in prayer. But he was getting tired. His hands were getting tired. And that’s a sign of the struggle for prayer. And how difficult that it can be where it can wear us out. So, what did they do? They put a rock in place for him to sit on. So, what could that rock signify? Some could signify your peers, more than your peers. It could signify some of that it signified all the different helps that God provides for prayer. Like, this very Mass that we’re celebrating right now. For us in the battle to continue the battle, the Lord has offered us the Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist and even so many helps, to the Our Father, like scripture, in particular, the Psalms, the Church offers us the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary that we’ve been talking about, especially in this month of October, the Chaplet. Also, images like the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the image of Divine Mercy, the Crucifix. All those are helps, for instance, the Rosary, just having something in our hands, that can help us and even something that we can even count, because we’d like to know how we’re doing. And so just little beads to count. That’s a very simple practical help. You know, they give that to babies a lot, right? You give babies little beads to play with. And so, the Rosary is also a very practical help about this whole order of prayer. But it’s also something material that we can have. And so all those can be helps for prayer. And then it says something else. It says, “meanwhile, Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. So that his hands remain steady until sunset.” And so, so Moses also has the help of his two assistants, his friends, Aaron, his brother, and Hur. And so, this can represent all our friends, all our brothers and sisters, who are helping us, helping sustain us in prayer because prayer is difficult. It’s much easier to pray when we have other people who are praying with us, supporting us. And that’s one of the advantages why the Lord calls us together at Mass. Many times, during the week, we might be praying alone, but Mass is an opportunity to come together, to support each other. And not just us here on Earth, but the angels who are helping us, the souls in purgatory, and all the saints. And so, these are helps that the Lord gives us in this difficult battle. And so, the Israelites finally triumph. So not to be surprised if prayer is also helpful in the battle. But prayer itself can be difficult, a part of a battle itself. Because we are called to this great battle of re conquest, re conquering this world that has been dominated by satan, for the kingdom of God. And Jesus, on the cross, is leading us in that battle. And even He at the cross was given Mary to help sustain Him at that critical moment. And so right now we come together at Mass as a way of interceding, together in the great struggle that the Church is in here. Bringing all our human efforts, all our human efforts that we make throughout the week, human efforts of our work, all the efforts that we make. But we also bring to Mass, not just the human efforts, but also all our sacrifices, all our sufferings and all our prayers. The Mass is this great prayer of intercession, united with the prayer and the sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of the world. The battle is long and hard, the battle for re conquest is long and hard. But the victory is God’s. Amen
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
Battle of Lepanto