Sunday, October 20, 2019

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: God to the Rescue

Today's readings remind us that God is just and always helps.

In the first reading, we read of Amalek who wages war against Israel. Amalek and the Amalekites were a ruthless group.  They were a nomadic nation who attacked the Hebrews for no reason.  These people were extremely wicked and capable of anything.  A contemporary example of them are ISIS and in the comic book "The Walking Dead" the group "Negan" or the "Whispers"  Those who read the comics or watch the series know that these two groups are ruthless and evil. They show no mercy and are butchers. Atheists often mention the Amalekites to accuse God of being evil. In my book, "Atheism Is Stupid," I mention the Amalekites when addressing the claim by Atheists that "God is evil" because God allows their destruction.  Atheists are not biblical scholars, so naturally, they will read the accounts in the Bible and call God evil and accuse Him of genocide, when this is, in fact, far from the truth.  Anyhow, as the Hebrews fight off the Amalekites, Moses raises his hand up in prayer.  As he does this, the Hebrews get the upper hand.  When he lowers his hands out of fatigue, the Amalekites get the upper hand. This narrative tells us that the power of prayer is more powerful than that of armies. It is the prayer of the holy man Moses which gives the upper hand to the Hebrews because God sides with the one who prays and is holy (James 5:16).

In this month of October, we should recall the Rosary.  The Rosary is a very powerful prayer.  St. Pio of Pietrelcina and Blessed Pope Pius IX both described the Rosary as a weapon and an instrument which can be used to conquer the world.  They are correct!  The Rosary is a prayer that entails the Gospel. We walk with Mary as she shows us her Son via the mysteries. I recommend that all Catholics pray the Rosary. My mentor and pastor, Bishop Francisco Garmendia who passed away in 2005 always advocated the Rosary. I and others are trying to gather information to get the Vatican to beging a study of his life for canonization. He was a very holy marian bishop who spread devotion to the Rosary and was featured on Mother Angelica live many decades ago.  He reminded me and many others how important it is to pray. 

Like Moses and the Hebrews, you will get the upper hand as you pray while facing today's Amalekites.  God is truly our help as the responsorial Psalm tells us.  We sometimes feel hopeless in life wondering when help will come. Help seems far away.  However, our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth. This verse is used as a final blessing by bishops and is a great reminder that we must depend on God. God is always there to aid us in any need. He will not let us suffer anything that we cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  God is with us and all around us as St. Patrick describes in his beautiful prayer. We must trust in God always and ask for His protection against the evils of this world, especially the spiritual ones which cause more damage than the physical ones.  It can be rough, but we must persevere in prayer and hold fast to what we have learned and believe.

This is what we are told in the second reading.  We must be faithful to the Sacred Deposit of the Faith. Our faith is not a salad bar where we pick and choose from what we want and do not want as the late Cardinal O' Connor, Archbishop of New York once stated.  We must accept the entire meal, so to speak. In fact, we can compare the faith to a healthy meal. Many times, we avoid vegetables because of their taste or texture and go for the meat and dessert.  We find those pleasure and delicious.  However, the truth of the matter is that the vegetables are better for us than meat and dessert.  Vegetables may not taste so good or feel so good in our mouths, but they are rich in nutrients.  The same with the faith and some harder aspects of it which unfortunately some Catholics cannot take in like contraception, abortion, divorce and same-sex marriage.  These hard teachings are like the vegetables we sometimes dread.  However, if we accept them, we will be truly nourished.  It may take time, but we must start out with milk before taking the solid food, as St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:2. Our faith comes from Christ who is the Truth. Who are we to reject any part of the Truth? Do we know better than Christ?!  Of course not!  We are told in the second reading the value of the Sacred Scriptures.  They are inspired by God and are useful for teaching, refutation, correction and righteousness.  Unfortunately, not too many Catholics read the Bible. This is sad. The Bible is God's word.

Our separated friends in the Protestant faith often use today's second reading to claim that we only need the Bible and not Sacred Tradition or the Magisterium of the Church.  This is a bad interpretation of this scripture.  The reading does not say "Scripture Alone," it says that Scripture is "USEFUL," not the only source.  In fact, Scripture tells us that we must also rely on Sacred Tradition in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The interesting thing about Protestants and their interpretation of today's second reading is that when this verse was said and written, the only Scriptures around were the Hebrew Scriptures!  There was no New Testament. If we take the Protestant interpretation of "Sola Scriptura," then we can only call the Old Testament as inspired by God and reject the New Testament because the latter was not even finished. Moreover, we cannot rely solely on Scripture because Scripture does not even list the canon or list of books that make up the Bible. If the Bible is the only thing we must use to teach and learn on the faith, then how can we address where the list that makes the Bible come from?  For this, we must look at Tradition and history. It was Pope Damasus who ordered the official canon be comprised with 46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.  If it was not for Pope Damasus, we would not have a Bible. It was the Catholic Church that gave us the Bible and hence why the Church is the PILLAR and FOUNDATION of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)!  This is why only the Catholic Church can interpret Scripture via the Holy Spirit (CDF, "Instruction Concerning the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian," 21). The Bible is not open to private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).  Pope Saint Siricius was the one who called it the "Bible." He used the word (biblos/Biblia) found in 2 Timothy 4:13 in the Greek text to describe the collection of these Sacred Pages. We must share this with our Protestant friends and evangelize them with charity.

Lastly, in the Gospel, we read another parable from Christ concerning a judge who sounds like an atheist who had no fear of God nor respected any human being. This judge heard the case of a widow and was reluctant on helping her but then agreed to do so because she was "bothering" him. Christ then states that God will secure the rights of His chosen ones who call out to Him.  This is why we must pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God will answer us.  He may not answer us in the way we want but will answer us in the way we need.  God is just. God does not cheat anyone nor is He unfair. He will be there for us. Christ then asks if there will be faith on earth when He returns. This is an important question because it may be a clue as to when the world will end.  Christ mentioned how He will come like a thief in the night and catch everyone by surprise. We must wonder if the end of the world will come when religion is dead and atheism seems like the norm. It is clear to me that we are seeing this today. Study after study from the Pew Study organization claims that religion is on the decline. We see Mass attendance declining and people questioning the faith more and more. Strange ideas such as gender theory are taking over. No one seems to know what a male or female is anymore. It is a scary time. We can see the "fingerprints" of the enemy Satan in all of this who sows confusion and deception. Satan wants us to think that there is no God; that there is no gender; that life does not begin at conception but only when a judge says so; that marriage can be anything we want; that we can destroy the earth to live comfortable lives; that we can believe whatever we want because everything is a social construct etc. This is all a lie.

We must persevere in the faith and fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12). Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us,"The power that changes the world and transforms it into the Kingdom of God, in silence and without fanfare, is faith—and prayer is the expression of faith. When faith is filled with love for God, recognized as a good and just Father, prayer becomes persevering, insistent, it becomes a groan of the spirit, a cry of the soul that penetrates God’s Heart. Thus, prayer becomes the greatest transforming power in the world. In the face of a difficult and complex social reality, it is essential to strengthen hope which is based on faith and expressed in unflagging prayer. It is prayer that keeps the torch of faith alight. Jesus asks as we heard at the end of the Gospel: 'When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?' (Lk 18:8). It is a question that makes us think. What will be our answer to this disturbing question? Today, let us repeat together with humble courage: Lord, in coming among us at this Sunday celebration you find us gathered together with the lamp of faith lit. We believe and trust in you! Increase our faith! (Source: Pastoral Visit to Naples, October 21, 2007.)." Things will get worse. The Church will suffer greatly. Be prepared!  Let us keep faith alive and pray without end like Moses. St. Cyril of Alexandria tells us, "The present parable assures us God will bend his ear to those who offer him their prayers, not carelessly nor negligently but with earnestness and constancy. The constant coming of the oppressed widow conquered the unjust judge, who did not fear God or have any shame. Even against his will, he granted her request. How will not he who loves mercy and hates iniquity, and who always gives his helping hand to those that love him, accept those who draw near to him day and night and avenge them as his elect? (Source: “Commentary on Luke, Homily 119”, quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 276)"

I cannot stress enough the importance of prayer.  We must pray always.  It must not be a "hobby" we do only on Sunday.  Prayer is a way of life!  Even our actions can be prayer, especially when we help others.  We must be ready for the day when Christ comes.  St. John Paul II reminds us, "The question with which Jesus ends the parable on the need “always to pray and not lose heart” frightens our soul. It is a question that is not immediately followed by an answer: indeed, it is intended as a challenge to each person, each ecclesial community, each human generation. Each one of us must give an answer. Christ wants to remind us that human life is directed to the final meeting with God; but in this perspective he asks himself whether, on his return, he will find souls ready, waiting for him, to enter the Father’s house with him. This is why he says to everyone 'Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour' (Mt 25:13). (Source:  John Paul II, Homilies of Pope John Paul II (English) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014). October 21, 2001.)"  May Jesus Christ be praised! 


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