“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.” (Exodus 17:11)
Today was supposed to be the third and last of my discipleship homilies that I've been delivering at every Mass to cap off our Discipleship Campaign. Alas, it was not part of God's plan. This past Wednesday I noticed that my voice was giving out and that preaching 16 homilies over the last two weekends was beginning to take its toll. When I could barely make it through the homily at the school Mass on Friday morning, I realized that the Lord had other plans for our parish this weekend and I asked the other priests in the parish to prepare their Sunday homilies.
The story in today's first reading took on a different meaning for me last night as I reflected on it. Moses is praying for his soldiers down below and is assisted by Aaron and Hur. I really wanted to give those final 8 homilies this weekend on these readings and finish this campaign as we had planned it. But I couldn't do it on my own. I needed the help of my brother priests, and my physical limitations the last few days actually made me reflect on all that the rest of you do to assist me in making this parish great. It allowed me to reflect and be thankful for the Aarons and Hurs in this parish that not only lift me up but that lift all of you up to help you to do the work of God. This is the work of the praying Church. There are so many people who exist behind the scenes who lift up this parish with their quiet sacrifices of time, talent and treasure. I was listening to Bishop Robert Barron's homily on this reading last night and he asked us to reflect on all those people who so very generously and quietly donate their hard earned money for the works of the church and in doing so are holding up the arms of the praying church like Moses' hands are help up so that the Church can continue its mission, it's battle if you will, to work for justice in an unjust world. In this parish, we are thankful for those who weekly sacrifice so much in the collection basket so that our parish can continue doing its work here in our local community. I also thought about your overwhelming generosity last week when we took up the collection for the victims of Hurricane Matthew. So many are suffering particularly in Haiti and you enabled the work of the Church to directly help those who have nowhere else to turn to but the Church.
And then I think of all those who lift up the arms of the Church through their prayers. Prayer: the center of today's gospel. Prayer is what keeps this parish alive. Prayer is the undercurrent and the source of all the good works that we do here. When I think of all the people that visit our Adoration Chapel each day to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, I realize how blessed we are as a parish. There are people that visit every day, some as early as 5:30am, and are persistent in their prayers as the widow in the gospel. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to preach this weekend, so I could joyfully announce that this week, the monstrance and the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration will return to our tiny chapel. We have waited far too long for this return, but we need adoration of our Living God now more than ever.
Everything I have preached about the last three weeks needs to be lifted up in prayer. All our works need to be assisted in prayer. I feel your prayers every single day and I am blessed, but now we need to pray for each other. We need to pray persistently, stubbornly, asking the Lord for the impossible because everything is possible for him. We need to pray that we continue to go and make disciples, that we continue being a Eucharistic people, and that we continue opening our arms to all so that everyone continues to see Immaculate as home and continues to feel that they are part of a great spiritual family. We are called to lift each other up in prayer. When we fail each other, when we fail to lift up the arms of the praying Church, just like when Moses’ arms fell, our spiritual army will start to fail. But when we lift up the arms of Holy Mother Church towards God in prayer, there is no limit to what our Immaculate family can accomplish. So I ask you his week: how much time do you spend daily in genuine prayer? Not just praying an Our Father or reading off a daily prayer from a book, which is all well and good, I mean genuine sitting in silence type prayer. I mean “having a cup of coffee with Jesus” type prayer as my friend, Father Jose Alvarez likes to prescribe as penances. This is the type of prayer that is needed to lift up this parish and to make the impossible happen. So I ask you as we conclude this campaign of discipleship to be persistent in your prayer life. Pray for me, pray for each other, and pray for our parish. The work of going out to make disciples and bringing them home has only just begun.