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October 16 2016 (C) Twenty-Ninth SUNDAY of Year (c)

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Prayer without ceasing. Reading the Scriptures

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Exodus 17:8-13). As long as Moses kept his arms raise d, Israel had the advantage. In its biblical context this reading represents an episode during Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Holy Land, the Promised Land. The Amalek were a fierce fighting tribe of the wilderness. They were sworn enemies of Israel and enmity and war between them would last over centuries. The war against them Israel regarded as a Holy War, which in keeping with a Semitic mentality would lead Israel to totally annihilate them. This is the first recorded battle between them. The Holy War, in so far as it was carried out, was a barbarous tradition, but connected in part with self-preservation. However, it is not on such aspects that today’s reading directs our attention, but rather to Moses’ prayer and its effectiveness. The young hero Joshua is mentioned here for the first time in the Bible, and as the leader of Israel’s army. Hur, whose name also occurs here, is mentioned only once more (Exodus 12:14) in the Old Testament, and again on the same standing as Aaron, Moses’ brother.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 120[121]). Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Second Reading (2 Timothy 3:14-4:2). The person who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work. Immediately before this passage (2 Timothy 3:1-9) Paul warns Timothy to be on his guard against false forms of religion and false religious views which are to come. Timothy has an example of true religion and true moral behaviour in Paul himself, and in all that he has suffered. In today’s reading Paul tells Timothy to be firm in the faith and faithful to the teaching that has come to him from his teachers (including his own family; 2 Timothy 1:5), and from the scriptures. Paul then notes that from the scriptures Timothy (and others) can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The Old Testament scriptures are intended; the New was not yet compiled, if not composed. The basis for this belief is then given, with a well-known text on the inspiration of the scriptures. All scripture writings are inspired by God. God has been active in a very special way in their composition, present with his power as he also is when they are being read in the proper spirit. This makes them especially useful in Christian teaching, so that Christian teachers and leaders (“men of God”) and all believers become fully equipped and ready for their Christian tasks. The Church in our own day lays great stress on the importance of Scripture for Christian life and encourages all her members to become acquainted with the Bible, to read and interpret it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that Spirit by which it was inspired and written. Paul ends this present exhortation to Timothy appealing to him to proclaim the Good Message and, welcome or unwelcome, to insist on it, to refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience, but with all patience and with the intention of teaching. Thus it was in the days of Paul and Timothy and thus it remains today. There is however this difference: Paul could call on Timothy as a Church leader. Today this task cannot be left to Church leaders alone. Witness to the faith, and its defence, is the duty of all believers, each as their condition indicates.

The Gospel (Luke 18:1-8). God will see justice done for his chosen who cry to him. Situating the Sunday Gospel reading in its original Gospel and biblical setting can often help us get a better and a deeper understanding of the passage’s message. The passage immediately preceding today’s Gospel reading (Luke 17:20-37) concerns the second coming of Christ. The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming. Jesus replied that the coming of the kingdom of God was not something to be observed, and that in fact the kingdom of God was among them. He then goes on to speak to his disciples of the coming of the Son of Man, his own Second Coming. The delay in Christ’s return was something that caused upset among sections of the early Church. In such an atmosphere faith and faithfulness, fostered by prayer, were required for a living Christianity. Today’s parable is introduced by Jesus as being about the need to pray continually and to never lose heart. The parable speaks for itself. Jesus compares, or rather contrasts, God with the unjust judge of the parable. God will see that justice is done to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night. The Lectionary text continues: “day and night, even when he delays to help them” which is probably the most acceptable reading as it goes with the delay in Christ’s return. Other possible renderings are: “Will he delay long in helping them?” (NRSV), or “He will do it without delay”. The essential message of the parable, however, and of Jesus’ explanation, is that God will most certainly help those in distress – even if in his own good time. The reading ends with a return to the topic of the Second Coming, with the question: “But when the Son of Man (Jesus) comes will he find faith on earth?”, where the faith in question is not belief in God’s existence but the faithfulness, the patience, that is required while waiting for fulfilment of the promises. “The righteous live through their faithfulness”.

B. Reflection & Dialogue7: Prayer without ceasing. Reading the Scriptures

Today’s readings provide two clear topics for our reflection, topics mutually related. These are Jesus’ call for prayer without ceasing and Paul’s emphasis on the Bible as a guide for Christian life, an approach to the Sunday Scripture readings which this internet site attempts to follow.

          With regard to prayer, it must be regarded as necessary, since belief in Christ cannot be understood without a personal relationship with God in prayer. Christianity is a mystery, a mystery that demands this personal relationship. Without this there is no living faith. Of course there are many different forms of prayer, both public and private, but any of the forms need to have this personal relationship with God, and in the Christian tradition under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

          With regard to the reading and the study of the Bible there is no better place to begin to examine their importance than today’s reading from the Second Letter to Timothy. This reading can serve as a timely reminder of the importance attached by the Vatican II Council to the reading of Scripture in the new revised liturgy, especially in the readings at the Sunday Mass. The Council goes beyond this and in its Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) there is an entire chapter on the place of scripture in the life of the Church, and in the various aspects of Christian living. In this chapter special mention is made of its importance for the all clerics – priests, deacons, catechists, and all with direct contact with the ministry of the Word, and a call on them to immerse themselves in the Scriptures by constant sacred reading (lectio sacra) and diligent study. In another Council document, in the Decree on the Ministry and the Life of Priests, the matter is attended to in greater detail, with a special section on the priests as ministers of God’s word, with an expressed desire that they endeavour to treat of contemporary problems in the light of Christ’s teaching – something this Internet site has been attempting to do over the years, from 2011 onwards.