Once upon a time, the Amalekites waged war against the Israelites. The story is in today’s first reading. Who were the Amalekites? They belonged to a nomadic tribe that occupied the Sinai desert territory. The Israelites had just been set free from slavery in Egypt, and they were on their way to the Promised Land. But they had to pass through some other territories before reaching the Promised Land. The region occupied by the Amalekites was one of the first places on their route. The Israelites pleaded to pass through the land, and possibly drink some water having been exhausted from their journey. The Amalekites refused the request and went on to wage war against Israel.
Joshua was the commander of the army of the Israelites. While the battle was going on at the foot of the hill, Moses went to the top of the hill with his hands raised. Each time he had his hands raised, the Israelites defeated the Amalekites, and each time he dropped his hands, the Amalekites defeated the Israelites. Seeing the connection between the position of the hands of Moses and the result from the battleground, Aaron and Hur came to support him to keep his hands up, and at the end of the day, Israel defeated Amalek.
There were two branches of the same battle going on at the same time. One branch of the battle was going on physically at the foot of the hill, while the spiritual branch of the battle was on top of the hill. The control tower was on the hill; the hill is where the battle is indeed won or lost. The first reading does not give us the details of the physical battle; it gives us the details of the spiritual battle on the hill and the result of the physical battle at the foot of the hill.
The battle in the first reading is only a prefiguration, a foreshadowing, a foretaste of a more profound battle that will take place on another hill, that is, Mount Calvary. There, the New Moses, Jesus, will stretch his hands like the first Moses, this time on the Cross. The result of the battle on Calvary will be in the empty tomb at the foot of the hill. Jesus fought and won this battle for you and me. The victory is for us. Today’s Psalm reminds us that “Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” but the responsibility is now on us to connect to this victory that has been won for us. It is like our phone network providers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Mtn, etc. They provide the signal, but we need to get connected through our cell phones with sim cards that are activated.
Similarly, prayer is the cell phone through which we connect to the victory Jesus has won for us. Moses, in the first reading, shows us the power of prayer. He shows us the connection between the physical and the spiritual realms. When there is a lot of work to do, a lot of studies to do, that is when we should invest more time in prayer. We may face some challenges when we pray. Two examples of such challenges are in today’s readings. In the first reading, Moses became tired of raising his hands. The solution came when Aaron and Hur came to support him. This story brings out the importance of praying as a family, the importance of being active in a parish, in a Small Christian Community, and different prayer groups. When we become tired, we are supported by the prayers of others. The other challenge is found in the Gospel passage, where Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow. Sometimes, our first attempt at prayer may not get us connected, and so we are tempted to give up, but Jesus says, we must not give up (The number you have dialed is not reachable at the moment, please, try again later). Sometimes, the answer to prayers comes at our next attempt.
The Israelites were on their way from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, and the Amalekites became their obstacles that they needed to conquer to get to the Promised Land. We are also on our journey to the Promised Land, and we have our individual Amalekites. These are not people of any particular tribe, race or gender. These are the different obstacles that get in our way as we journey through life. These Amalekites may come in forms of addiction, health challenges, financial challenges, childlessness, unemployment, children that have left the faith, abuse from spouse, false allegation, hatred among family members, etc. No matter the form they take, the battle can be won on the hill in prayer.
St. Monica faced the Amalekite in her son Augustine. She prayed and wept for his conversion. St. Ambrose encouraged her not to give up, assuring her that a child, who is a product of such tears and prayers could not be lost forever. Her persistence won the victory. Augustine accepted the Lord; he was baptized; he became a deacon, a priest, a bishop, and now a saint. My Dearly Beloved in Christ, I may not know the particular Amalekite that you are battling in your life at this moment. Maybe you are giving this Mass to God as an ultimatum, perhaps you have said if God does not answer your prayers this time, you will break up with God. I challenge you to hang in there, do not give up. Remember, good things come to those who wait, but better things come to those who pray while they wait. May our faith in God never put us to shame until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.