Est 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8
Will God not give justice to those cry to him unceasingly?
In a mission parish, the small church has a life size statue of Christ with outstretched arms installed above the porch, clearly visible not only to the worshippers coming for Mass but also to all those, busy, harassed people rushing past the Church gates, as if to say to each one of them: “Come to me all you who labour and I will give you rest.” One day an old farmer came and requested that he be allowed to light candles before that statue. As it was high upon the roof, he was led into the Church and was told to light candles before the statue of the Infant Jesus. After he lit the candles and prostrated before the statue he narrated his story with tears in his eyes. He was a Hindu. He had three sons. At their insistence he divided their few fields among them. Once his three sons got their share of lands they went separate leaving behind the old man and his ailing wife with no one to look after them and no means of support, and, what was most distressing, with a huge loan the old man had taken to cultivate land. Now, without any means of repaying the loan and with no means of livelihood, and a bed ridden wife at home, the old man was desperate and was on his way to the forest to hang himself on a tree when he passed by the Church gate and happened to see the statue of Christ with outstretched arms which appeared to say to him: “Do not be afraid, I will help you.” This experience changed the old man. He was filled with new hope and strength. And so he came to light candles to Christ.
It is our faith that Christ is at the right hand of the Father pleading for us. His arms are raised up not only in blessing, not only in assurance, not only in forgiving but most of all interceding for us with the Father. Amidst all the battles that rage around us and within us; all the conflicts that continue everywhere in human hearts, human families and human institutions; all the violence, vengeance, death and destruction; all the deceit, exploitation, injustice and oppression; all the immorality, cant and hypocrisy; with the world blindly hurtling down the road to ruin and oblivion, it is Jesus our Savior who, with upraised arms is unceasingly praying and pleading for us.
Once a little innocent child looked for a long time at the picture of Jesus who was standing on a rock in a stormy see with the sky overcast with dark and threatening clouds and finally asked: “Mummy, doesn’t Jesus get tired of keeping his arms always raised like that?” And the mother replied: “Yes, darling, Jesus does indeed get tired. That is why we must raise our hands in prayer for those who are weak, wounded and weary. Then when we heap our arms raised in prayer, Jesus can at least for sometime rest his arms.” There is an important lesson for us in this charming story. Jesus indeed is pleading for us with the Father. But we need to lend our support to Him with our own arms raised up in pleading for the world. Intercessory prayer can be very powerful. We often pray for ourselves. We sometimes beg for forgiveness and healing; for important favours and rare graces. Occasionally we give thanks to God for favours received. There are also times when we pray for our near and dear ones in their need, and when disaster like an air crush or earthquake occurs we do pray for the victims of such terrible tragedies. But the distress of the world in not episodic but never ending. The misery of the world is perennial. The pain and problems, destruction and damage, hurts and humiliations, vengeance and violence that people inflict on another seem unceasing. That is why need to pray unceasingly pleading with God for mercy forgiveness, healing and salvation.
Moses with upraised arms is a pre-figuring of Christ pleading for us with the Father. It is the same Christ whom we contemplate on the cross with arms stretched between heaven and the earth pleading with the Father: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews: “We have a great high priest in heaven who is able to sympathize with our weakness and who offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. We can therefore approach the throne of grace with courage so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our need.
Some of the recent Popes have been eloquent examples of powerful intercession for humanity caught up in hatred, brutality and bloodshed. Benedict XV during World War I, Pius XII during World War II, John XXIII during Cuban Missile Crisis and John Paul II during the Gulf War and the attack on Iraq never ceased to cry a halt to violence and bloodshed while at the same time sending up their groans and sighs to high heavens on behalf of a humanity in the throes of fratricidal war, inhuman brutality, widespread destruction and death in their millions.
Every disciple of Christ is called to raise arms in prayer for a broken, battered, bruised, bleeding humanity hopelessly caught up in the tentacles of the demons of hatred and violence. We have to do this with a profound conviction that our tears will not be in vain, our groans will not be ignored and our prayer will surely be answered. For, if an unjust, corrupt and heartless official would yield to the persistent pestering plea of a poor widow even if reluctantly, how much more will not an infinitely loving, merciful, kind and compassionate God listen to the cry of the poor and the weak? Our help is indeed in the Lord.
Anecdote for Mission Sunday: She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little — but it was all I had.
Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.
Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived. Love is a costly thing.
God in His live for us (and for a lost world) “spared not His own Son” to tell the world of His love. Love is costly, but we must tell the world at any cost. Such love is costly. It costs parents and sons and daughters. It costs the missionary life itself. In his love for Christ the missionary must give up all to make the Savior known. If you will let your love for Christ, cost you something, the great advance will be made together.
Remember, love is a costly thing. Do you love enough?