Life is a fight. Our faith reveals a cosmic struggle, a struggle for our souls. The devil schemes to ensnare us. God is everywhere at work. We are in the fray, clinging to the hope that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). But this struggle wears us down. We need to be sustained.
In our first reading this weekend (Ex 17:8-13) we find the Israelites engaged in battle. As the Israelite army went out to meet their enemy, Moses climbed to the top of a hill overlooking the battlefield. He stretched out his hands, and “as long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight.” As the battle stretched on however, his arms grew tired, and others (Aaron and Hur) have to hold up his arms “so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”
No doubt this is a strange story. It is strange until it receives its fulfillment in Christ. For the Son of God also comes into the world to fight (not just a battle, but to win the war). He too climbs a hill and stretches out his hands. So that his arms will not fall they are nailed in place. From his view on Calvary he oversees the victory of his Church, steady in battle until the sunset of time. As Moses stretched out his hands, sustaining his people, so our Lord, his arms extended on the Cross, sustains us everlastingly. Those extended arms purchase our salvation. We find them at the Mass.
At every Mass we are present again at Calvary. There our Lord’s hands are extended over us. There his body is offered for us becoming our very food. As Aaron and Hur supported the arms of Moses, so at the Mass, the priest extends his own hands, perpetuating the sacrifice of Christ. Foreshadowed in Moses, and fulfilled in Christ, this saving gesture of sacrifice is sustained in our service at the altar. At the Mass, the Lord, with arms extended, reigns over the battles of our lives, giving us the food which sustains us and assures us of victory.
In our Gospel this weekend (Lk 18:1-8), Jesus is eager to teach his disciples “about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” We must always pray. With hands raised in supplication, or arms stretched out in praise, we must make known our needs and gratitude to God. But if we grow weary in the struggle, if our hands droop, it is a sign that we have drifted from him whose hands never fall. For his hands are always raised to sustain us. They have assured us of victory.
Father George K. Nixon serves as assistant pastor at St. Philip Parish, Greenville. Ordained in 2011, he holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. “Verbum Domini” is a series of Father Nixon’s reflections on the Scriptures.