Corpus Christi Blog

Like the Israelites, the Church is at war

10-16-2016HomiliesFr. Chad King

Our 1st reading from Exodus tells the story of how Israel defeated the attacking Amalekites.  The Early Church Fathers saw this story as a great analogy for the Church.  It is this that I want to focus on in this homily.

Our 1st reading begins, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.  We know from Scripture that the Amalekites are one of the tribes that stood against and wanted to conquer Israel. 

This report clues us into the spiritual warfare in a fallen world.  Israel stands for the ways and purposes of God in the world.  Amalek stand for the ways of the world.  There is a spiritual battle at war within each one of us.  Every person is at war against the evil one for their soul, no one is exempt in this battle of human life, some have lost it, some are losing.  Hopefully we are winning the battle, and we know there are countless saints who have won their battle. 

However, besides the battle within our souls, we can also we think of this war in more general terms- as the people of the God, the Church in battle against the evil in the world. We who strive to follow the path of the Lord will always be at war, until the end of time.

Even though in the end, we know that God has already won the war, he has won it for those who are in the fight.  One can lose the war for themselves if they aren’t fighting in it.  Fighting the good fight against evil will always be a struggle.  And God has armed His Church with the weapons of war.  Recall the instructions from Ephesians 5 about the Battle against Evil: “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil”.

Our 1st reading goes on to say, Moses said to Joshua. Remember that when Moses was getting old, he appointed and trained the young Joshua to lead the people of God, the Israelites.  Moses said to Joshua, “Pick certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.  I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand”. 

The Church Fathers saw this scene as an anticipation of the Church. 
Moses, Joshua, and certain men were selected and all had a role to play in the battle.  Everyone in the Church has a certain role in this earthly spiritual battle.  So let us look at the different characters and their roles in the Church. 

Pope Francis can be seen like Moses- the head general standing over the battle- not in a superior or hierarchical way, but standing upon the heights like a coach in football- able to see the entire field from his vantage point- able to see how and where the opponent is attacking and his army might be losing.  The overseer, the general, Moses sends certain people into the battle.  And so Pope Francis, from the beginning of his Papacy, has been urging the troops, calling the Church, to go out to the margins- to be bearers of mercy to those who are on the outside feeling marginalized in society.  To call them in for they are important and have a purpose. Likewise, if you read the Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis calls the Church to become Missionary Disciples.  He boldly calls and invites us into the battle.  

Meanwhile Moses, obviously too old for himself to be engaged, is up on the mountain top with his arms raised- in the position of prayer.  As long as Moses had his arms raised in prayer, the Israelites had the better of the fight. Moses, like all the Saints who have won before us, knows that nothing in this fight will be successful without prayer.  Prayer is the strong driving force, it is our strength to fight and win the battle.

While the troops are fighting on the ground, Moses is up on the mountain with arms lifted in prayer, interceding for his warriors.  Here, Moses is like all the people in the Church who are in prayer.  We can think of the elderly and homebound person who can do nothing but spend the days praying for the success of the Church's mission.  Think of every Monk and Nun around the world praying for the Church.  Every Mass ever celebrated is our strength in the battle.  In every Mass, we are praying not only for ourselves, but for the salvation of every soul.  Do you think about that when you come to Mass?

However, when Moses tires and lowers his arms, the Israelites start losing the battle.  So Aaron and Hur hasten to help Moses, they sit him on a rock and hold his hands up.  These 2 Israelites represent people in the Church who through their financial support and personal time and energy sacrifices continue the existence and the good work being done in the parishes, monasteries and convents.  The parishes can fight against injustice and evil, can arm the soldiers because of these people’s support.  The monks and nuns have a place to pray because of the support of others.   

Image of the Church in all of its elements of the battle.  So take away Aaron and Hur and the arms of Moses fall, the arms of Moses fall then the enemy gains ground.  All these elements are linked together in the work of the Church.  Every person in the Church has a part to play in this war, whether it be Pope Francis, the clergy, every lay person- whether they be the bedridden, the wealthy, the poor, the elderly, the young- we all are necessary and must all do our part for the Church to succeed in her mission.

Strategy of the enemy to set the Church at war with itself, where one dimension resents the work or status of another.  One thinking they aren’t appreciated, or they are more important than others.  One is just as important as the other, we shouldn't compare ourselves to each other's role, but recognize that I have a role to do and get engaged in this war.  The success of everyone else, the success of the mission of the Church, depends on you and I, each of us doing our part.  Are you engaged in the battle?