Sunday, Oct. 17, is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).
At 10am Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI will canonize six new saints. Two are quite familiar to the English-speaking world.
Blessed André Bessette (1845-1937) was a Holy Cross brother who served as the doorman at Quebec’s Notre Dame College for 40 years, among other menial responsibilities. He recommended devotion to St. Joseph to whoever would listen. He visited the sick and anointed them with oil from the lamp of the chapel’s St. Joseph altar. He became known as a miracle worker, but vehemently — actually, with uncharacteristic anger — denied that he had any healing ability whatsoever. He began the campaign to erect a chapel to honor St. Joseph. To show the family a good, brief video about him, produced by Notre Dame, find “Toward Sainthood: Blessed Brother André Bessette, C.S.C.” on YouTube.
Blessed Mary of the Cross MacKillop (1942-1909) is the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She will be Australia’s first saint. She struggled with the Church in her day, even being excommunicated once, but stayed true to the faith despite that. The Church has stayed faithful to her. At the 2008 World Youth Day, Pope Benedict XVI prayed at her tomb in Sydney. To see a good video about her, produced by Australian TV, find “Mary MacKillop (Blessed) 100-Year Anniversary on ABC News” on YouTube.
Other new saints: Blessed Stanislaw Soltys (1433-1489), a Polish priest; Blessed Candida Maria of Jesus (1845-1912), Spanish founder of the Congregation of Daughters of Jesus; Blessed Giulia Salzano (1846-1929), Italian founder of the Congregation of the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart; Blessed Camilla Battista da Varano (1458-1524), a sister of the Poor Clares and founder of the monastery of St. Clare in Camerino.
Exodus 17:8-13; Psalm 121:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8
Today’s readings describe three kinds of intercession. We’ll go through them one by one.
In the Old Testament, we hear about the relationship between a leader and his people before God. Amalek is fighting Israel, and as long as Moses raises his arms (Christ-like), the battle goes Israel’s way. When he lets them down, Amalek starts to win. Soon Aaron and Hur have to help keep Moses’ arms up in the air.
Two important points: First, God uses leaders. It isn’t enough for Aaron and Hur to perform an action. God blesses Israel only when Moses does.
Any of us could find ourselves being called on to be the leader in any number of situations: in a social setting where the conversation is turning negative, in a workplace where the enterprise is settling into a malaise, in the family when everyone is settling for less than their full potential. To see one person doing the right thing lifts the attitudes of everyone else.
But notice the second thing: God relies heavily on leaders — but not on their own strength. Moses’ own power has nothing to do with the victory below. In fact, he’s too weak even to keep his hands up.
We need to keep that in mind, both when we find ourselves as the leader and when we find ourselves in the position of the support staff. If you’re the leader, realize that it’s not you who’s making it work. It’s the support of others and, most of all, God. And if you’re the follower, remember that the leader needs your help.
The kind of help leaders need is the first kind of intercession: The very human aid we give to others. We literally make it possible for them to be leaders by helping them get done what needs to get done.
The second kind of intercession is also directed at others, but it is more spiritual: It involves giving people not just the natural help they need, but the spiritual tools as well.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,” says St. Paul, “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”
God wants us to know the Scriptures and tell others about them. He very directly calls on us to be intercessors in the sense that we are messengers for him.
The third kind of intercession is spiritual and directed to God. In the Gospel, the “Parable of the Unjust Judge,” God encourages us to come to him with our needs — even if he seems to be ignoring us — and keep at it, with persistence.
“But when the Son of Man comes,” says Jesus, “will he find faith on earth?”
All three of these kinds of intercession require great faith: The faith to be a leader when we’re tired, to be convinced and convincing, and to believe against evidence that God is listening.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.