THEME: “Chilie aka ekpere elu” – THE RAISED ARMS OF MOSES!

BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr).



*Ex 17: 8 – 13, 2 Tim 3: 14 – 4: 2, Lk 18: 1 – 8.

The greatest tragedy that can face any nation is when her ministers get spiritually comatose; when her prayer warriors go to bed and the voices of her intercessors grow silent. I am afraid Nigeria may be gradually coming to that state.

We have come to the injury time in Nigeria; When the men of the underworld are taking over our fortresses; when occult groups are taking over the Federal, State and Local government corridors of power; when evil cabals are looting the national cake and the country’s wealth is gradually being squandered by our consumerist politicians and leaders and our foreign debt status is rising by the day.
And so, we have as in today’s gospel, a scenario where there are judges (leaders) who have neither fear of God nor respect for man. And now we have many widows ( poor people) who keep coming to pray to them for justice.

We are presented in today’s first reading, with the metaphor of ‘the raised arms of Moses – a most captivating image of the Church hierarchy engrossed in radical prayer under radical situations. Even wordless signs can be prayer and the position is also important.
The raised arms of Moses today present to me the enigmatic picture of the raised arms of the bishop and priests at every priestly ordination in the Catholic Church. And the assistance of Aaron and Hur epitomizes the Catholic belief in the communion of Saints as an escatological concept, not a spatio temporal issue as Protestants want us to believe.

It was such a dramatic incident. The Isrealites engaged in a decisive war with their inveterate enemies, the Amalekites. And when the battle line was drawn, Joshua was stationed at the battlefield while Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill to pray. As long as Moses’ arms remained raised, Israel had the advantage… The Lord crowned himself in glory that day as the banner of Israel – Yahweh Nissi.

For 3 sundays now, the Holy Mother Church has taken us on a panoramic teaching about faith; the importance of faith, faith vs healing and today, faith vs prayer.
Perseverance is the greatest power in that brand of prayer called petition. Persistence is prayer’s most necessary ingredient. And the formular is PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens.
It doesn’t change God but changes us in order to dispose us to obtain favours from God.
Faith has 3 dimensions; the rational (believing), the spiritual (blind trust) and the emotional (persistence).

There are about 10 brands of faith mentioned in the scriptures; (i) Righteous faith (eg Abraham, Gen 15: 6), (ii) Resilient faith /stubborn faith (eg Jacob, Gen 32 :27), (iii) Fearless faith (eg David, 1Sam 17: 32), (iv) Ferocious faith (eg Elijah, 1Kg 18), (v) Persevering faith (eg Elisha, 2 Kg 2), (vi) Humble faith (eg the Centurion, Matt 8: 5), (vii) Healing faith (eg the Woman of haemorrhage, Lk 8: 40 – 45), (viii) Backsliding faith (eg Peter, Matt 14: 22 – 33), (ix) Daring faith (eg Stephen, Act 7), (x) Salvific faith (eg Paul, Rom 8: 1).
Fr Emma Onuh of blessed memory said that ‘Faith is the secret key which unlocks the power of God… It is the legal tender with which the economy of salvation is run’. And Vima Dasan says that ‘When faith sets prayer to work, prayer sets God to work’.
*There was this frustrated woman who lost her husband to a motor accident, lost her house to her wicked brother in law, her son got imprisoned for stealing, her business failed and she had 5 children to feed. In the midst of her frustration, she persevered in prayer and one night heard a CD playing ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’. Her business later revamped and later her son became one of the Governors in our country today.

Igbo cosmology and Ideology sometimes could be seen to encourage lack of perseverance in prayer with such proverbs as ‘a noro ofu ebe ekiri mmonwu’ (you should not stand only one place to watch a masquerade). But today’s gospel encourages us to learn to stick to God in prayer, standing on one place (ino ofu ebe ekiri mmonwu).
Our Christians today are prone to running about spiritually from pillar to post – from one church /prayer house /adoration ground to another in search of instant results. Too many people pray like little boys who knock at your door and then run away by the time you say ‘Who is there?’.
We must learn to go beyond mere prayer (asking) to desire (expectation) and action (receiving).
*Look at the story of a village who did a novena prayer for rains with the assurance that it is going to rain on the 9th day. But only a small girl came with an umbrella.
We must also add other aspects of prayer like fasting and almsgiving.
*According to St Peter Chrysologus : ‘What prayer knocks on the door, fasting asks and almsgiving obtains’.

Today’s 2nd reading warns that ‘You must pray according to what you have been taught and know to be true’.The best way to pray is according to the Word of God. The Word of God is found in the Scriptures and all scripture is inspired by God for teaching, admonition, exhortation and reflection (cf, the 4 types of preaching in homiletics). Follow the scriptures, the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith as we find in the 2nd reading and learn never to pray outside the Word of God.
*Story of a child crying hysterically to the mother in the kitchen for a fish not yet ready for eating.
cf Phil 4: 6, Is 40: 31, Js 4: 1 – 4.

*F.CONCLUSION: “Chilie aka ekpere elu”*
The Word of God recommends us that ‘In every place, then, I want the men (perhaps he means those who are stronger) to lift their hands up reverently in prayer. We don’t need to interprete this literally. Neither do we need to underate its literal import! ‘Perseverance in prayer’, says the Word of God, ‘is part of your spiritual training… So, steady all weary hands and trembling knees…and make your crooked paths straight; then the injured limb will not be maimed’, Heb 12: 12.
Never forget that all our problems have their expiry date once we camp with Jesus with our arms stretched like Moses in prayer. The only thing Jesus took time to teach his disciples most systematically was how to pray and the only thing Jesus is doing now is interceding for us at the right hand of the father, Heb 7: 25. Let us (especially the priests) therefore come boldly into the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace and help in time of need, Heb 4: 16. Happy Sunday dear friends!

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