16 October, Sunday — Fighting a Winning Battle

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 17:8-13
2 Tim 3:14-4:2
Lk 18:1-8

But Moses’ arms grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and on this he sat, Aaron and Hur supporting his arms, one on one side, one on the other; and his arms remained firm till sunset.

Tired hands, tired arms, tired body, tired mind. The first thing that came to mind when I read today’s first reading was, ‘I hope Moses managed to get a good rest after this!’  But he didn’t — he had to write down a record of his victorious battle, and then he built an altar. And then there were so many things he had to do after that, as he was still leading the Israelites through the desert.

Many of us can relate to tiredness, to exhaustion, and the temptation to simply give in. Whether it is work, exercise, caregiving, spiritual life, prayer life — all these can lead to burnout, and we lose the zeal we once had for them. However, we cannot always drop what we are tired of doing. Sometimes, we can take a break, but then we need to get back to it. In some instances, however, we simply cannot afford to drop the ball.

One of these instances is our battle against sin. We may fail many times and it may feel like we are merely fighting a losing battle when we keep committing the same sins again and again, or when we commit more sins. This is very discouraging, but then, it was probably discouraging for Moses, for Gideon, for Daniel in the lions’ den. They did not give in, however, because they knew God was on their side.  

If we do not want to give in to sin, the first thing we must keep in mind is that God is on our side, that God is our strength, that our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth. The bible is full of stories of faith even where things appear hopeless. The woman with a blood disease, the Roman centurion, Bartimaeus — they all believed in Jesus and who He was and what He could do. They did not wonder if Jesus could really heal them, for they already wholeheartedly believed and knew that Jesus could and would. So too, must we wholeheartedly believe that God can, and will, grant us the strength we need to overcome the clutches of sin.

The second thing to remember is that we need to do our part. We need to do what we are called to do, what we must do. Often enough, we feel like we should be doing something, but we are unable to see how this something will help, or how it fits into the bigger picture of God’s plan. I wonder if Aaron and Hur had known what the impact of their actions would be. They got a rock for Moses to sit on and they held up his arms for him. If someone had told me to prop up someone else’s arm in the middle of an actual battle because he cannot let his arm fall, I would have responded with, “Huh?”  

There is a common bible quote that tells us we are many parts but one body (1 Cor 12:12). For sure, we are not going to be taking on all of the roles by ourselves. Everyone has their role to play, and we have to fulfill these duties to the best of our abilities. Tired though we may be, we need to simply take one more step to completion. If we can keep in mind the first point about God providing us with the strength we need, we can persevere and do our part to overcome our sins. When the priest gives you your penance, do it. When he gives you advice, follow it. When he is around, go for confession. Just. Do. The. Thing.

Alright, so doing the thing is not easy, especially when there is usually more than one thing we have to do. This brings me to the third thing to remember — we need to help one another out in our battles against sin.  We do not go at this alone, but as an entire body of Christ. My daughter is about to receive her First Holy Communion. And this has made me think really hard about being part of the Body of Christ. Quite simply, we need one another because the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When one person sins, the whole community is tainted. We are also called to make reparations for the sins of others. While they still need to atone for their own wrongdoing, our efforts will go a long way to help purify the whole community.  

The gospel last Sunday was from Luke 15 on the lost sheep, the lost drachma, and the prodigal son. In my priest’s homily, he mentioned the Act of Contrition, specifically the line “because You are so good, and with the help of Your grace, I will not sin again“.  He noted that some people add words: “because You are so good, and with the help of Your grace, I will try not to sin again“. This is a contradiction. Saying that you will try, means this is subjective and non-committal. I will try, as long as there is nothing else I would rather be doing. While God has promised, and shown mercy, and loved us unconditionally (and mind you, we fully acknowledge this), all we can give Him in return is a weak, “I guess I can try?”  God’s goodness, grace, and mercy are absolute, and there cannot be a contradiction to our own acknowledgement of this.  

Yes, overcoming sin is hard. But we need to do our best, not just try. We cannot cease and we cannot faint. We do not know how we will be tested, but we have to put in our best efforts. In The Return Of The King, the army of Rohan, led by King Theoden, prepares to defend Minas Tirith against the dark forces who are much greater in number. As King Theoden rallies the troops to fight what looks like a losing battle far away from home, he tells them, “Strike wherever the enemy gathers. Other plans we cannot make, for we know not yet how things stand upon the field. Forth now, and fear no darkness!”  

It is a constant battle but the battle itself is worth it. After all, we are fighting against sin and death — this is reason enough to fight. The very act of fighting sin with all our effort is already a win, already a step forward. These battles may be lost, but they are worth fighting simply because they are a battle for Good. Remember that God gives us the strength so that we can do whatever it is we need to do at the present moment, and we also draw strength from one another in our battles so that we can work to overcome sin and death.  

(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)

Prayer: Father, grant us the strength to take one more step in our fight against sin, grant us the grace to muster up our courage to face down temptation, grant us love for one another as we journey together in our battle against death. 

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for your everlasting love for us. May we never take your love for granted.


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