October 27, 2022 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
October 27, 2022 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
My teammates in my seminary days would be familiar with this phrase, “massive attack, massive defense.” This was the slogan that won our team the soccer trophy in 2002 among the entire major seminaries in Nigeria. Usually, we came out bold, courageous, and poised to win. It was pure business! Technically, every soccer team has a formation, either a 4-4-2 or 5-4-1, or 3-5-2, or any other formation that worked for the team. Hence, you have the defenders, midfielders, and attackers on the team. The goalkeeper’s position is taken for granted.
As soon as our coach arrived to work with our seminary soccer team at the time, he declared that his formation was, “massive attack, massive defense.” For him, even though each player maintained his wing and knew what that position was on the field, the team must overlook personal soccer skills to work to achieve our common goal. As his player, it did not matter if you lost the ball. Your teammate must not bother about whose fault or mistake it was on the pitch. The responsibility of the team was to pursue the opponent to regain possession of the game at every point in time. And we would talk about any issues afterwards. That attitude was maintained throughout the competition and the Seat of Wisdom Seminary Soccer Team (my team) won the 2002 trophy for All Nigeria Seminary Games Fiesta.
In the first reading of today, the Israelites do battle against Amalek. Moses adopts the “massive attack, massive defense” formation. He advises Joshua to pick his army. Joshua and the fighters are deployed on the battle field, actively fighting. They are the attackers. Moses, with Aaron, and Hur are the defenders. They camp on the mountain. The staff of God in Moses’ hand is the goalkeeper, the constant phenomenon. The entire team comes together with a common purpose, namely to defeat Amalek. Moses cannot do it alone. His hands are supported by the men, Aaron on one side, Hur on the other, in order to keep his hands steady till sunset. Joshua is able to mow down the people of Amalek with the sword. God’s victory is secured through a massive attack, massive defense strategy.
Whereas the widow in the gospel fights alone, Christ uses the parable of the unjust judge to point out the significance of persistence in prayers. This widow fights massively. The judge finally does justice, not because he fears God, but because he knows that the widow will attack and mow him down. The irony is that a powerful judge worries that a poor widow will “strike” him. Does a widow have such strength and how does that happen? Commentators describe the word “strike” to derive from the Greek word hupoplazo which literally means “to strike in the face/under the eye.” This also conveys the meaning “to weigh down, torment, or browbeat.” The judge is afraid that the poor widow will give him a black eye. Christ teaches us a lesson here, prayer involves a massive attack, massive defense approach. He says, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?”
The widow receives her demands because she persists. A massive attack approach does not give up. Moses and Joshua receive their victory over Amalek because they hold his hands up. They unite in prayer and in action day and night. Prayer is an effective communication with God which demands commitment. Prayer builds connection whereby individuals, groups, and communities unite to ask for their needs.
As humans, we are bound to get tired from time to time. In those Israelite times, Moses is the leader/captain of the team, yet he got tired. His staff is the sign of God’s presence and power in their midst. That was the staff which Moses used to strike the Nile river that turned into blood. Frogs from the Nile overran the land of Egypt. Moses struck the staff and ushered in insects/gnats, and locusts into the land of Egypt. It was the staff that split the Red Sea in two to enable the passage of the Israelites. The people knew that he needed to hold that staff up, else they would lose the battle. Moses could not do it alone. They provided him with support. Israel’s victory came from their “massive attack, massive defense” strategy.
I wish to recommend this prayer style for you today. It does not matter who is the strongest or the weakest on your team, in your workplace or even in your family. It does not matter who prays most or the least. Can you hold someone’s hands up in support for their needs? In today’s world, many people are facing their own “Amalek” (challenges, failures, disappointments, obstacles). Many people are getting tired of holding their hands up because those hands have been up for a long time. Many people are at the verge of giving up, their default has become, “It doesn’t work. It’s not working.” Many are about surrendering to the “Amalek” in their lives. Most times we may not have the material resources to support. We may not have the answers to such problems, but we can help them call on God who has the answer. Such persons would appreciate hearing words of inspiration.
As Paul stood by Timothy, you can remind people with challenges aorund you today, “Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed.” Point such people to the scripture and share it with them. Pray the Psalm with individuals who are struggling. Help remind them of the faithfulness of God in their lives. The spirit of victory, hope, and persistence is not a game of convenience, rather achieved through “massive attack, massive defense.” Here, Paul’s challenge, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, …be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2), is relevant to our attitude towards prayer.
Friends, let’s hold each other’s hands. Let’s hold the hands of our family members. Let’s hold the hands of our work colleagues. Let’s hold our friend’s hands. Let’s hold the hands of our parish community members. Let’s form God’s team for the sake of his kingdom. We may be tired but the staff of prayer is never tired. The prophet Isaiah says, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Is. 40: 30-31). Let’s hold the staff up praying. Let’s look forward to the victory that comes from Him. Yes, the battle rages on but victory comes through Christ Jesus. There’s always a team leader in the family, workplace, or community. Remember, even the team leader can be tired. Providing support in a massive attack, massive defense formation, does the miracle. We must be united in asking, in seeking, and in knocking.
Let’s say the staff of God in the parish is the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament inside. The priest is your Moses, your captain and team leader. Can you help pray for the priest who holds his hands up for your community? How can you hold the hands of your priest up so he’s not tired? How can you help him not to drop those hands? As Christ said, God will see to it that justice is done and done speedily for his own.
Readings: 1st- Ex. 17:8-13; 2nd- 2 Tim. 3:14-4:2; Gospel- Lk. 18:1-8