Lifting Each Other Up in Prayer
A number of months ago, there was a particular person
whom I have known for years who came to me to receive some spiritual advice. This particular man was very down and discouraged in the personal battles he was encountering in his journey with the Lord. This person felt ashamed, embarrassed and totally worthless in his own estimation of himself and, what he assumed, was God’s estimation of him as well.
After our session, I invited him to Mass – since I happened to be celebrating that particular Sunday liturgy. During the Our Father we do what we usually do as a community of faith here at Saint Brigid’s – we hold hands and allow all in the Church to feel that they are part of a larger family. At that point, I looked toward this particular person and I could see his head lift up and a look of peace come over his troubled face as he was embraced and enveloped by our community. In this one simple gesture of the Our Father, this man now felt worthwhile, accepted and finally at peace with the Lord and with others.
Perhaps you may not realize what this unique tradition of Saint Brigid’s can mean to the stranger in our midst. Whether or not you feel comfortable with joining hands or whether or not you actually share in this particular ritual matters not. The point I wish to make is that the gesture is more than just doing something nice during the Mass (like the polite handshake or nod we offer each other at the sign of peace). Joining hands does have the power to heal someone – yes, even the stranger who happens to be visiting us that day.
What we do at the Our Father so reminds me of the great story we hear in today’s first reading. The Israelites come upon one of the many enemies with whom they were forced to do battle as they made their way through the Sinai desert into the promised land. In this battle against Amelek, as long as Moses was extending his hands over his army, his army was winning the battle. As soon as he dropped his hands, the enemy overtook the Israelites. Seeing that Moses was getting weary in keeping his arms extended, two of Moses’ assistants, Aaron and Hur, each take hold of one of Moses’ arms and hold them up for him. In that communal prayer, the enemy is defeated.
All of us are doing spiritual battle in our lives. So often, in our struggles, we feel defeated, overwhelmed, weary and tired. How beautiful it is when we know that there is someone at my side who is willing to hold my hand, hold up my arm in battle, allow me to know that I am not alone or defeated in my struggles. To join hands with a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, and pray together makes real the promise that Jesus makes: “Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there in your midst.”