Once I was coming down from the mountains. Pretty close to the end of my route I met a girl standing on the side of the path. She asked me if I knew how far she was from the car park. I was familiar with that area, so I told her that she was about ten minutes away. But she didn’t move. I had to explain to her: “Ten minutes if you start walking”. I hope she finally decided to move, and that she reached the car park. If she didn’t start to walk, then by now she’s dead.
Quick decisions and instant effects are essential parts of our current cultural climate. The possibility of immediate contact with other people, the relative abundance of goods available almost 24/7 – these and many other conveniences have made our lives more comfortable than our predecessors’. But on the other hand we’ve lost a couple of specific abilities: patience and perseverance. These two features built a powerful and wealthy British Empire and then kept the UK relatively rich. But over the last few decades we’ve decided that the time for saving and self-limitation is past and the time for consumption has come. As a result the UK as a state has one of the biggest public debts; at the same time British society is one of the most indebted.
Today’s first reading tells us a story of the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites. The author describes Moses stretching out his arms in prayer at the top of a mountain above the fighting parties. Undoubtedly the message of the story is that the battle was won thanks to two elements: the spiritual power of Moses’ prayer and the military power of the army. Both elements have the same features: patience and perseverance. Both elements are crucial: the battle won’t be won by either prayer or the sword alone.
Over 1500 years ago Saint Benedict formulated a basic rule of monastic life, that turned out to be a very practical rule for human life in general. In Latin the rule sounds simple: “Ora et labora”, which means: Pray and work. By praying I don’t mean reciting some texts; rather it’s an ability to reflect on my life, my decisions, my behaviours, my circumstances and so on in the light of the word of God. Maybe a better word to describe that activity is “meditation”. It helps us to make good decisions and to avoid mistakes. If we do this honestly it’ll make our decisions more mature, more grown up. Does prayer guarantee success? Not necessarily; but it makes it more likely. So Pray, Work and Love.