Arms raised in support

By Fr. Mark Vander Steeg | For The Compass | October 17, 2013

This Sunday’s first reading has Moses high on a hill looking down at the Israelites as they battle their enemies. He has his arms raised up, reminding them that God is with them and they need not fear. At one point, his arms become weak and he needs the support of others to keep them raised. The moment his arms drop, the battle shifts and his people below lose heart and, symbolically, God’s help. Imagine being one of those men who needed to look up at Moses in the heat of the fight for encouragement or support or perhaps even comfort as he drew his last breath.

This need for support is true in our own lives. I recall my childhood, when I would scan the crowd during a school Christmas or spring concert, looking for the face of my mom and, upon finding her, having renewed vigor and joy in my voice. I felt supported, comforted and loved.

Now that we are older, it is not as easy as scanning the concert crowd for faces or arms of support. We have to learn to look in new directions for support. We need support and encouragement especially in the spiritual struggle for holiness, purity of love and intent, championing of truth, establishing of justice and the final perseverance for the pursuit of heaven. We need each other.

The arms of support this life offers, and which God provides, are important to name and be grateful for. They also serve as reminders of the support we should be for others, especially those to whom we are vowed, to our family and to our friends.

Support is shown by words of hope and encouragement we speak and the expressions we silently give. We show encouragement by forgiveness we freely give, showing others that we believe in them and have confidence that they will win the battle to become their true selves.

These moments are our raised arms. In fact, our life, in our better moments, is a living example of “Moses with his arms raised,” showing others the battle can be won and that God is at work in us.

Beyond earth, there are heavenly realities which support us and pray for our final triumph. These include the saints we have befriended. We also consider the angels, especially our guardian angels who have been with us since our creation. They are the “cloud of witnesses” of which Scripture speaks.

Our greatest supporter, with arms raised, is Jesus. His arms are nailed up for our encouragement, reminding us that he is totally for us until the end. At every Eucharist, he enters us and stands as our brother in all the struggles we may face in life. God is for us. He comes to us in confession, through the raised arm of the priest, giving absolution and reassuring us that he is mercy and committed to our own participation in his victory. He asks us to look to him, remember that the victory is his, and not lose heart.

Questions for Reflection:

1.  Who looks to me for support? Am I there for them?

2.  How have I let God support me?

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Green Bay

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