Aaron and Hur
During Ordinary Time, the first reading at Mass, usually taken from the Old Testament, is chosen in function of the Gospel. Today’s Gospel gives the little paragraph about the wicked judge and pestering widow that Jesus told, Luke says, to illustrate “the need to pray always without becoming weary.” The first reading was chosen to provide an example of perseverance in prayer in the story of Moses standing on a hill holding up a staff and watching a battle between Israelite and Amalek forces the outcome of which depended on whether Moses could hold the staff up high. When he grew weary, his assistants Aaron and Hur stepped in and held his hands up, and Israel wins the battle.
Not having a good commentary on Exodus in my personal library, I consulted the New Jerome Biblical Commentary about the passage and was again disappointed. Its rigorous constriction of its interest to the literal meaning of the biblical texts often dissuades a preacher from choosing a text like today’s for his sermon or homily. So I went on the Internet and looked under “Aaron and Hur.” Most of the sites were Protestant, although there was an extended rather allegorical interpretation of the passage in a blog on the website of the Archdiocese of Washington. I wonder how many Catholic preachers referred to today’s OT passage and what they made of it.
I also discovered that in some American Protestant churches there were and perhaps still are “Aaron and Hur Societies” whose purpose was to pray for one another and in particular to support their ministers lest they grow weary. (One suggestion was that they meet for an hour before the service to ask God’s blessing on the word.) I suppose they were like the prayer-chains one hears of today, which send out word when there are people in special need of prayers. But I must say that I do like the thought that there could be Aaron and Hur societies to pray for me and other ministers of the Lord. I recognize that I don’t pray enough for my fellow priests, don’t often enough offer them a steadying and strengthening arm. And I think that deacons, priests, bishops, and popes would be strengthened by the very knowledge that there was an Aaron or a Hur nearby to help them. I remember that Pope Francis before giving his first blessing on that balcony asked that people to pray for him. He was asking for Aaron and Hur.
About the Author
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.