17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C ON JULY 28, 2019 (R. 1: Genesis 18: 20- 32; Psalm 138: 1- 2, 2- 3, 6- 7, 7- 8; R. 2: Colossians 2: 12- 14; Gospel: Luke 11: 1- 13)
– REV FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
MY FATHER, YOUR FATHER, OUR FATHER!
A seven-year-old boy asked his friend if he says the prayer before a meal at home every day, his friend answered, “No, I don’t need to, I trust my mother; she is a very good cook.”
Communication plays a very important role in every relationship. Communication is like a lubricant in every relationship. Relationships between spouses, siblings; parents and children, friends, communities, nations, etc. all rely on effective communication to thrive. God created us to have a special relationship with Him. The well-being of our relationship with God depends a lot on the quality of our communication with God. Prayer is the communication between human beings and God.
Today’s Liturgy of the Word helps us to reflect on our prayer life. In the First Reading, it is Abraham our Father in Faith, communicating with God. Last Sunday, we saw how Abraham generously hosted three strangers who eventually turned out to be divine guests. His generosity to the guests gave him a son after a long time waiting. Another outcome of his kind gesture to his guests is the privilege of knowing what God planned to do. A few verses before today’s passage, God said, “Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am going to do…?” (Genesis 18: 18). The beginning of today’s First Reading then goes on to show God sharing with Abraham his plan to see what was going on in Sodom. Abraham, who knows how evil Sodom has become, probably through stories he heard from his nephew Lot seizes the opportunity to bargain with God to spare the city. He begins by asking God to save the city for 50 innocent people found in Sodom. God accepts. Abraham continues the bargain to 45, 30, 20 until 10. At each point, God agrees to spare Sodom.
Something that stands out in this bargain between God and Abraham is that Abraham is the first to give up. If you call it a contest, then we can award the trophy to God. God continues to say yes until Abraham stops asking. When eventually the messengers of God arrive Sodom, they find only three or four innocent people, namely Lot, (his wife) and their two daughters. We may not be confident enough to include Lot’s wife in the list of the innocent as she eventually ends up as a pillar of salt along the way. I wonder why Abraham stopped at ten. If only he didn’t give up but continued to three, the city would have been saved. God was not tired of granting his request; it was Abraham who became tired of asking. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium says, “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” God does not time us when we pray; we are the ones who come to Mass and insist that we must not stay with God beyond a specific time. I wish we know how much we cheat ourselves by such attitudes.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus teaches his followers not just a prayer but also how to pray. He begins by addressing God as “Our Father.” By this, Jesus has brought us into the family. His Father has now become Your Father, My Father, Our Father. Today’s Gospel Acclamation (Romans 8:15c) reminds us that what Jesus is by nature (Son of God), we have now become by adoption (Children of God). The name people call each other/ one another in a relationship dictates the tone of the relationship. A man would not call his wife “Honey” and then say, “you are the worst creature on earth.” When a man calls his wife, “Honey,” it is more common to follow it up with sweet words like, “thank you for the joy you bring to my life.” Pay attention to when spouses quarrel, they automatically avoid calling each other their usual pet names.
In addressing God as “Our Father,” Jesus sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. It is unique to Christianity to call God Father. Other religions cannot stand the idea of calling God Father. They see God as too distant and high up there to be Our Father. It is the confidence that we have as God’s children that spurs us on to tell Him exactly what and how we feel. I admire the confidence with which children jump on their parents’ laps with no consideration for the impact of their weight on their parents. They seem to be saying, “Afterall, he is my dad, or she is my mom, and so has no option but to carry me. That is the kind of confidence that Jesus wants us to have when we pray to God.
At the beginning of the “Our Father,” we worship God as we say, “Hallowed be your name.” When we give God his proper position at the beginning, every other thing falls in place. “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6: 33). Jesus also assures us today that when we ask, we shall receive. It sounds too good to be real. But are prayers always answered? A little girl who had no faith in prayer made fun of her prayerful sister and challenged her to pray that their mom, who went grocery shopping may come home with a toy for them. The little girl prayed, but their mom returned with no toy. Her sister ridiculed her that God did not answer her prayer, but she replied, “God answered my prayer, God said, ‘No!’”
Beloved in Christ, God always answers prayers. There are three different ways that God answers prayers: Yes, no, or not now. When we ask for bread, for instance, He can say, “Yes, have it.” He can also say, “Yes, but not now, it will choke you if I give it to you now. I will give it to you later.” The third way is, “No, my child, bread is not good for your health; take salad instead.” Prayer is a blank check that has been signed by God for us. Are you ready to take advantage of this blessing?