SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
Readings: Gen. 18:20-32; Ps. 138; Col. 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13
“Man has a noble task: That of prayer and love. To pray and love, that is the happiness of man on earth.’ St. John Mary Vianney”
Our liturgy today gives us the great opportunity to reflect on the subject – matter of prayer. The Christian life is a life built on a covenantal relationship. This relationship ought to be sustained daily through prayer. For prayer is the key to the heart of God – (Chorus: Prayer is the key). Jesus says from our Gospel of today, And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Luke 11:9-10). Prayer is God’s contact number: God says to Jeremiah the prophet, “Call on me, and I will answer you; I will tell to you things great beyond reach of your knowledge (Jer. 33:3). Prayer means to raise our minds and hearts to God says our Catechism. It is a conversation or dialogue with God. Through it, we bless God, thank Him, and intercede for people, our families, communities, the Church and the world.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI states that “human life without prayer … lacks sense and direction.” Prayer is the primary method of our communication with God and our stairway to heaven. Prayer is the special means to experience the love of God, experience spiritual growth, overcome darkness and above all, it is an invitation to God to act. Look at the way Abraham in the first reading took it upon himself to ask for the salvation of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. So, we need to pray! We do not need to down play the necessity of prayer. This being the case, the great challenge of our times is what to pray for and how to pray. By the grace of God we still respect the place of God in our individual lives and society. However, what we pray for and how we pray has become worrisome.
For example, this age prays against her enemies. We pray back to sender prayers more often these days. We pray and hire prayer contractors to pray for the death of our enemies, but Jesus says, You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt. 5:43-45). Please listen to St. Paul, He says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD” (Rom. 12:19).
In the first reading instead of Abraham to pray for the destruction of the inhabitants of the City of Sodom and Gomorrah who refused to be hospitable to the messengers of God he rather Abraham took it upon himself to beg for their salvation. His dialogue with God ended up revealing the power of prayer. This reveals how prayer can change evil into good, how almighty God can listen to mortal men through prayer. No wonder The Pieta says “God governs the world but pray governs God.”
Abraham’s conversation with God shows how God’s mercy is real and how we can appeal for it. Like Abraham, we can also become intercessors to intercede on behalf of our families, country and world. This truth of our faith is highly needed today seeing the reality and neediness of our world.
Our world and times are bedevilled by killings, religious fundamentalism, poverty, unemployment, violence and terrorisms, kidnappings, diseases, economic slowdowns, immoralities and their consequences. What are we to do as Christians? To fear and compromise; to revenge, to punish the wicked or to join the league of the wicked and perpetrate evils and crimes? Abraham’s prayer of intercession speaks to us differently. It says we do not need to pray and act contrary to the divine will of God. God does not want the wicked to die but, rather, that they convert and live (Ezek. 18:23, 33). Hence, He patiently listens to Abraham’s prayer, He hears it and repeats at each supplication: “I will spare … I will not destroy … I will not do it” (Gen. 18: 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32).
HYMN – WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS! C.H.B 289.
What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus Knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.
Abraham’s intercession challenges us to learn to pray for people. Most times, people see us as righteous people because we make efforts to come to Mass, and attend other devotional programmes and they request we pray for them. But we hardly do so. Some would say, have I finished praying for myself before praying for another person! There is power in interceding for others. It is a genuine demonstration of charity, cares and concern. It is the demonstration of our hidden spiritual powers and gifts. It is a form of generosity and to utilise it is a means to bring glory upon you since no one can out do God in generosity.
Again, Abraham’s prayer of intercession teaches us to treasure the power of righteousness. We need just one righteous person’s prayer to change the ugly stories of our families, our society and our world. God could not get a righteous person to save Sodom and Gomorrah. Little wonder St. James says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16).
To God be the glory “when the fullness of the time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5) and from that moment God provided us one righteous person – Jesus Christ. The Second reading says, through baptism in Jesus Christ we are made alive so that we can enjoy the fruits of Christ redemption.
From the moment of the incarnation (The Son of God becoming Man), Jesus became the stairway to the Father and the prayer of each one of us is heard by God and salvation is granted, especially when such prayers are offered with trust, and perseverance.
So, for every prayer made in the name of Jesus Christ, God the Father in union with the Holy Spirit listen patiently. This is why Jesus affirms “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it (John 14:13-14). Therefore, we need to start praying. In humility, to pray according to the Masters of prayer is not easy. Hence, the disciples say to Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Let us therefore join the first Disciples of Christ to ask the Teacher of prayer: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
The Gospel passage is also on what to pray for and how to pray. In the St. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us the FOUR major elements to pray for – Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication (A.C.T.S). Secondly, He says that the right disposition for Christian prayer is the disposition of a child before its father. The Lucan version of Our Father has two parts. The first addresses God by adoration and praise – “Hallowed be thy name,” and the second addresses our needs – “Give us each day our daily bread …” More so, the prayer formula of Jesus shows that prayer is for all times; the present (give us this day our daily bread), the past (forgive our sins, that is, all we did that was contrary to God’s kingdom), and the future (do not put us to the test – that is ‘do not demand more of us than we are capable of doing).
From our reflection so far, it means for us to pray well, we need to have a good image about God. That is the image of God as a living, loving and caring Father. Therefore, if the Christian is a child of God, it follows that he/she must understand God as a loving Father. Children we know trust their parents to always do what is in their best interest. “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?” Children of God are called to come to God with a spirit of trust and expectancy, knowing that God will always do for them whatever is in their best interest. Children, like the friend at midnight, refuse to take no for an answer. Say no to them and tomorrow they are sure to come back with the very same request. Jesus teaches us, as God’s children, to show the same spirit of perseverance in prayer. He makes this point with the Parable of the Friend at Midnight who refuses to take no for an answer.
My dear people of God, prayer is not something to talk too much about. We have heard so much about it. We have so many books on prayer. There are so many prayer houses, yet we don’t pray and we do not know how to pray! We need to begin to pray. When the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” the Lord did not give them many rules about prayer but one which is “When you pray, say” “Father, hallowed be your name.” That means, we do not need to delay but should start praying our way through. Let us celebrate this Mass prayerfully the way it ought to be. Let us rediscovery our former moments of devotions. Let us not wait for crisis moments before we pray. That would amount to interested devotion.
God is looking for just one righteous person to intercede for your family, our nation and our world. That person is you because you are baptised in Jesus and you always pray through Christ our LORD. So, begin to pray your family out of misfortunes, begin to pray for our country for peace and prosperity. Begin to pray for world peace and understanding, religious tolerance, concern for human dignity, and freedom from poverty and hardship.
Our situations can never be hopeless, if and only if we can pray our way through. Some people say if God is almighty and all powerful, then let Him do things for us without our prayers. But God has given us a free will and He allows us to exercise it. So, through prayer we co-operate with God and co-create our destinies and our world. Please, take time to pray, for it is the greatest power on earth! Thank you!