Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C
1st Reading: Genesis 18: 20-32
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 138: 1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8
2nd Reading: Colossians 2: 12-14
Gospel: Luke 11: 1-13
I love it when the Good News actually sounds like good news!
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, they were asking for an identity. People were known, and faiths were distinguished, by the way they prayed. Observing prayer rituals was how you learned about other people. We can even see this distinction in the two forms of The Lord's Prayer found in the gospels. Matthew's version was for the Jewish community. The prayer was future based. For Luke, writing for the Gentile population, the prayer is centered in the here and now.
Prayer, in all forms, is simply communication with someone in charge of life; someone who has authority over one’s circumstances. For us Americans, we tend to limit God’s handling of specific matters. We like to think we are in charge and that we can take care of ourselves. Sadly, many turn to God only in moments of crisis, when it's an emergency, and they've exhausted all other efforts or solutions. The people of Jesus’ time knew they weren’t in charge of much. They considered prayer as a means of influencing the decision of their patron. The disciples wanted to learn how Jesus influenced God.
Aristotle believed that there were three kinds of friendship.
Friendship of Utility – Relationship with someone useful to you.
Friendship of Pleasure – Relationship with someone whose company you enjoy.
Friendship of the Good – Relationship with someone you respect and admire.
Today's readings teach us of the last form of friendship. It is through this form that we share a love of the good, authentic, and beautiful. The Friendship of Good is the most challenging form of friendship to acquire, and it takes time to develop. In the first reading, we see Abraham bargaining with God. (A perfectly natural thing to do with someone with whom you have a friendship.) In Isaiah 41:8, God says, "Abraham, my friend." The last form of friendship shows us how to live a moral, Christian life; in a relationship with God. And this only comes through consistent, back, and forth communication. It doesn't work to ask God a question and then ignore the answer.
In the second reading, we hear about two more friends. One friend calls on another to help him out of an awkward situation. The lesson here is that the request doesn’t get fulfilled simply because the two men are friends. The door is opened because the friend is persistent in his request. This is another clue on how we are to interact with God.
In both stories of the persistent friend and the parent filling the requests of the child, the theme of "how much more" is evident. How much easier is it to get to God versus bugging your friend at midnight for three loaves of bread? How much better is it to receive a fish instead of a snake? How much more will God give? How much more or better is God versus a friend or even a parent?
The Lord’s Prayer is both an actual prayer as well as a teaching form of prayer. The praise comes first, not because God needs to hear how great He is, but because it puts us in the right frame of mind to make our petitions. This gospel tells us of the importance of persistence in prayer as well as the assurance of being heard.
What kinds of prayers are found in these few words reported by Luke? (Praise, petition, the forgiveness of sin, thanksgiving, etc.)
f God knows our needs, why do we need to ask? If we didn’t ask, would we still receive the same answers to our needs? Explain.
What experiences have you had with answered and unanswered prayers?
What do the following words mean in your life? "Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”