Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

Readings: Gen 18, 20 -32; Ps: 137, 1-3. 6-8; Col 1, 12-14; Lk 11, 1-13

NEVER GIVE UP ON GOD BECAUSE GOD NEVER GIVES UP ON US

God’s Delay Is Not His Denial

I had been unemployed for most months of 2010. At first, it was by choice that I left my job, then after entering the workforce again in only 2 months, our office closed and I found myself out of work again.

By this time, my husband and I were concerned that should my situation continue, our future could end in uncertainty. I’ve always prayed to God although admittedly, not regularly, but when the time came for me to start my job search, I started my novenas and daily rosaries.

After a few job rejections, I started feeling downhearted. I continued to pray but doubt started to creep in that I only got interviewed but never got hired. I became frustrated and thought that God won’t answer me.

Around noon one day, I started to prepare for an interview scheduled in the afternoon. That morning, I attended an interview and although it went well, I expected that I would get rejected as I had always been. Feeling “down-spirited”, I prayed to God to guide me as I went to another interview.

I promised that I would persevere in the job search but if he would be so merciful to answer my prayer for my husband’s sake as he was more worried than me about my situation. My words were: “God, please end my husband’s suffering.”

I then opened my Bible Isaiah 62 “God’s spirit is in my heart.” It spoke of God’s good news to the oppressed. The reading renewed my spirit and thanked him for inspiring me as I went to another interview.

Not 5 minutes later, I received a call from the person who interviewed me in the morning and offered me the job. I immediately called my mother who told me she was praying a novena to St. Pancratius for intercession in my job search and that it worked for 2 other people before me. St. Pancratius is the patron saint of the unemployed and the youth.

Judy Amy, NY

I Let God have Total Control

On May 28, 2008, my life changed. I became mysteriously ill. My whole body was swollen, blurred vision with swollen shut eyes to the point I couldn’t see, fluid all over my body. I was at two hospitals. In one of them, the medical workers made several mistakes with my care also causing a severe injury to my right arm and hand.

There were several physicians and specialists working hard to diagnose my condition. All kinds of test, ultrasounds, scans, x-rays, but they couldn’t figure it out. From May 28 to August 12, 2008 was how long I stayed in the hospital. I was really ill and sick to the point where I didn’t think I was going to make it. I’m tearing up as I type because it was an emotional roller coaster but a spiritual journey.

Although everyone was puzzled about my condition, I knew that the one thing for sure was that God, my Lord and Savior was in control of my life. As I laid there in that hospital bed day and night, I prayed, meditated and spoke to God reflecting on my life, trials and tribulations.

I believe I had an out of body experience with a peaceful bright light pure moment. I made up my mind that I was going to let go and let God! I started making peace and preparation mentally to God that if it was my time to live according to his plan, I would trust him.

That being said, I knew my life had purpose and that he wasn’t through with me yet. When I let God have total control, I started to make progress and improve. Giving God high praise for his grace and mercy for me. All the prayers from family, friends the medical staff and complete strangers helped throughout this ordeal.

I don’t know why I suddenly became so ill that year, and doctors not giving me a diagnosis, but I trust God’s plan because I never would have made it without him and his son Jesus! There’s a saying that “God works in mysterious ways and he’s a miracle worker”. I know because I’m a living testimonial miracle, thank you God, thank you Jesus!

I just wanted to tell my story and testify to others to have faith in God’s plan!

This miracle story was submitted by “C.R.” from TN

In today’s First Reading, Abraham, our father in faith, demonstrated great confidence and courage. Without fear he approached God and boldly interceded on behalf of Lot, his nephew. He stood in the gap for Lot’s Family in Sodom and Gomorrah. He demonstrated that he was an intercessor.

Abraham teaches we that we have a duty to intercede for others in prayers. We must not underestimate the power of prayers of intercession. There is a saying that: “God governs the world, while prayer governs God.” Through our intercession, God can save the righteous, heal the sick, and save those in all types of danger. It does not matter how far they are from us, because distance is not a barrier for God to hear us or act on our behalf.

The biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, home to Abraham’s nephew, Lot, were full of sin. Israelite tradition was unanimous in ascribing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the wickedness of these cities, but tradition varied in regard to the nature of this wickedness. In many earlier interpretations, the sin of Sodom was homosexuality [Genesis 19:4-5], also known as sodomy; but according to Isaiah [1:9-10; 3:9], it was a lack of social justice. Ezekiel [16:46-51] described it as a disregard for the poor, whereas Jeremiah [23:14] saw it as general immorality. Further studies have revealed that the sin of Sodom was the grievous sin of inhospitality in the biblical world – an assault on weak and helpless visitors who, according to justice and tradition ought to have been protected from danger [Ezekiel 16:49].

In the Second Reading, Paul reminds us of our redemption in Christ Jesus. He reminds us that this was possible due to our faith in God who raised Jesus from the dead. Therefore, it is through this same faith that we must constantly approach God our father in prayer. It is through this same faith we must intercede for our families, friends, and especially for our world that is in total chaos right now.

Centrality of Prayer in Christian life

Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus at prayer is a model for us. In each prayerful moment, Jesus lives out the story of God’s great dialogue with the human family by remaining totally open to the power of God. We must pray unceasingly, for prayer is a sign of our faith in God. Prayer is not something that we use to put pressure on God to get our own way. Authentic prayer opens us up to the action of God’s Spirit, bringing us in line with God’s desires, and making us into true disciples, obedient to Jesus and to the Father who has sent him. Prayer becomes one of the ways by which we follow Jesus in the Christian life.

Three Episodes Concerned with Prayer

In today’s Gospel scene, Luke presents three episodes concerned with prayer [11:1-13]. The first [vv 1-4] recounts Jesus teaching his disciples the Christian communal prayer, the “Our Father”; the second [11:5-8], the importance of persistence in prayer; the third [11:9-13], the effectiveness of prayer.

The Matthean version of the “Our Father” occurs in the “Sermon on the Mount” [6:9-15]; the shorter Lucan version is presented while Jesus is at prayer and his disciples ask him to teach them to pray just as John taught his disciples to pray [11:1-4]. His disciples watch him from afar, and are keenly aware of the intensity and intimacy of his prayer with God. Jesus responds to them by teaching them the Our Father. Jesus presents them with an example of a Christian communal prayer that stresses the fatherhood of God and acknowledges him as the one to whom the Christian disciple owes daily sustenance [v 3], forgiveness [v 4], and deliverance from the final trial [v 4].

The Prayer of the Community

The “Our Father” is taught to the Twelve in their role as disciples, not just as individuals to be converted but also as persons already co-responsible for the community. This prayer is an apostolic prayer, because it is said in the plural and takes for granted one’s awareness of a people, of co-responsibility, of solidarity, linking each of us to the other.

When we pray “thy kingdom come,” we reveal our deepest longing to see the day when the triumphant, sovereign lordship of our loving God will no longer be a mere hope clung to desperately by faith, but a manifest reality in all human affairs. Our souls can never be entirely content until God’s honor is fully vindicated in all creation. These words utter a heartfelt plea: When will the reign of evil and death end?

When we beg for bread, we are really pleading for more than food. We beg the author of life for all the necessities of life. “God, give us what we need in order to enjoy the gift of life… bread for today and bread for tomorrow, to sustain us as a community.”

We ask God to forgive our sins as we forgive everyone their debts to us. This may possibly reflect Luke’s concern that possessions not hinder community fellowship. The final petition is most likely eschatological: do not lead us into trial; i.e., the final, great and ultimate test and agony of evil before the end.

The “Our Father” becomes the prayer of the poor, of those who plod along– weary, hungering and struggling for faith, meaning and strength. It is perhaps the first prayer we ever learn, and the last prayer we ever say before we close our eyes on this life.

God’s Assurance of Good Gifts

The parable of the friend at midnight is found nowhere else in the New Testament. Its message, too, is about prayer and its point is that if our friends answer importunate or shameless appeals, how much more will God who desires to give us the kingdom [12:32]? The concluding section [vv 9-13] builds on the previous section. The analogy moves from friends to parents: if parents give good gifts, how much more so will God. Prayer is to be continual asking, seeking, knocking, but even so, this persistence is within a parent-child relationship, which assures good gifts. Authentic prayer opens us up to the action of God’s Spirit, bringing us in line with God’s desires, and making us into true disciples, obedient to Jesus and to the Father who has sent him.

I conclude this reflection by offering you two thoughts on Luke’s great lesson on prayer in today’s Gospel. First, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #239:

By calling God ‘Father’, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, [cf. Is 66:13; Ps 131:2.] which emphasizes the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: [cf. Ps 27:10; Eph 3:14; Is 49:15] no one is Father as God is Father.

I also draw your attention to one of Cardinal John Henry Newman’s homilies on today’s Gospel. The great Cardinal wrote in the 19th century, words that still ring loud and clear today:

He [Jesus] gave the prayer and used it. His Apostles used it; all the Saints ever since have used it. When we use it we seem to join company with them. Who does not think himself brought nearer to any celebrated man in history, by seeing his house, or his furniture, or his handwriting, or the very books that were his? Thus does the Lord’s Prayer bring us near to Christ, and to his disciples in every age. No wonder, then, that in past times good men thought this Form of prayer so sacred, that it seemed to them impossible to say it too often, as if some especial grace went with the use of it. Nor can we use it too often; it contains in itself a sort of plea for Christ’s listening to us; we cannot, so that we keep our thoughts fixed on its petitions, and use our minds as well as our lips when we repeat it. And what is true of the Lord’s Prayer, is in its measure true of most of those prayers which our Church teaches us to use. It is true of the Psalms also, and of the Creeds; all of which have become sacred, from the memory of saints departed who have used them, and whom we hope one day to meet in heaven.

Prayer is not only at the heart of the Christian life, it is also at the heart of a lot of Christian frustration, misunderstanding, and even pain.

A Parable on Prayer

The temptation is to interpret Jesus’ parable as indication that God needs cajoling, or at least that the hallmark of Christian prayer is persistence. The Greek anaideia, however, is better translated “shamelessness” than “persistence,” and so implies a boldness that comes from familiarity. Note that the parable’s breadless host asks only once, making bold to count on his neighbor’s conformity to the duties of hospitality. He is in this sense “shameless,” counting on his friend’s desire not fail communal expectations. So also, Jesus intimates, should we make bold to offer our petitions to God, shamelessly calling on God to keep God’s promises.

Sayings About Prayer

Next comes one of the more familiar commands of Jesus: ask, search, knock. Popular piety has again interpreted this as a call to persistence (rendering it “ask and keep asking” and so forth). It might be more helpful, though, to read Jesus’ instruction as inviting trust – ask, search, knock…confident that you will receive what you ask. Of course there is no one among those listening who would give a snake or a scorpion to a beseeching child, so how then, Jesus implies, can we not trust that God as divine parent will give us all that we need, including and especially the holy Spirit?

Anne Lamott writes in Traveling Mercies that our two best prayers are, “help me, help me, help me” and “thank you, thank you, thank you”. I think Jesus might agree, as there rests in Jesus’ words to his disciples then and now an invitation, above all else, to honesty, the candor that comes from intimacy, where oversensitivity to each other’s feelings is put to the side not out of contempt but from trust.

Why, then, is persistence important? here are two key insights:

1) The one who knows the answer must be able to give it.

2) The ones who seeks the answer must be able to receive it.

Persistence is a great instructor in the school of Christian growth. “God does not become more willing to answer because of our persistence, but we may become more capable of receiving the answer.”

Persistent prayer does not change God but it does change us.

–It purifies our motives.

–It forces us to confront our helplessness.

–It distinguishes deep-seated desires from fleeting whims.

–It makes us ready to receive God’s answer.

–It humbles us so that God alone gets the glory.

Many prayers we pray shouldn’t be answered because they are so shallow. If God answered every prayer the first time we prayed, we would soon become complacent in our faith. Because God conditions his answers on our persistence, we realize how helpless we are and how totally dependent we are on him for everything.

What are you praying for right now?

A family member to come to Christ?

A loved one to be healed of cancer?

Victory over a stubborn habit?

Wisdom to make a big decision?

Guidance for the future?

A mate?

A prodigal son or daughter?

A marriage on the rocks?

A pastor for your church?

A deeper walk with God?

Growing love for others?

Deliverance from a critical spirit?

Grace to forgive those who have hurt you?

Hope for the future?

For a good job?

Money to pay your bills?

Relief from discouragement?

Physical healing?

A friend in deep need?

Courage to keep going?

Strength to make it through another day?

Boldness to share Christ?

Let me add one more thing to your list……..

Pray for persistence. Pray for gritty determination to hang on to the Lord until one of three things happens:

–God gives the answer.

–God changes the circumstances.

–God removes the burden altogether.

God is greatly glorified when we do not give up in prayer.

Not all our prayers have been answered—yet!!!

Don’t give up and don’t stop praying. Keep believing and keep on praying. You never know what God will do. And all God’s people said … Amen!

(If you believe what I just wrote, say “Amen!” out loud. It will do your heart good and will probably startle the people around you.)

17 Messages From God

Recently a Ft. Lauderdale advertising agency launched a billboard campaign sponsored by an anonymous client which received some national attention.

It included 17 different messages from God.

1. “Let’s Meet at My House on Sunday Before the Game.” — God

2. “C’mon Over And Bring The Kids.” — God

3. “What Part of ‘Thou Shalt Not…’ Didn’t You Understand?” — God

4. “We Need To Talk.” — God

5. “Keep Using My Name in Vain And I’ll Make Rush hour Longer.” — God

6. “Loved The Wedding, Invite Me To The Marriage.” — God

7. “That ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ Thing, I Meant It.” — God

8. “I Love You…I Love You…I Love You…” — God

9. “Will The Road You’re On Get You To My Place?” — God

10. “Follow Me.” — God

11. “Big Bang Theory, You’ve Got To Be Kidding.” — God

12. “My Way Is The highway.” — God

13. “Need Directions?” — God

14. “You Think It’s hot here?” — God

15. “Tell The Kids I Love Them.” — God

16. “Need a Marriage Counselor? I’m Available.” — God

17. “Have You Read My #1 Best Seller? There Will Be A Test.” — God

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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