17th Sunday, O T Year C – 16

17th Sunday, O T Year C – 16

Gen.18:20-32/ Col.2:12-14/ Lk.11:1-13

Two young boys were spending the night at their rich grandma’s house during Christmas. She was getting them ready for bed, and reminded them to say their prayers. Grandma left the boys alone and went into the next room before coming back to tuck them in.

The older of the two said his prayers, thanking God and asking Him to bless grandma, his friends and family. Then, it was his younger brother’s turn. He offered the same prayer as his big brother, but at the end of the prayer, he shouted in a very loud voice, “And God, please send me a new scooter and a CD player.”

His older brother turned and said, “You don’t have to shout. God isn’t deaf.” “I know,” the younger one replied. “But Grandma is.” The main themes of today’s Scripture readings are the power of intercessory prayer, the Our Father as the ideal prayer, and the necessity for persistence and perseverance in prayer with trusting faith and boldness.

In short, they teach us what to pray and how to pray. The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis, gives us the model for intercessory prayer provided by Abraham in his dialogue with God. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls.

For those of you who have traveled abroad, particularly to the Middle East and perhaps even to the Holy Land, the account of Abraham bargaining with God will not appear to be strange. Haggling is an art form, particularly in a Middle Eastern market.

Abraham’s intercessory bargaining reveals the value of only one just man’s prayers along with the value God places on the life of just one righteous man. Furthermore, the story reveals that Abraham is on good terms with God.

One not on good terms with God would ever dare to approach God in this manner. Abraham, however, could. He was not estranged from God. He was on good terms and so could bargain and haggle with God in the finest of Middle Eastern business practices. He haggles with the best of them.

Abraham’s situation is different from ours. The problem in our day is that we are indifferent. The problem faced by priests, ministers, and rabbis in our culture is not the problem of unbelief. Nor is it necessarily the problem of sin. No. Our problem is the problem of indifference.

It’s not that people are atheists or agnostics. It’s not that people have actively rejected God and defied God by sinning. No. It’s that people simply don’t care. They’re indifferent. For them, God does not matter.

If you want to insult someone, the greatest possible insult you can render is to return a gift given to you unused. If you really want to reject someone, send their gift to you back to them. It tells them: “I don’t need you. I don’t need your friendship or your love — I don’t need anything you could possibly give me.” In other words: “You are for me a non-person!”

Not to pray is to show your indifference toward God. Not to pray is to send His gift back to Him. Jesus taught us how to pray in the simplest of terms. There’s nothing mysterious or mumbo-jumbo about it.

In the Gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their Heavenly Father with the same boldness, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance like Abraham.

The prayer Jesus taught us is utterly simple in its expression of what we need from God and what our response to Him should be. It tells us we need to honor Him, that we need our daily bread, that we need forgiveness, that we need the strength to give forgiveness to others.

And that we need God’s protection in times of temptation and trial. Not to use it, not to pray it, is to say to God: “You don’t have anything I need or want.”

Prayer acknowledges that you have a relationship with God. Consequently, the quality of your prayer is correlative to the value you place on your relationship with God. Abraham took God seriously — so seriously that Abraham haggled and bargained with God over the value of what was to be delivered.

Prayer is essential for Christian family life. To remain faithful (in any vocation) in marriage, the spouses must pray, not only individually, but together. They must thank God and offer intercessory prayers for each other, for their children and for their dear ones.

Daily prayer will help married couples to celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality and honor life from conception to natural death. Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple:

“Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this, every day.”

Let not lame excuses turn us away from prayer. Modern Christians give four lame excuses for not praying. The first excuse: We are too busy. Often the first thing given up by a busy Christian is his prayer life, thus disconnecting himself from the real source of spiritual power.

A second excuse: We don’t believe that prayer does that much good, other than giving us psychological motivation to be better persons. Prayer establishes and augments our relationship with God, the source of our power.

A third excuse: A loving God should provide for us and protect us without our asking Him. Prayer expresses our awareness of our need for God and our dependence on Him. A fourth excuse: Prayer is boring. It is never boring if we learn to talk to God and listen to Him.

Do we take God seriously? Do we need God? I think we should. I think we need a higher power in order to extract ourselves from sinking further into the quicksand as we thrash about, sinking further and further down. I think we need our daily bread — the Bread of Life along with all those daily gifts that nourish and strengthen us. I think we need that which causes us to grow as persons.

If prayer is to change anything at all, it is to change us, to change our minds, to change our attitudes, to change the way we live. Genuine prayer puts us at God’s disposal. It allows us to see what God dreamed we could be when He created us in the first place.

Ask yourself what is more real, the self you see, or the self, God sees? The self, God sees is what we can be, not what we have been, or done, or accomplished. Prayer, in other words, takes hold of God’s presence and gives us power over ourselves, not over God.

Prayer gives us the chance to see ourselves in God’s eyes and therefore to live with self-respect, to live in peace, and to live with the power not only to change ourselves but also the power to heal, love, and free others so they can see themselves in the same Light of God. Prayer liberates us.

The Mass we celebrate is in itself a prayer. Not to pray it, is to show God our indifference. To turn Sunday Mass into something that is only optional is to tell God that for us He is only optional.

And as for the value of only one Righteous Man, Jesus, — well that’s precisely why we are here, together offering His life for ourselves and others to the God of Abraham. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who have traveled abroad, particularly to the Middle East and perhaps even to the Holy Land, the account of Abraham bargaining with God will not appear to be strange. Haggling is an art form, particularly in a Middle Eastern market. Abraham’s intercessory bargaining reveals the value of only one just man’s prayers along with the value God places on the life of just one righteous man. The Jews, you see, have always known that the prayer of just one righteous man holds a lot of value with God and that the life of such a man is “worth his weight in gold” as the market place phrase goes. Abraham knows exactly how to bargain with God so that God will spare the people of Sodom for the sake of just one man living there.

Furthermore, the story reveals that Abraham is on good terms with God. One not on good terms with God would ever dare to approach God in this manner. Abraham, however, could. He was not estranged from God. He was on good terms and so could bargain and haggle with God in the finest of Middle Eastern business practices. He haggles with the best of them.

Abraham’s situation is different from ours. The problem in our day is that we are indifferent. The problem faced by priests, ministers, and rabbis in our culture is not the problem of unbelief. Nor is it necessarily the problem of sin. No. Our problem is the problem of indifference. It’s not that people are atheists or agnostics. It’s not that people have actively rejected God and defied God by sinning. No. It’s that people simply don’t care. They’re indifferent. For them, God does not matter.

If you want to insult someone, the greatest possible insult you can render is to return a gift given to you unused. If you really want to reject someone, send their gift to you back to them. It tells them: “I don’t need you. I don’t need your friendship or your love — I don’t need anything you could possibly give me.” In other words: “You are for me a non-person!”

Not to pray is to show your indifference toward God. Not to pray is to send His gift back to Him. Jesus taught us how to pray in the simplest of terms. There’s nothing mysterious or mumbo-jumbo about it. The prayer Jesus taught us is utterly simple in its expression of what we need from God and what our response to Him should be. It tells us we need to honor Him, that we need our daily bread, that we need forgiveness, that we need the strength to give forgiveness to others, and that we need God’s protection in times of temptation and trial. Not to use it, not to pray it, is to say to God: “You don’t have anything I need or want.”

Prayer acknowledges that you have a relationship with God. Consequently, the quality of your prayer is correlative to the value you place on your relationship with God. Abraham took God seriously — so seriously that Abraham haggled and bargained with God over the value of what was to be delivered. There was something very serious at stake here, so Abraham got serious with God.

Do we take God seriously? Do we need God? I think we should. I think we need a higher power in order to extract ourselves from sinking further into the quicksand as we thrash about, sinking further and further down. I think we need our daily bread — the Bread of Life along with all those daily gifts that nourish and strengthen us. I think we need that which causes us to grow as persons. And I daresay each and every soul here in this church will admit they need forgiveness.

If prayer is to change anything at all, it is to change us — to change our minds, to change our attitudes, to change the way we live. Genuine prayer puts us at God’s disposal. It allows us to see what God dreamed we could be when He created us in the first place. Ask yourself what is more real, the self you see, or the self God sees? The self God sees is what we can be, not what we have been, or done, or accomplished. Prayer, in other words, takes hold of God’s presence and gives us power over ourselves, not over God. Prayer gives us the chance to see ourselves in God’s eyes and therefore to live with self-respect, to leave in peace, and to live with the power not only to change ourselves but also the power to heal, love, and free others so they can see themselves in the same Light of God. Prayer liberates us.

 

 

 

 

In his letter to the Romans St. Paul put it beautifully when he wrote:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God and creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8)

Do we need the strength, the fortitude, and the guts to forgive someone in our lives who has deeply wounded and hurt us? You bet we do. Do we need to have the willingness to forgive others? Yes! For each one of us there is someone in our lives who has hurt us so much that only an act of God can give us the will and the power to forgive them.

 

Are we held in the steel grip of habit and addiction, a particular temptation that conquers us and snatches away our soul every time it afflicts us? Are we threatened by something terrible that will hurt us — by an evil that seriously threatens our well-being? Everyone here knows that is so in some aspect of their life. We all know that we have been tried and found wanting. We all know that when we face that trial again we will succumb unless the power of God comes to us and helps us out of the quicksand that sucks us down ever more deeply and ever more powerfully to the point that we will suffocate in it.

 

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