24 July 2016: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Gn 18:20-32 Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8 Col 2:12-14 Lk 11:1-13


Loving God: how a disciple prays

Green_banner_smDuring Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings continue to examine the command to love God and how prayer fulfills that command.

The first reading from Genesis continues the Abraham story. Abraham and his guests travel to Sodom. God (one of Abraham’s guests) discusses his intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s conversation with God is a form of petitioning prayer. The Lectionary editors chose this passage to parallel Jesus’ teaching about prayer in today’s gospel.

The second reading continues the letter to the ekklesia at Colossus. The author contrasts the OT rite of entering the community (circumcision) with the new order’s rite of entry (baptism). To emphasize God’s forgiveness, the author reverses the usual image of humans nailing Christ to the cross. Instead, God nails the charges against us (“the bond”)–which God has forgiven–to the cross.

Luke’s gospel concludes Jesus’ teachings about the law of love (which began with Lk 10:25) with a lesson on love of God through prayer. In Jesus’ time, prayer was often formal (such as the recitation of Psalms) and in Hebrew (the language of God in Torah). In contrast, Jesus’ prayers are conversational (expressing personal concerns) and in Aramaic (the language spoken around the dinner table). Jesus gives his disciples a simple model for prayer, and supports it with a parable and two sayings.

  • Prayer: Why would the disciples ask “Teach us to pray”? They see that God answers Jesus’ prayers and they want that same effectiveness with God. Jesus teaches them that prayer is:
    1. Conversation with someone we know: “Father.”
    2. Worship: “Let your name be glorified. Let your kingdom draw near.”
    3. Asking: “Give us what we need. Forgive us as we forgive each other. Save us from the final trial.”
  • Parable: The Greek word ἀναίδεια (an-AH-ee-die-ah), translated here as “persistence,” actually means “not-shame.” Middle Eastern culture seeks to avoid shame and to gain honor. The man in the house answers his needy friend because the man is honorable (he will not-shame himself, his family, or his community). The parable is not about our persistence in asking, but rather about God’s goodness and honor in answering our requests.
  • Sayings: Jesus concludes his teaching about prayer with two sayings that support the parable. In the first saying (Lk 11:9-10), Jesus’ instructions to “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” confirm that God wants to hear and to answer our requests. In the second saying (Lk 11:11-13), the human father’s own good intentions (despite his “wickedness”) cause him to give “good things” to his son. God the Father, who is completely good, wants to give the Spirit to the ones who ask.

As the first reading suggests and the gospel shows, God wants to be in relationship with us and wants to give us what we request. Sometimes we may think persistence in asking is most important in prayer. Really, it’s our persistence in prayer–to create the relationship with God–that Jesus teaches. How often do we pray? What do we want?

–Terence Sherlock


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