24 July 2010

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Genesis 18:20-32
"The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah" is one that calls to heaven for vengeance. Obviously the Lord does not really need to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if their actions correspond to the cries for vengeance. God is all-knowing and all-seeing. It is done this way so that this exchange between Abraham and the Lord could occur. This is a test for Abraham who has been called by God to be a father of nations. We're all tested many times in this life. God allows these temptations not because He needs to see how we will respond -- He already knows how we will respond. It's more for our own benefit -- an opportunity for us to be able to see for ourselves how we will respond. It is these tests and temptations that help us to grow in the spiritual life. Because of our fallen nature, however, pride and ego could get in the way and delude the mind and heart into believing that the pinnacle of spiritual growth has been reached or that there really is no need to grow more spiritually. A secular society such as our own might suggest that spirituality has little to do with real life, day-to-day activity. But when considering the needs of the human body, for example, it doesn't make sense, nor is it healthy, to focus on quenching thirst but ignoring hunger. Likewise, the human make-up of flesh and spirit for overall health requires that consideration is given to both. The tests in life not only shed light on what areas need growth but also gives aid to the struggles with humility. Abraham who is to be a father of nations was able see for himself that he will be a concerned and loving father of nations, one who reaches out and cares for the safety of both the innocent and the guilty. Abraham does not ask the Lord to spare all the innocent and wipe out the guilty. Instead, he asks for the entire city to be spared even if only ten innocent people are to be found. This points towards Christ's salvific act in which He willingly handed over His innocence to the guilty. God's affirmation to Abraham's request shows Abraham and us that we have been called to serve a merciful God. For many of us, Abraham's line of questioning might be annoying. It would seem more appropriate if he had asked God to spare the city for the sake of ten innocent people right from the start. It does demonstrate, however, how patient our Lord is with human weakness and our own imperfect prayers. This Reading depicting God's mercy offers a level of comfort when attempting to comprehend the love He has for each and every one of us; and Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, beyond a shadow of a doubt would still have come to offer Himself as a living Sacrifice even if only one of us were in need of His saving grace.

Second Reading, Colossians 2:12-14
Saint Paul's message here is one of forgiveness. He stresses that Christ brought us to life with Him, forgiving us of the transgressions that rendered us dead. "Obliterating the bond against us" -- the Latin translates to mean: "Blotting out the handwriting of the decree which was against us". "Handwriting" is meant to express a contract or law that legally binds us to something. Paul is probably referring to the Mosaic Law which was unable to remove transgressions. He also could be referring to the eternal death that humanity was sentenced to by the fall of Adam. Whichever meaning applies here, the point is that Christ was able to take away its clutches from us by "nailing it to the Cross".

Gospel, Luke 11:1-13
Saint Luke's version of the "Our Father" is shorter than we're accustomed to praying at Mass. For liturgical purposes Saint Matthew's version is used. All of us have been granted the privilege to call God "Father". The world's standards may judge humanity as individuals; that is, one's worth and effectiveness being greater than someone else's, but we're all equal in the gift of heavenly nobility. Saint John Chrysostom points out that "Our Father, Who art in heaven" is not meant to insinuate that heaven is the only place He can be found. Jesus wants us to pray this way to keep our minds fixed on heaven. Jesus is not saying that this prayer is the only prayer we literally need to pray, but there are intimations that all other prayers should be identifiable with the "Our Father". That is to say, for example, if praying for a specific need, then it must be exactly that -- a real need and not something that could be considered a luxury. This way, it is harmonious with "give us this day our daily bread". The Greek text translates as "our daily bread" which supports the meaning of the necessities for this life. The Latin, however, translates as "super-substantial bread" which could refer to the needs of this life but also seems to point to the Eucharist. In the "Hail Mary" we ask our Blessed Mother to "pray for us sinners" -- all sinners. This conforms to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". In our prayer to our Lady we add, "now and at the hour of our death". Here, we are praying for the Queen of heaven's own perseverance in prayer. We are children of God. Jesus says that we must become like little children (cf. Matthew 18:3). If you've ever raised a child then you already know that no one is more persevering about getting what they want than a child. "Hallowed be Thy Name" is a reflection of how we conduct ourselves in this life. Does our life reflect the holiness of almighty God or is it one of luke-warmness and indifference? In a homily on the "Our Father", Saint John Chrysostom said: "Those who desire to arrive at the Kingdom of heaven must endeavour so to order their life and conversation, as if they were already conversing in heaven." The parable Jesus uses in this Gospel is found only in Saint Luke's Gospel. Christ first teaches His disciples how to pray and then with the use of this parable, shows them the efficacy of prayer. Jesus impresses upon us the need to persevere in prayer. Our Lord would not want us to make requests if He wasn't prepared to give. In all truthfulness He is more ready to give than we are to receive. Saint Cyril explains that after our Savior teaches this form of prayer, He already knows we would recite it with remissness and negligence, and then after not being heard, we would become slothful. In order to avoid this indolence in prayer, it is more advantageous to be persistent in prayer. There's also the need to understand that God's time is not always our time. God intends to grant our earnest petitions but only at a time when it is most beneficial to us. You simply don't set before a child a jar of cookies right before dinner. Our own summation that God perhaps doesn't see our needs as pressing usually causes impatience and then finally leads to a tendency to give up. Fortunately, in all of these moments of human weakness God is patient and merciful with us.