17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“When You Pray Say: ‘Our Father’…”
The Bible is urging us to pray always, to thank God in all states and situations in life (1 Thes. 5:17-18). But what is prayer exactly? What is it to pray? When should we pray? How and why should we pray?
The first reading and the Gospel give us the replies to these questions. In order to be able to look at the world, people, and history as God looks at them, Christians need to purify their minds and hearts and this can only take place in prayer.
The second reading tells us who the Christian is. He or she is one who, through baptism, has become a member of the ‘Body of Christ’. Being in Christ, the disciple prays like the Master.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
On a certain day, says the first reading, God reveals to Abraham his decision to go to Sodom to see if what he hears is true. Abraham has a nephew and his family in that city and is worried and thus begins to intercede so that his nephew may be spared for the love of the just who live there. He addresses himself to the Lord, and talks to him as a friend. His prayer is not a succession of formulas, repeated and chanted over and over again by heart, it is not a recitation of words flowing from out his mouth while his heart and mind are somewhere else, it is a sincere and straightforward dialogue.
Abraham enquires what the Lord’s intent is. Is the Lord planning to destroy everybody in the city, even if say, fifty people were innocent of the sins of others? It does not seem fair and in accord with what one would expect from the justice of God. The Lord says that he will indeed spare the city for the sake of fifty ‘just persons’. Abraham continues to pursue this train of enquiry, always with submissiveness and reverence. God continues to promise deliverance for the ever-decreasing numbers in Abraham’s hypothesis. After diminishing the number to ten the dialogue ceases. Breaking off at this point seems to indicate that both God and Abraham knew that there were not even ten innocent people in the city. God’s companions who had gone ahead would see to it that Abraham’s virtuous nephew Lot and his family would not be included in the destruction of Sodom.
There are several elements that call for notice in this reading. The first is the closeness between God and Abraham. Obviously they are not equals, yet they engage in a conversation, in an extended exchange of questions, answers, ideas and concerns. They are friends and speak as friends would speak. Secondly, it is important to know what Abraham’s intentions are. He is not haggling with God to go easy on Sodom; he is trying to understand how God thinks and how God decides what to do. Implicit in Abraham’s questions is the desire to get a better grasp on the mind of God, to get to know God better and to understand his will and his work in greater depth. Is this the way we address God? Is this how we open up our hearts to him?
By comparison, some of our prayers are watery and vague. When we don’t ask for much, maybe it is because we do not expect much. Weak prayers often betray weak faith. Perseverance in prayer is what links the Old Testament reading to the Gospel. Jesus teaches his followers that we have to be persistent in our prayers. We are to keep knocking, not so that God will understand what we want but so that we will recognize God’s answer when it comes. If we are constant in hearing his word, in meditating on his Gospel while we pray he will send us his Light, he will show us the ‘Way’ and the choices we must make, he makes his closeness and protection felt and he grants us his force.
Psalm 138:1-3, 6-8.
The Psalm is a song of thanksgiving by one whose prayer has been answered. God is seen as dwelling in a heavenly court (Is. 6: Rv. 5). He continues to exercise the qualities of kindness and mercy by which he bound himself to his people through Moses (Ex. 34:6-7).
If we came to know that a judge kept in his archives the records of all our transgressions of the state laws, we would not feel much at ease since somebody could one day discover these documents and use them against us. In heaven there was, says Paul, a record book where all our debts (and there are many) were written down. But Jesus has got hold of this book and has torn it to pieces and has nailed it on the Cross and so we should no longer be afraid. Baptism has wiped away our old life and sins, and now, risen with Christ, we lead a completely ‘new life’. This is the Christian story, from Paul’s perspective. He wants to tell everyone this ‘Good News’, that his debt and ours was nailed once and for all to the same Cross. He too will give his life, out of gratitude for his ‘Champion and Saviour’. The question remains posed to us: What are we doing with the rest of our lives?
Today’s Gospel gives us the teachings of Jesus on prayer. The “Our Father” that we recite every day is the longer version found in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 6:9-15). There, it is placed in the centre of the sermon of Jesus on the mount to show the centrality of prayer in the new way of living that Jesus outlines for his followers.
In Luke, however, it comes within Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to emphasize the importance of prayer for the Christian as she or he journeys with Jesus and learns how to be a disciple. In both cases prayer is important and it is Jesus who teaches us to pray and enter into the kind of relationship he has with his Father.
We find Jesus many times in prayer: – The Spirit descends on him during his baptism while he prays (Lk. 3:21-22). – He prays after a day’s work (Lk. 4:42-43; 5:15-16). – A night in prayer enables him to make the right choice of his closest companions (Lk. 6:12-16). – At the transfiguration, prayer helps him to enter into God’s plan of salvation that he about to accomplish in Jerusalem in his suffering, dying and rising (Lk. 9:28-36). – The successful mission of the ‘seventy-two’ makes him thank the ‘One’ who deserves all praise (Lk. 10:21-24). These and other moments of prayer of Jesus teach us that prayer is an important and natural exercise for Jesus. It should be an important and natural exercise for Christians also!
There is a certain familiarity with God that makes Jesus pray in a way that was not common of the times. The Jews did consider God as their Father because of their covenant with him. However, nobody would have ever dared to refer to God as ‘Abba’ because of a reverential distance and the otherness of God. That is why some found the attitude of Jesus blasphemous and judged that he deserved to die.
Jesus makes us realize that God is a Father who is very near to us and who is not to be feared but rather to be loved. This is what the first part of the ‘Our Father’ expresses. When we accept that God loves us, we can trust that he will take care of our daily needs and we can experience his love and forgiveness and also share it with others. God, as our ‘Abba’ cares about us.
In today’s Gospel reading the parable compares God to a friend who is ready to get up in the middle of the night to respond to the need of another friend. Common to all these parts is the trust that God answers when we ask him something in prayer.
If our earthy parents are capable of giving their children good things when they ask of them; if a friend is capable of responding to a persistent friend who wakes him up at night, how much more will God our Father who is good and all-loving, give good things to those who ask him in faith.
The point is that it is not that God is so reluctant to give that we have to insist, but rather that he is so much better than these human figures who are only capable of a certain limited goodness towards their friends and their children.
The concluding verse of the Gospel shows what it is we are to ask for and what will be granted, i.e. the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is only through the Spirit of Jesus that we will be able to understand what God really wants us to do in order to continue the work that Jesus began. The ministry of Jesus is led by the Spirit from the moment of Baptism and so is the Church after him.
True prayer does not want to force God to change his mind and to do our will. Instead prayer leads us to enter the mind and heart of God and prepares us to do his will.
There are two opposite ways in our approach to God. God is mysterious, beyond our knowing, and holy; but also, God is near and intimate, known and loved. The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer achieves the perfect balance between the two. God is as distant as heaven, yet is as near as the relationship of a Father, ‘Our Fathe
“Knock and the door will be opened.” Behind that door is a loving and caring God who is faithful and who will never abandon us. We must never doubt that for a minute.
St Augustine said, “Our Father”, is a prayer that contains ‘the seeds for all our needs’.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Genesis 19:5 indicates that the sin for which Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed was sodomy. Other biblical traditions point to different sins. According to Isaiah (Is. 1:9-17) it was social injustice. Ezekiel says that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was pride, gluttony and neglecting to help the poor and needy (Ez. 23:14). Jeremiah states that is was a case of general immorality. A thought to meditate on: “How many ‘just people’ could God find in our communities today?
Mon. … Has our world changed much for the better? Are not these values, sins and injustices still very much an accepted part of our society today? We seem to confuse what is politically correct with what is morally right. What can we as Christians do to improve it even in a small way?
Tues. … In our lives we need to re-establish that special closeness that Abraham had with God. The ‘Way’ to this relationship with God was given to us by Jesus in the form of the Sacraments. Through the ‘New Covenant’ we have become sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters in Christ. God is calling each one of us back home to that special closeness, through the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’. God is a lot closer than many of us think!
Wed. … Paul in the second reading also encourages us to go to God in our need. For in baptism we ‘died to self and sin’ and were ‘buried with Christ’, and being close to Christ we are close to the Father and the Holy Spirit. This truth should benefit our prayer life if only we have faith.
Thurs. … Jesus, in his journey to Jerusalem emphasizes the importance of prayer for the Christian as we follow him on our journey of faith. It is Jesus who teaches us through prayer how to enter into the kind of relationship he has with the Father. The many examples we have in the Gospel of Jesus in prayer teaches us the importance of ‘Prayer and the Word’ in God’s plan of salvation. For we speak to God when we pray and we listen to his loving guidance when we read the Holy Scriptures. If we truly believed this how much more would we pray and read the Holy Scriptures?
Frid. … The story of the one who wants bread from a friend at midnight, is a commentary on the words, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When we pray to God, we do not pray to a sleepy friend, but to a loving Father, ready to give the Holy Spirit to his children who ask this of him.
Sat. … Jesus in his loving care for us has given us the “Our Father Prayer” that we as Christians recite daily in loving worship of the Father. The ‘Our Father’ presents in the form of prayer the essential content of the Gospel in ‘seven petitions’. How do we recite this prayer, with hasty repetition and hatred still in our hearts? Do we truly understand what we are asking God for? Many of us may need to be reminded of the teachings of our Catechism. (An excellent reference source is: The Catechism of the Catholic Church – The Compendium Version).
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, may always we recognize that sin damages our love relationship with You and that special closeness that Abraham had with You. Your Son Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem emphasized the importance of prayer to his disciples and followers. He taught us how to pray in giving us the ‘Gift of the Lord’s Prayer’. We pray Father that when we recite these sacred words in prayer that we imitate your Son in prayer and that our praise and supplications come from our hearts with complete trust in Your divine will and Your plan of salvation.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.