Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sunday: Do you ask the disciple's question?

The Church offers a wonderful set of readings for our 17th Sunday liturgy.  You will benefit greatly if you take the time to read them ... all of them ... slowly and thoughtfully.  Abraham in the Book of Genesis, Paul writing to the Colossians and Jesus replying to an inquisitive disciple:  the message in each of these texts offers a biblical person speaking or writing to us as both model and  supporter.  The three readings actually provide an answer to the question posed by the disciple:  "Will you teach us how to pray?"

Abraham's message is relatively concise:  never give up; persevere in your prayer petitions.  He was mindful of his own sinfulness as well as his boldness in bargaining with God not to destroy Sodom even if there were only 10 upright and just people living there.  He shares with us in the Genesis account the words he heard from God:   "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it" (Sodom).  Abraham had, as we might say today, challenged his God:  "Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?"

Paul's words to the Colossians in essence reiterate God's promise to "bring you to life with him" (Jesus).  Paul reminds his followers that, despite sins and transgressions, our sinful being died in our baptism.  But we remained not dead:  in the same baptism we shared the new life offered us be Jesus the Christ.  His baptism has brought new life to us by the erasing of our sins when he brought them to the cross on Calvary.  They were nailed there with Jesus as a reminder of God's promises to us.

Jesus' story about a neighbor seeking bread from his unexpected visitors may well be a reason to look at our own lives.  We, that is almost all of us, have lived in abundance even in what many consider their poverty.  There are very few of us who have no homes, no food, no clothing.  Even when all seems lost and asking for the needs of life is necessary, how few are without a cellphone?

Jesus tells us to ask, seek and knock for what we need because what we truly need will be received, will be found and will be opened to us.  "What we truly need ..." is what we may not fully understand.  Perhaps, if God were to grant us what we asked to have, might be the recipient of a snake or a scorpion!  God just cannot give those gifts to us.  He would fail as the loving, caring Father.  As our faithful God, he gives us the incomparable gift of the Holy Spirit.

So ask, seek and knock; persevere, bargain; the Holy Spirit is ever present to give us what is truly best for us in our lives.  This of Jesus and the words of Abraham and Paul have been an answer to the disciple's request:  "Lord, teach us to pray."