• Genesis 18:20-32 • Colossians 2:12-14 • Luke 11:1-13 • 17 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Scripture Readings: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 07.28.2013
Several weeks ago I participated in the Second Assembly of the Association of United States Catholic Priests. Before and after that assembly I visited friends in the Seattle area. I have known Pierre since he was in early elementary school. He is now in his mid-fifties. While sharing lunch with he and his mother, I asked, “do you pray?” “I do, but I never kneel down. I express gratitude and sometimes ask for something.” I then asked, “what is your image of God?” He reminded me of a serous skiing accident that had left him in a coma for six months. He said, “I know what God is like! I often sat and talked to God face to face.”
When anyone shares a personal experience with me, even if it sounds totally unorthodox, I respect the person and his/her experience. I simply honor and recognize his/her experience.
What is your image of God? Assisted by the Hubble and other even more sophisticated telescopes, our scientists probe the depths of the cosmos. They tell us they have discovered billions of galaxies similar to or even larger than our Milky Way. I trust those scientists and accept their findings. I try to grasp the enormous reality of the cosmos in which we live. That has a significant effect on my image of what God is like and how I pray.
Many of our contemporaries are unaware of or unwilling to accept this new scientific information. They continue to think and operate within the model of a cosmos consisting of one galaxy – the Milky Way, with Earth situated between heaven above and the nether world below. This has a significant effect on their image of what God is like and how they pray.
Luke tells us “Jesus was praying in a certain place.” So we know Jesus of Nazareth was a man who prayed. His pre-modern scientific understanding of the cosmos shaped his image of God. It also shaped the manner and context of his prayer.
“One of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’.” In response Jesus tells us to speak to God as our Father. Both his image of God and the manner/content of his prayer was different then my own. That does not mean we discard texts like this one in Luke where Jesus told his disciples, “when you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name” and so on.
When Jesus teaches us to speak to God as “Father,” he means that Gracious Mystery we name God is One who knows and deeply desires only what is best for us. His trust in “the Father” is absolute and he is inviting us to imitate him — to trust that Gracious Mystery as he trusts. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.”
Luke’s Jesus is not saying that we should pray so that our persistence will persuade an indifferent God to become generous. He is inviting us to imitate him in trusting the One who knows and deeply desires only what is best for us. “The Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Perhaps the best way I can help you apply this text to your own life is this. We live in the midst of disagreements, conflicts and amazingly complex questions. We can naively ignore the reality in which we live, and many do. We can naively expect government, economists, the military or Vatican to resolve our problems and keep us safe, and many do. Or we can imitate the Risen One. We can trust the Gracious Mystery we name God knows and deeply desires only what is best for us. We can trust the Holy Spirit of love directs us and will mobilize our best efforts and open our minds and hearts to promote the common good of all peoples.
Unlike my friend Pierre, I struggle to know what God is like. Like him I simply try, day after day, to renew my trust in the One who knows and deeply desires only what is best for us. Then I try to direct my energy and activity to be in harmony with what Jesus called “the kingdom of God.” This fills me with hope and confidence that “God’s new reality” is emerging among us.