“ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE; SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND; KNOCK… “
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Lord’s Prayer
1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread
4and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”
Further Teachings on Prayer
5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,6for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’7and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’8I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.
The Answer to Prayer
9“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.10For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.11What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?12Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?13If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Jesus and Beelzebul
Other readings: Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 138:1-8; Colossians 2:12-14
The readings from Genesis and Luke in today’s liturgy need a very precise context for us Christians to understand them in full. Although Jesus’ message meant a new style inof religious disciplineity and a deepsignificant change of thinking on the part ofmentality in his followers, their Jewish background entailed and still entails a heavy burden in their (and our) approach to life and their way of expressing faith. In the long dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-42), verses 21-24 sum up Jesus’ vision of worship. As opposed to the common practice and teaching concerning sacrifices and rites that divided Samaritans and Jews, Jesus emphasizes the importance of adoring and worshipping God “in Spirit and truth.”. That explains why Luke, while mentioning Jesus’ prayinger ion a good number of occasions, never presents him praying in the Temple. Even in the synagogue of Nazareth, he preached and performed some of his miracles, but we find no indication at all about his praying there. However, Luke tells us that he prayed in special moments: inat his baptism (3:21-22) and inat the tTransfiguration (9:28-29); all through his passion: in Gethsemane, before being arrested (22:39-46),; on the cross (23:34) and in the moment of his death (23:46). In most cases, we see him praying ”by himself” and in isolated places like on the mountain (5:16; 6:12; 9:18). The only “sacred” moment in which Luke presents Jesus praying is in the celebration of the Passover dinner with his disciples (22 17, 19);, but, I repeat, we never find him praying in the Temple. It seems as if Luke wanted to emphasize a new style in Jesus’ religious practice. This lack of connection between prayer and the Temple cannot have been so clear to the first Christian community, sinceas the same Luke shows the apostles and the disciples in Jerusalem going to the Temple to pray (Acts 2:46; 3:1). It seems that, although they had all been baptized in Christ, they still considered themselves pious Jews and therefore , so, observed some of the traditional religious practices. Of course, after the first Church expanded to other regions and towns, and the Temple was destroyed, that practice was abandoned.
In spite of this remarkable silence about a specific link between prayer and a “sacred place,”, Jesus insists on the importance of prayer, even with an almost stubborn “persistence” (11:18). The parable of the two friends we read today, recalls the fragment from Genesis and the image of Abraham “bargaining” with God to prevent him from destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as that of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). Obviously, Jesus wants his disciples to act and pray with a basic spirit of active confidence. Of the three verbs he uses, “ask,” “seek” and “knock,”, only the first could have a “passive”, dependent content. But it is clear that seeking and knocking imply an active, dynamic attitude. In a way, they recall Jesus’ reaction to the disciples request when they asked him to dismiss the hungry crowd. Jesus does not tell them to pray for food, but encourages themn to look for a practical solution: “Give them some food yourselves” (Luke 9:13; see parallel texts in Matthew 14:16 and Mark 6:37). There is also a serious difference between Luke’s passage and Matthew’s parallel (7:11).: Luke is aware that not all our prayers are answered or, at least, in the way we expected. Thus, humbly and full of realistic confidence, Luke (11:13) says that: “The Father in heaven will give the holy Spirit to those who ask him.”…
As for the Lord’s Prayer, the text must have become so popular from the very beginning, that it became a part of the early liturgy. The written traditions of Matthew, Luke and the “Didaché” or “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” reflect, in turn, the liturgical differences then existing. I do not think it is relevant to discuss now the reasons for and the nuances in the three versions, as you can find enough information in any Gospel commentary.
What you can easily do is see how the five (Luke) or seven (Matthew) petitions range from the desire to see God’s name (God himself) gloried and the fulfilment of Jesus’ promises concerning the coming of the Kingdom … down to the dark reality of spiritual needs (forgiveness of sins) and material limitations (food and debts). As for our Meditatio today, I would suggest a double possibility:. eExamine your daily routine and see the role, importance and frequency of prayer in your life and; or try to compare the content of your prayers andwith that which is suggested by Jesus in Luke’s five petitions. Besides the serious, fortunately infrequent, matters of the moment (i.e., a friend’ or relative’s health problem or economic difficulties…), for what do we actually pray in our daily life? The answerat canwill generally reflect the main interests inof our life.
No special suggestions today. Again, the Lord’s Prayer can be the guideline for our individual or shared prayer. For what can we pray in order to see how God is glorified? … oOr r in order to accept our responsibility in the coming of his Kingdom …? Oor to make certain that every person can receive their share in the riches / bread they need to lead the dignified life of a child of God’s children?
“Give them some food yourselves” (Luke 9:13). Those words of Jesus, urging the disciples to act efficiently and solve the specific problem (hunger) of the crowd that followed the Master, could inspire our Contemplatio today. Try to find out how you can fulfil make some of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer be fulfilled in a concrete way. Provide someone with the material or spiritual bread they need.… Help someone forgive or accept forgiveness…. Give a helping hand to someone put to the test…. Open your eyes, pray and act.
Reflections written by Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón,Roman Catholic priest,Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain