Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First reading: Gn 18:20-32
Responsorial Psalm: 138:1-3, 6-8
Second reading: Col 2:12-14
Gospel: Lk 11:1-13
By Jem Sullivan | Catholic News Service
I recently came across a story of a Ukrainian teenager who was forced to flee as his country was engulfed by war. The father of the boy together with his younger brother walked miles to the Polish border so he could entrust his two sons to relatives in safety. With the help of those relatives, the boys eventually came as refugees to the U.S., where they now continue their education in safety.
Their parents and older brother remained in Ukraine struggling to defend their freedom and their land. In the harsh and unpredictable conditions of war, those parents knew the best gift they could give their sons was protection from the cruel ravages of war now and hope for their future.
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples the words of the Our Father. And in sharing with his disciples the very words of the prayer he spoke to his heavenly Father, Jesus also points to the interior disposition of a trusting and persistent heart that is to accompany words of prayer.
For Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
This trusting heart of prayer unfolds in the first reading as we listen to a profound conversation between God and Abraham. The Lord has heard the cry of those suffering under the violence of sin in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And God desired to find out whether the cry of the afflicted matched the sin of their oppressors.
At that moment, Abraham steps in to bargain with the Lord begging for divine mercy. Abraham’s plea is bold and full of confident trust that God’s mercy is stronger than divine justice. So, Abraham says, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? … Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”
God knows our every need so our prayers are meant to draw us closer to God. Prayers may or may not be answered, but the fruit of faith-filled, persistent prayer is a gradual transformation of our inner life into childlike faith and rest in the peace and mercy of God. Prayer changes us radically so that as we grow in friendship with God we approach our creator like trusting children who remain confident in the good gifts of their parents.
This childlike trust in God’s mercy is expressed by the psalmist, one of the best teachers of prayer in the Bible. Like Abraham, the psalmist approaches God with deep confidence in divine mercy as he prays, “When I called you answered me; you built up strength within me. … The Lord will complete what he has done for me; your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.” May we grow in trusting, persistent prayer as we say, “speak to me, Lord.”
How do you express confident trust in God’s mercy in prayer?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.