Seventeenth Sunday of 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
In the classic cartoon, “Calvin and Hobbes,” the mischievous Calvin is known for pushing the envelope with his parents. In a typical exchange, Calvin makes a series of requests to his mother in the hope of wearing her down. He begins with a clearly inappropriate request, “Mom, can I set fire to my bed mattress?”
Persisting on, Calvin then asks if he can ride his tricycle on the roof! To these outlandish requests, his mother simply says, “No, Calvin.” Finally, he moves on to the request he was hoping for all along, “Then can I have a cookie?” Once again, his request is denied, at which point Calvin gives up and says with a sigh, “She’s on to me!”
If you are a parent or work with children, chances are you know the persistence of a child’s request for a favorite toy, food, clothing or whatever catches his or her fancy. Children can be determined, even obstinate, when making requests or bargaining with parents or teachers. The persistence and determination behind a child’s request can wear down even the most resolute of adults.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus points to the simple human gesture of parents who give good gifts to their children to illustrate the nature of prayer. Jesus compares God’s gracious gift of the Holy Spirit to the generosity of parents who desire to give their children only good gifts.
In the first reading, God and Moses engage in a remarkable conversation. In this divine-human dialogue, Moses bargains with God in the hope that mercy prevails and the innocent are not punished along with the guilty.
God is generous beyond our imagining. Prayer is our conversation with God when we discover this immense ocean of God’s merciful love. God’s limitless generosity is the foundation of our hope and faith whenever we turn to God in prayer.
And yet it seems that we do not always receive the precise answers or specific outcomes asked for in prayers of petition and intercession.
Jesus teaches his disciples not only how to pray when he gives them the words of the Our Father, but the interior disposition of heart and mind in prayer. Jesus invites his disciples, and us, to focus on the unfailing and overflowing generosity of God and to cultivate a heart of faith, trust and hope.
God promises to be with us, even when our requests do not bear the fruit we expect. Just being in conversation with our Creator is an answer to prayer as the Holy Spirit moves our hearts gently into the light of God’s grace.
Prayers, answered and unanswered, bring us closer to God, the source of all consolation and the fountain of true peace of mind, heart and soul.
So as we hear Jesus’ command to ask, to seek and to knock, we beg for God’s grace for deeper faith and trust as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
Do I truly trust in God?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.