28Jul 28 July. 17th Sunday (C)

1st Reading: Genesis 18:20-32

Abraham intercedes and haggles with God to spare the city of Sodom

The Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.” So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.”

He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angy if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”

Responsorial: Psalm 137:1-3, 6-8

Response: Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,
you have heard the words of my mouth.
Before the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple. (R./)

I thank you for your faithfulness and love
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul. (R./)

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of affliction
you give me life and frustrate my foes. (R./)

You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands. (R./)

2nd Reading: Colossians 2:12-14

Through baptism into his death and resurrection, we rise to a new life

When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

When asked how we should pray, Jesus teaches the “Our Father.”

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his followers.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.”

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

BIBLE

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

There are methods of prayer a-plenty and many gurus offering to teach us meditation. We can readily identify with the disciple who asked, after watching Jesus at prayer, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They wanted to know how Jesus set about prayer, in his own heart. St Luke’s Gospel is notable for its prayerful focus. More than the other Evangelists he draws attention to Jesus praying – whether alone, on the hills or in the garden of olives.

Like that unnamed disciple, we can sincerely ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” But first we need to sit in silence, just aware of him. Then gradually, like the apprentice learning from the master, or rather, like good soil becoming fertile from the falling dew, his prayer takes root and germinates in our hearts. Slowly we too begin to repeat that central prayer which links our whole being to the one that Jesus calls, “Abba, Father.”

We are unused to Luke’s wording of the Lord’s Prayer. The official version adopted by the Church is Matthew’s, which is longer and more liturgical, with its seven petitions. Luke’s is shorter, containing only five petitions, but is more directly personal. Instead of “Our Father who art in heaven,” as in Matthew, Luke’s version begins with the simple cry “Father!” It is a form of address that would not have been on the lips of anyone but Jesus. It originated in, and revealed, his profound bond with the Father. Jesus was Son of God in the depth of his being.

The early Christians, especially those who listened to St Paul, cherished the moment of Baptism when they became children of God. In the depths of their hearts they could hear the Spirit of Jesus urging them to make their own his intimacy with God, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). This title of familiarity expressed perfectly the sweet intimacy and total confidence of their new status. Even as it revealed the core identity of Jesus, it makes us aware of the dignity of our adoption as children of the Father. Who better to introduce us to prayer than Jesus himself and, of course, the Holy Spirit he shares with us?


What about our prayer life?

When the Old Testament calls God “Father” it means guardian of the people or of groups within the nation (see Deut 32:6; Ps 68:5; Is 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:4, Mal l:6,2:10). There is a more personal touch in Sirach 23:1,4. But neither in the Old Testament nor in the writings of Qumran is such an intimacy with God expressed as in Luke 11:2. The repeating of the word “Abba” in Romans 8:15, Gal 4:6 and Mark 14:36 shows how the early Christians were aware of Jesus’ intimacy with the Father.

The simple prayer taught by Jesus contrasts with the fulsome formulations used in Jewish and Greco-Roman prayers, not to mention some modern equivalents! Although “abba” can be translated “daddy,” one should not think of God as a weakly indulgent “papa,” spoiling his children by granting every whim and never correcting them. On the contrary, Jesus taught much about our duties to love our enemies and to trust, love and reverence the heavenly Father, who is the Lord God Almighty.

There is a positive value in praying alone as well as in praying with others. Not only did he pray in the garden and in quiet places, but Jesus also prayed in the synagogue and in the temple. He would have said the Shema, the daily prayer of a faithful Jew, about loving God with all our heart and soul. And in the temple he blamed the priests for failing to make it a house of prayer for all nations. Do we ourselves pray daily? Do we pray that God’s will be done? And do we give thanks in all circumstances?


Cad faoi paidreoireacht in ár saol?

Tá luach fé leith as bheith ag guí go haonarúil agus in éíndi dhaoine eile. Ghuigh Íosa sa gháirdin agus ionaid séimh eile chomh maith leis an Teampall agus an Sionagóg. Chasadh sé an “Shéma”, paidir laethúil na nGiúdach, ag tagairt do adhradh a thabhairt do Dhia le croí agus anam. Thug sé dúthshlán do sagairt an teampaill , láthair paidreoireachta a chruthú do chách.

An guímuidne go laethúil, in ár mbeatha féin? A’ nglacamid le toil Dé inár saol? A’ ngabhaimíd buíochas le Dia as gach a bronntar orainn?

3 Responses

  1. Seamus Ahearne

    Loose Talk (in preparation)

    I drove the women to the Markets at Quarteira. (The Algarve). They took off. I sat outside. They emerged an hour later. They were hobbling on their crutches and walking- sticks but were buzzing. They were thrilled with the purchases but almost ecstatic with the bargaining, the haggling. I think they went to the Market to haggle rather than to buy. Such enthusiasm is beyond me. I presume it is an innate talent of women!

    I think Abraham was at that Market. He also sounds like one of my traveller friends. Francie comes alive whenever there is a Market; or any opportunity to ‘get one over’ on someone. He loves the argument when folk come to buy his scrap. He glows when the Nigerians arrive. He says: “They are conning me and I am conning them and we are both happy.” The engine or wheel or generator has found a new home. Abraham must be his brother. Abraham wasn’t just a nomad; he was a traveller and a proper ‘tinker.’

    The ‘give me; give me’ or ‘I want’ version of prayer has faded somewhat. However the bargaining with God still goes on. It used to be the Novenas or the First Fridays; or even the paying debts to Anthony for lost property. I ask at Baptism – what does it mean to teach the children to pray? I am greeted often with silence. Some venture out with the following: ‘Take them to Church. ‘ Once – a ‘baby’ blessed himself in response. That was a unique moment. Last weekend – one godfather (a traveller indeed!) said ‘make room for God in their lives.’ I ask them too ‘ where did they get the Christening Robe.’ ? I get the wrong answers! I like it when the Christening robe has been handed down through the generations which gives the sense of the babies being hugged by the values, faith, and love of the past (Godliness). I sometimes throw out the ideas of Mary Oliver – look around, help the babies to see; wake up as adults to be grateful and be in awe of the mystery of a child. We all need to learn ‘how to pray.’

    Our past had a culture of prayer. Even the dreaded prattling of the Rosary as children. The gaudy Sacred Heart. The Holy Water font. The praying at the bedside – the memory cards. We had the smell of incense. We had the Elevation. We had the show-off of the Monstrance -Benediction. We had the Adoration. We had the bell at Mass and the Angelus. The Tabernacle. The lighting of the candles. But now – what replaces them?

    The arrival of Charismatic Renewal breathed life into Prayer for many. The hugging, the clapping, and the speaking in tongues may be very off-putting for the ‘staid’ and ‘the sensible.’ But praise took over from begging. Joy shattered the formality. How we needed this. And so what now?

    Abraham was a rascal but he showed a familiarity with God. He could talk. He could beg. He could wear-out God. His informality resonates with the Psalms and is different to the nonsense we parade in the formal prayer, ritualised by us. (Those Collects or Prefaces- cumbersome, ridiculous and unprayable.) What do we need to do? Listen to Abraham. Listen to the story of ‘being in bed’ and the noisy and demanding neighbour. How often in our business -do we wish that the door- bell would shut up; the phone stop ringing at the most inappropriate time; the emails end their screaming demand for a response; people stop dying at the most unsuitable times? We now need to create a space for God. For prayer. Holy Ground. Take off the shoes. Be quiet. Let God in. Shut up and listen. The challenge is to make all our Formal Occasions – Places and Moments of real Prayer.

    We need to make the Eucharist a place of prayer. It often isn’t. Create that corner; make it a Sacred Space. Encourage the quietness. Reduce the Readings. Stop filling every moment with the effluent/ avalanche of words. Chew the cud. Ruminate. Everything in modern day culture militates against – this taking time; being patient; listening; seeing the God of life; enjoying the food of God; looking at each other; chatting; appreciating the talents; being grateful. The short-termism of present day behaviour, kills the spirit of prayer. The instant coffee. The Tablet. The mobile phone. The immediacy of everything. The drivel of face-book and liking. The superficiality of tabloid reporting and living. Stop. Look. Listen. Open the eyes of the heart; the ears of the mind; the senses of the imagination. Be patient.

    I recall some days in Nigeria where Mass could go on for a couple of hours…. I wouldn’t wish for that but something akin to it, is necessary for our Eucharist to become a real Prayer. Oh where are our Abrahams? To inspire us; to bring us out of ourselves. . We need the laughing teasing rogue, that Abraham was, to stir us from the rigid formulism that is killing the prayerfulness of our Mass.

    By the way – whether we cajole God or blame God or fight with God; we do need at present to ‘beg’ God for something to be done with ‘Twiddledum and Twiddledee.’ (Boris and Donald). They would drive anyone towards a begging prayer – to stop the chaos. It may be what is necessary to return to Praying.

    Seamus Ahearne osa

  2. Mary OConnor

    Seamus, you’re brilliant!

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Here’s a piece that may be useful for today: https://rk-world.org/dharmaworld/dw_2009odscriptureprayer.aspx

    Prayer of Petition

    The simplest and most basic form of prayer is petition. Indeed the Greek word for prayer, euche (more commonly proseuche in New Testament usage), means precisely a wish or demand (though it was originally a cultic word, carrying also the sense of “vow”). In the Synoptic Gospels, prayer of petition is the only kind of prayer Jesus teaches, and he urges strongly that the disciples should never give up bothering God with their requests. This may seem a far cry from the mindful attention taught by Zen, but in fact prayer of petition can lead one further than one expects, opening up horizons of wisdom.

    Humans are always in a situation of need, want, suffering. Prayer of petition lights up this situation, makes one better acquainted with the First Noble Truth. Then it connects one with one’s fellow sufferers in a bond of compassion, as in the case of the woman who came to the Buddha asking to have her child restored to life, only to discover that death is universal and that all of her neighbors had suffered similar bereavement. Prayer of petition sets right one’s relations to friends and enemies, establishes a perspective, brings one close to a God’s-eye view of things, to a sense of harmony with the loving purposes of the Creator. Texts for such prayer abound in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, notably in the Psalms. In Mahayana scriptures, bodhisattvas live by the petition “May all living beings be free from suffering.” Here prayer for others becomes an act of devoting oneself to others. Prayer of petition thus develops into something like practice of the four Brahma-abodes (brahmavihara) of early Buddhism: benevolence or loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

    Equanimity would be called in Christian terms “resignation to the will of God.” Prayer may not win what it begs, but it may enable one to bear with the lack of it, turning a loss into spiritual gain. Yet the Bible does not urge easy reconciliation, the cool Stoic idea of prayer as accord with an impersonal destiny; angry complaint against a highly personalized God fills long chapters in the Book of Job. Perhaps one might speak of a pedagogy of trust: a naive childlike trust in the Father who will grant all of one’s wishes is the beginning of a path that ends in Job’s awe before the inscrutable but still trustworthy God, who speaks from the heart of the whirlwind. Job would never have made that progress unless he had the freedom to struggle with God, in questioning and even revolt.

    In Buddhist piety, too, a childlike belief in Kannon, who reaches out to help everyone everywhere, may ripen into an internalization of the bodhisattva spirit, so that to pray is to become one with Kannon, “perceiver of the world’s cries,” reaching out in imagination to all those in need. Buddhist prayer does not seem to involve a Job-like wrestling, though we see something like this in the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita. Perhaps this is because Buddhism takes personalized representations of transcendent figures lightly. However, there is a wrestling in Buddhist prayer, reflected in the subtle dialectics of the sutras, whereby one learns to leave behind a childish clinging to substantial security as one becomes more thoroughly acquainted with the truths of impermanence, nonself, dependent co-origination, emptiness, and thus freer to think and act in a compassionate and enlightened way. Both the Bible and the Buddhist sutras offer a long apprenticeship in paths of spiritual thought, paths followed not in sophisticated cogitation but in the thorough enactment of each stage of thought in prayer and meditation.

    Prayer is not a hit-or-miss affair, a technique that sometimes “works” and sometimes fails. “We know that the prayers offered by a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will be answered just as an echo answers a sound, as a shadow follows a form, as the reflection of the moon appears in clear water, as a mirror collects dewdrops, as a lodestone attracts iron, as amber attracts particles of dust, or as a bright mirror reflects the color of an object” (Nichiren, Kito-sho). Yet the certainty of prayer is shot through with uncertainty, just as one might take a medicine, confident in its virtues, but with no clear vision of what the effect will be. Even the simplest prayer of petition is a leap in the dark. For no matter how well our theology and religious culture have defined the images of those to whom the prayer is addressed – be it the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin or Amida Buddha or the bodhisattvas Kannon or Jizo – the fact remains that all of these are invisible presences and that in the eyes of a skeptical observer we will seem to be holding colloquy with fantasies or talking to ourselves.


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