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Seventeenth Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13.
1/ Reading I: RSV Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know.” 22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near, and said, “Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26 And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him, and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
2/ Reading II: RSV Colossians 2:12 You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 11:1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread; 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.” 5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 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!”
I. THEME: Praying
There are many different definitions of praying. Someone simply define praying as to raise one’s mind to God. Others define praying as negotiating with God. Others think praying is talking with God as two friends talking with one another. Still others think praying is asking what they are lacking and for God’s blessing. Each of these definitions gives an aspect of praying, the combination of all gives us the whole view of praying.
Today readings show us different aspects of praying. In the first reading, the patriarch Abraham had compassion for the Sodomites. He had courage and strength to come to God and to negotiate with Him so that God might forfeit His intention to punish them. Although he wasn’t successful to receive the general pardon for the city; but he showed that we can negotiate with God, and the right amount of good people can receive God’s pardon for all people in the city of Sodom. In the second reading, God’s compassion for people was expressed through Christ’s Incarnation. St. John perfectly expressed this compassion as follows, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Christ came to wipe away all people’s sins by his death on the cross and to provide hope for people that they could live a happy life with God forever. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray through the most perfect prayer, the Our Father; and two attitudes they need to have before praying are trust and perseverance.
1/ Reading I: Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom.
1.1/ The mutual responsibilities between human beings in the good as well as the evil
This passage is one of passages written by J tradition because it called God, Jahveh, and described an intimate relationship between God and human beings. Though He is God, but because of His friendly relationship with Abraham, He disclosed to him what He is going to do against the Sodomites.
Two very important attributes of God are just and merciful. Many people including the author of the Book of Genesis and Abraham questioned which attribute God shall use to judge and to condemn the Sodomites. Abraham wanted to ask God to have mercy and to forgive people so he approached God and asked Him, “Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Through Abraham’s intercession, the author wanted to stress that sin and holiness aren’t purely individual but also have a communal aspect—when one does a good thing, others shall also be benefited from it; and when one does evil thing, others shall also be affected by it. God seems to agree with this concept when He accepted Abraham’s first intercession.
1.2/ God is just and merciful in His punishment against the Sodomites.
Abraham wanted to arouse God’s mercy to forgive the Sodomites because the good of some people in that city, included Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and his family. Abraham started his negotiation with fifty people and gradually reduced to ten people; but he couldn’t reduce to a small number than ten people. Therefore, the Sodomites were killed by fire and brimstone from heaven; only Lot and his family were saved by God’s angels.
What is the standard which God uses to judge and to condemn people? Although the author didn’t give us a clear answer; but he showed us God’s judgment isn’t so strict that one can’t pray for the sinner or negotiate with God, nor so easy to the point that whoever prays shall be received.
2/ Reading II: Christ is our intercessor before God.
2.1/ The sacrament of Baptism is more perfect than the circumcision.
Many Jews believe that circumcision is the sign to indicate that they belong to God, His own people. However, many prophets denied this belief and showed that the circumcision in the flesh isn’t enough to be protected by God. They must circumcise both their ears to listen to God’s word and their mind to obey and to do God’s will.
The author of the Letter to the Colossians reminded the faithful about the importance of the sacrament of the Baptism, “And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”
St. Paul explained the sacrament of Baptism as followed: When the faithful is immersed in the water of Baptism, all his sins are wiped away because of Christ’s death and burial; so that when he is raised from the water, he is a new man in Christ. He shall also be raised and lived with Christ. From that time on, the faithful’s life is directly connected with Christ’s life to the point that he can proclaim as St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Through Christ’s death, God wiped away all people’s sins, and because of that, people are reconciled with God.
2.2/ He canceled the bond which stood against us by nailing it to the cross.
The bond (cheirógraphon) is used only here in all the Books of the New Testament. This noun means what is written in paper. In business, it means what the borrower must pay to the lender. In the Law, it means one’s sins.
People owed God many things and in all aspects. Here, the author might want to emphasize people’s bond according to the Law. Each time when a person doesn’t keep the Law, he commits one sin; the result of a serious sin is death. Death is the punishment of disobedience (Gen 2:17; Deut 30:19). If people are judged according to this standard, they must be dead many times already!
In the Letter to the Romans, chapters 6 and 7, St. Paul explained more clearly how Christ liberated people from the Law, sin and death. In Ephesians 2:15, he also explained the reason of the bond is the Law. All people’s bonds were destroyed when Christ, representing for all humankind, put all people’s sins on him when he was voluntarily nailed to the cross.
3/ Gospel: Jesus taught his disciples and their necessary attitudes.
3.1/ The perfect prayer: The majority of people don’t know how to pray properly because what they need to pray for the most, they don’t; but only pay attention to supplemental things or to pray for what don’t benefit them in the future, such as: to pray for richness or high position, without knowing that these requests only lead them to sin more or to separate them from God.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, Jesus taught them the “Our Father.” This prayer is regarded by the Church as the most perfect prayer because it directly came from Christ, the only one perfectly knows and fulfills God’s will.
There are two differences when one compares the Our Father in the Gospel according to Luke and Matthew: First, Luke’s account lacked the sentence “God’s will be done on earth as also in heaven.” Secondly, it also lacked the sentence, “deliver us from all evil.”
Both accounts emphasize the importance of praying for God’s name is known and God’s kingdom to come before mentioning human basic needs. The daily food, the forgiveness and the strength to overcome all temptations are three important things in the faithful’s daily life.
3.2/ The attitudes one must have when praying.
(1) Perseverance: Jesus cited an example to illustrate the attitude one must have when praying. The Jewish tradition pays a special attention to hospitality, especially for the guests who come from far away. The reason for receiving guests is they might be God’s messenger or God Himself. In the story, the host was put in the difficult situation: either he doesn’t show hospitality for his guest or he must bother his neighbor. He chose the second solution to show hospitality for his guest.
The Jewish house in the old time isn’t big and there are many members in the household, so all the family used to sleep in one place. Therefore, if one member must wake up to open the door, he shall also wake up all other members. This might be the reason why the neighbor rejected his request in the beginning; but when the host kept knocking on the door and begging, the neighbor must wake up and let him borrow; not because of friendship, but his stubbornness. At this moment, all members of the neighbor’s household might already be awoken!
(2) Trust: This attitude is even more important than perseverance because it is the motivation that helps people to come to God. In most of Jesus’ miracles, Jesus only did them when he saw some signs of faith. He denied performing any miracle when he didn’t see any sign of faith or worse, people’s stubbornness.
Jesus invited his disciples to compare God, the heavenly Father, with the earthly father: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him 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?”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We have a duty to pray for sinners to repent and to return to God because their repentances please Him.
– Christ is the root of forgiveness, reconciliation and all blessings. In order for our prayers to be heard by God, we must pray by Christ’s name and his merits.
– For our prayers to be effective, we must have our trust in God and be persevered in our prayers. We can pray for all things that please God, but also be ready to accept His will.