Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 28

handsCentral Idea: Wrestling with God in prayer.  Doctrine: Filial trust. Practical Application: Transformation in Christ

To view the Lectionary 111 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Wrestling with God in prayer.

Reading 1 Gn 18:20-32

  • Here God speaks to Abraham in a way Abraham can understand, as if God didn’t already know everything that was going on in Sodom and needed to “see” it for himself.
  • God also gives Abraham the extraordinary opportunity to plead with God himself for justice and mercy for any innocent inhabitants of Sodom.
  • Abraham intellectually wrestled with God to spare Sodom for the sake of the innocent. Later his grandson Jacob physically wrestled with God all night.
  • God wants us to engage with him. We can ask, even demand (if we have that much audacity), that God account for himself and his creation.
  • God will answer us and we will see that he is just and merciful and has our best interests at heart.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8

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

  • Everyone faces real challenges in life. This “everyone” includes the Chosen People in Abraham, God’s beloved children in Christ, and even his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
  • For us, this is because earthly life is a kind of school God has designed to prepare us for heavenly life.
  • Some reasons God lets us suffer distress are so that we will call upon him, rely upon him, see what he is like, how he acts upon us, and the ways he keeps his promises.

Reading 2 Col 2:12-14

  • The most significant truth of our lives is often a secret to us because of our forgetfulness.
  • This truth is that we are united to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ through our baptism.
  • We are in a right relationship with God due to our baptism. Nothing stands between God and us, as long as we don’t erect something. We were dead and have been raised, in sin and been forgiven.
  • This is why we can be sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

Gospel Lk 11:1-13

  • One of Jesus’ disciples “prays,” that is “asks,” how to pray, and Jesus answers.
  • The content of our prayer, Christ says, should be to honor God, pledge ourselves to his plan, ask for our daily needs, beg forgiveness for our sins, and request not to be tested.
  • The manner of our prayer should be persistent, which is the point of the parable of the three loaves. It should also be trusting, as a son trusts his good father.
  • God is ready to give us good things, as any good father is. God will not send true evil upon us.
  • But isn’t it possible that sometimes we ask God for the equivalent of snakes and scorpions?
  • When we petition God, what are we really asking for, seeking after, knocking on doors for, not just in prayer but at every moment of our lives from childhood to old age?
  • Don’t we want everything? Don’t we want something that nothing on earth can satisfy?
  • This is why Christ says the Father will give us the Holy Spirit. We have everything necessary if we are living in the Holy Spirit, that is, in a state of sanctifying grace, in the condition being transformed into images of Christ.
  • In reality, the only gift God has to give us, because it contains everything, is himself. That’s what heaven is, possession of God.

Doctrine: Filial trust

  • Does God really answer our prayers? Everyone who prays has had the experience of some prayers that seem to be not answered or not yet answered.
  • Is this an obstacle to filial trust, that is, to having the trust of a child in a good father, which every child of God should have?
  • The Catechism says we should ask two questions in regard to unanswered prayers: “Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard, how is it “efficacious”?” (CCC 2734)
  • To begin, we do not always ask for what is good for us. We might ask for a “snake” or “scorpion.”
  • Next, our Father wants to give us what we truly need, but he wants us to ask for it.
    • God “awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be able truly to know what he wants.” (CCC 2736)
    • In other words, God may wait to give us what we need until we realize that we need it. This is why in the Our Father we pray “Thy kingdom come” before “Give us our daily bread.” When we know what we really need we are wiser than before.
  • Finally, God cannot give us what is bad for us, “for he desires our well-being, our life.” God wants us to ask for what he wants to give us. “If we enter into the desire of his Spirit, we shall be heard.” As St. Augustine puts it, “God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give. (CCC 2737)
  • It sounds like a contradiction but it is actually a deep truth: God wants us to ask for what he wants to give us. He is willing to test our faithfulness until we are ready to receive what he wants to give us.

Practical Application: Transformation in Christ

  • What does God want to give us most of all?
  • The Baltimore Catechism asked the question, “Why did God make you?” The answer given is “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”
  • To know God we must know about him. That means we must know our faith well. This is one of the goals of the Year of Faith.
  • To love God we must both know him and experience his love.
    • One way we experience God’s love is when we sit at God’s feet after receiving Holy Communion—the way Martha’s sister Mary sat at the feet of Christ listening to him. This is true in many other moments as well. Whenever we can express gratitude we are experiencing God’s love.
  • To serve God, we do our part in the petition, “Thy will be done.” That means we become transformed according to the image or pattern of Christ, the perfect man. That means we change, and change is not easy.
  • This change is not a one-moment event; rather, it is a life-long process.
  • The process of change is described as transformation in Christ, or a forge, or a crucible, or warfare, or a school, or taking up one’s cross, or filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his Church.
    • In his spiritual classic “Transformation in Christ,” Dietrich Von Hildebrand describes how the Christian can grow into the image of Christ as described by the Beatitudes by living the virtues.
    • St. Josemaria Escriva wrote a book on practical considerations of the spiritual life called “Forge.” A forge is a place where metal is heated red hot and then pounded into shape with hammer blows.
    • The Bible often uses the image of a crucible, in which ore is heated to its melting point to separate the pure gold from its impurities.
    • Job said life on earth is warfare and St. Paul advised we put on our spiritual armor to fight it. This fight is primarily against one self, the new man against the old.
    • Our Lord himself said if anyone wants to come after him he must take up his cross daily.
    • As we saw in last week’s second reading, we have the privilege of suffering with Christ.
    • In a sense, knowing, loving, and serving God is like going on a diet and exercise plan, not for two months to lose thirty pounds and to gain a flat stomach, but for life to lose all our vices and to gain the mental outlook and natural and supernatural virtues of Christ, the perfect man.

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