17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 28th, 2013
Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13
When I informed my colleague in my workplace in Indiana that I was going into the seminary to become a Catholic priest and religious, he said to me, “Great. I will be praying for you.” He meant it. He did not only encourage and pray for me throughout all my years as a seminarian but he drove for over 16 hours with his wife and sister to be there for me when I made my final vows and was ordained a deacon in Boston. He also drove over 8 hours with his wife and sister to witness my ordination to the priesthood six months later in Alton, Illinois and to offer me his continued support and prayers. Did I forget to mention that he is not Catholic but a devout Methodist who does not believe in many things that Catholics believe or value many of the things that we hold close to our hearts?
My friend showed me that he knew the goodness of God in his life. When we truly know how good God is, nothing stops us from reflecting that goodness to others. It is this experience of the goodness of God that moves us to pray and make sacrifices for others so that they too experience this same divine goodness. My friend’s reservations about the Catholic faith did not overcome his desire to pray and support me in my vocation to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church.
Today’s first reading shows us the patriarch Abraham interceding persistently for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Having experienced the goodness of God in bringing him (Abraham) gratuitously into a new covenant, Abraham has grasped the goodness of God. Knowing and believing in God’s goodness, he engages God in this conversation about sparing the city of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a few. Abraham desires that God reveal His own goodness to the rebellious people in those cities. He never gives up on interceding for them. But God confirms that He is so good that he is ready to spare the entire city because of 10 people.
The Reading from St. Paul to the Colossians shows us the infinite goodness of God. God is so good that He is ready to forgive the transgressions of the entire world because of one single person – the God-Man Jesus Christ. While we were “dead in our transgressions,” in and through Baptism, God “brought us to life along with Christ, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” In His infinite goodness, Jesus did not hesitate to die on the Cross for us and to rise again that we too may know the goodness of God. Now that we too share in His own resurrected life, we too experience the goodness of God and participate in Jesus’ mission to reflect this goodness to others by our words, examples and persistent prayer.
Jesus teaches us to pray in today’s Gospel the “Our Father.” He did not teach us to pray, “My Father,” but “Our Father” to remind us of the need to bring others into this intimate circle of divine goodness because we are now children of a good and loving God. We pray that God give us “our daily bread, forgive us our sins and keep us from the final test.” Without ignoring one’s personal relationship with God, this prayer reminds us of the need to reflect the goodness of God to others in prayer and action.
Even the parable of the persistent visitor who comes begging for bread at midnight is about praying and making sacrifices for others. The one who wants to borrow three loaves of bread prays persistently not for himself but for his friend who has come to his place at a time that he had nothing to offer him. He persists in asking for the same thing without yielding to the sleepy excuses of his friend because he has a hungry and tired visitor waiting at home.
My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, the Church in the Philippines celebrates today the Filipino Mission Sunday, a day that reminds us of our missionary vocation to share Christ to all peoples. Physical and moral evil abound in today’s world. We live in sin and give up in the face of suffering only because we do not know how good and loving God is to us. The world is in desperate need of goodness in the flesh, the goodness of God in human words and actions. If we are going to reflect this divine goodness to this sinful and hurting world, we must be convinced ourselves first of the goodness of God to ourselves.
If we doubt the personal goodness of God to us in the here and now, it will be impossible for us to be persistent in prayer or in the good moral life that shows forth the divine goodness. It will then be easy for us to be overcome by the evil in the world, making us cynical and condemning when confronted with the “Sodoms and Gomorrahs” of our world today. It is only the grace of God that is obtained through persistent prayer that can change the hearts of mankind and open them to the grasp the goodness of God and His love for them.
Jesus assures us in today’s Gospel that the Father will surely give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. It is a divine guarantee that if we persevere in prayer, the Spirit’s presence will be experienced in our lives. By this Spirit, we know that we are children of a good and loving God, the Spirit Himself cries out in our heartfelt prayers, “Abba Father,” and moves us to make this good and loving God known to all no matter the cost. Our temporal needs may not be granted as we desire, but persevering prayer allows us the Holy Spirit to impress on us the goodness of God and impel us to share this with others.
Two ways that we can really begin to experience the goodness of God in our lives is by thanksgiving to God for all things and by fidelity to His will. By spending time in thanking God for all things, good or small, frequent or infrequent, we begin to experience God’s goodness to us in our daily lives. Likewise, by acting on God’s words to us without any excuses, we experience deeply the goodness of God. Nothing impresses the goodness and love of God on our hearts than humble obedience to His will. Abraham has a deep sense of God’s goodness to him because shortly before he engages in his petitionary prayer to God in today’s first reading, Abraham obeyed God completely without any excuse even when God required him to undergo circumcision at the age of 90 for him to enter into the covenant! Talk about obedience without excuse.
Remember as we prepare for our sacramental communion with our good and loving God that Mary is a woman of deep gratitude who acknowledged that “God had done great things for her.” She is a woman who obeyed God without excuses even when He called her to surrender her only Son Jesus on the Cross for us too. She showed God’s goodness to all people – Elizabeth, St. Joseph, the disciples, and indeed to all of humanity. With her at our side, let us also learn to trust and believe in God’s goodness to us and strive to reflect it to others. Our world may remain a place of sin and suffering, but God will surely have mercy on this world for the sake of the few people who continue reflecting His goodness to others in prayer and action.
Glory to Jesus!!!!! Honor to Mary!!!!!