Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sunday word, 29 Jul 2007

17th Sunday of the Year (29 Jul 2007) Gn 18. 20-32; Ps 138; Col 2. 12-14; Lk 11. 1-13
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Driving back from vacation Friday I passed a church sign, which contrasted our love with God’s love. “God’s love is always faithful,” the sign proclaimed. That was a welcome reminder because at times I disappoint God. God’s faithful love is God’s mercy. God’s mercy is faithful love without strings: we may turn our backs on God, but God never turns away from us or ignores us--never.

Abraham knew that and his back-and-forth with God over the fate of people, who discounted the dignity of others and used them, testified to his deeply felt knowledge of God’s faithful mercy. In the Mediterranean world even today, bargaining is based on a knowledge of one’s limits and the other’s need. One may spend a long time “looking.” Once a customer mentions an amount of cash that person has established a covenant of purchase with the vendor. Bargaining continues, but by mentioning a price the shopper has agreed to a sale.

Abraham’s knowledge of God’s mercy allowed him to persist in calling God to remember God’s mercy. Abraham was not coercing God to Abraham’s whim. We Christians, as Jesus taught us, do likewise: we bless God and praise God and call on God to be mindful of us. When we pray our model prayer, which Jesus gave us, we call on the mercy and love of God which we receive in the eucharist.

Far from coercing God when we pray, we seek deeper awareness of how our lives intersect with God’s desire for us. “God’s desire for us” describes the will of God in a way, which is both personal and affectionate. God desires us always, which is why God created us and keeps creating us at each moment.

God desired a deeper personal bond with us and became human with us and for us in Jesus. Jesus’ prayer, which his disciples sought to learn from him, expresses Jesus’ own relationship with God, whom he called his dear Father. Our Lord’s Prayer allows us to appreciate that in five ways: 1) Jesus always endorsed the holiness of God, which the oft-recited affirmation asserted: the Lord is one, the Lord alone, whom we love with our whole being and others because the Lord loves them; 2) Jesus proclaimed the reign of God with every fiber of himself; 3) Jesus did not rely on other things only God. Jesus used created things to help his prophetic witness; 4) Jesus linked forgiveness of sins with his ministry to individuals and to the world, his blood was the new covenant for the forgiveness of sins; and 5) Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray for courage and freedom from testing, which he knew often from his desert temptations through his agony in the garden.

Luke alone remembered Jesus’ tiny parable of the friend at midnight. Placed at the conclusion of Jesus teaching his disciples to pray, it offers us a vivid image to encourage us to persist: the sleepy friend responding to a crisis in the dead of night. God’s way of responding and giving always exceeds the ways humans give, and never with spite nor any snake-for-a-fish or scorpion-for-an-egg trickery.

Recently Pope Benedict reminded us that the attitude prayer shapes for Catholics is not either God or created things. It synthesizes both: “to be truly [human, people] according to their own gifts and their own charisms love[] the earth and the beautiful things the Lord has given us, [and] also [are] grateful for the light of God that shines on the earth, that gives splendor and beauty to everything else.”/1/

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow St. Ignatius to guide your prayer. Praise the Trinity for constantly creating and redeeming you. Next, ask the disciples to encourage you to ask Jesus their question, “Lord, teach [me] to pray just as John taught his disciples.” Then as St. Ignatius recommended, pray the Lord’s Prayer by reciting each word between breathing in and breathing out./2/ Reflect on each word or the relationship it creates for you or the humility or trust it engenders or the relationship with God you notice more clearly. After praying the Lord’s Prayer rhythmically according to breathing, say it slowly once again aware that you are praying our model prayer which Jesus gave us. Close by praising Jesus for allowing you to know more deeply God’s faithful, merciful love for you.

/1/ This was one response Pope Benedict gave to a question from one of 400 priests with whom he met in Italy.

/2/ Ignatius’ Third Method of praying in his Spiritual Exercises, #258.
Wiki-images of Albrecht Druer's Praying Hands and Carl Bloch's Sermon on the Mount are both in the public domain.

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