July 24, 2022
Luke 11: 1-13
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sister Eileen Cassidy, SNDdeN
Jesus teaches the Our Father as prayer.
Today’s Gospel, with the Our Father as its focus, is for me both uplifting and challenging, and it is the very things that uplift that also challenge.
In my imagination, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, not just because they were his disciples, but because they sensed something in him when he talked about God that stirred a deep longing within themselves, a sense of God and relationship with God that was at odds with much of their experience.
Jesus invites his disciples to address God as ‘Father’, a title that conveys for him a secure, loving and intimate relationship, and a title that counterbalances the more common and formal way of addressing God at that time, ‘Lord God of the Universe’. It may very well be that Jesus’ experience of fatherhood at home influenced his preferred use of this name for God. It’s interesting, however, that he retains the meaning of the more common form of address in the words that follow ‘Father’: ‘May your name be held holy.’ For Jesus the Lord God of the Universe is also a God of secure loving intimacy.
In the Jewish tradition, as in many indigenous traditions, a name is much more than an identification tag: rather it is a description of who the person is. And so it is entirely appropriate that Luke should follow the prayer with two paragraphs that express something of who God is as ‘Father’: God is someone who cannot deny our persistent requests . . . who is accessible . . . .who answers our prayers with what is good for us, as does any loving parent. When I reflect on my own life, I can be grateful now for not having some prayer requests answered in the way that I wanted at the time. They were answered differently, and certainly for the better, but recognized only in hindsight.
In the light of so much evil and suffering in the world at all levels, and of so many prayers that apparently go unanswered, this is indeed a challenge. But it comforts me to think that it was also a challenge for Jesus, especially as he approached death in circumstances that would have signaled failure and ‘a sinner’ to onlookers. Not without feeling the struggle, he continued to trust the Father, knowing that his present suffering was not the Father’s doing and trusting that it would not be wasted; and he continued to reveal the Father, even in his darkest hour.
The prayer that Jesus gave us invites us into an intimate and trusting relationship with God, regardless of our form of address, whether that be ‘Father’ or an alternative title for those whose experience may lead them to avoid the use of ‘father’. It also invites us to build God’s kingdom – Thy kingdom come – a kingdom where everyone is welcome, valued and respected. Pope Francis invites us today – the nearest Sunday to the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anna, the grandparents of Jesus – to pray for the elderly and for grandparents.
Something quite amazing happens to parents when they become grandparents: they often become the pivots round which families develop, and certainly on which they rely. They are a breath of fresh air for their grandchildren and can be a source of wisdom for their married children, now parents, if allowed. Their goodness, like God’s, is so often taken for granted. They are certainly kingdom-builders in the family, if allowed: they show love, pass on their wisdom, are peace-makers, turn a blind eye to hurts even when feeling them, offer sound advice, help their children to carry their burdens, and keep an open door and heart for those who may have strayed, etc. And this but scratches the surface. Grandparents seem by circumstance, if not also by nature, to be kingdom builders.
The elderly, however, can often be regarded as problematic by society, especially when they become ill, vulnerable, and in need of care and attention. Their vulnerability can so easily be exploited, and there is a danger that they may even be regarded and treated as dispensable. Left out of society, they may feel lonely, a burden on others and useless. Included in society, they thrive, much as young children do, and are a source of the collective social memory for younger generations.
As age takes hold and we find that we have time on our hands, this precious gift allows us to enjoy things for which we had no time beforehand, and to prepare in a more focussed way for the fullness of life when we meet God in death. In so doing, the elderly can enrich the wisdom already gained from reflection on life and have something truly lasting to pass to the young.
As we pray the prayer that Jesus gave us, let us:
• Allow God to draw us into intimacy;
• Become more conscious of our mission as kingdom-builders, following the example of Jesus and with a deep trust in God and self, as Jesus had;
• Be grateful for grandparents and learn from their actions and wisdom;
• Find ways to help the elderly vulnerable to ‘live’ the latter years of their life and to feel a valued member of society.
Luke 11: 1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” 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 in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Meet Sister Eileen Cassidy, SNDdeN