Praying in a persistent and unrelenting way demonstrates our commitment and how serious we are, writes Fr. Scott Lewis. Graphic by David Chen/Photo via Pexels

Our daily choices truly matter

  • July 7, 2016

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) July 24 (Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13)

God is looking for a few good men and women! Often people wonder if their attempts to lead righteous and compassionate lives mean anything. They may doubt whether their prayers on behalf of the common good make a difference. 

In the classic story of the destruction of Sodom, we have an answer. Sentence had been passed against Sodom. There is no mention of sexual sins at this point, and the Jewish rabbinic tradition, as well as the Old Testament (e.g., Ezek 16:49-50) stresses the violent, arrogant and abusive behaviour of the inhabitants of Sodom towards the poor, the weak and the stranger. The people of Sodom were a rotten lot in many different departments. They were not being punished for one particular sin. 

That is the point of the story: Abraham tried to haggle with God to save the city but did not succeed. He started at the possibility of finding 50 good and righteous people in the city, and God agreed that for the sake of 50, he would spare everyone. The haggling began; Abraham went from 50 to 45, then to 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. It looked like a done deal for 10 good people. But what a surprise — he couldn’t even muster 10 good people in the entire city. Sodom was soon history in a very ugly way — burned to a crisp. 

The sins against justice and mercy in our own age make those of Sodom pale in comparison. What if a sentence were passed against our own city? How many truly good people could stand in the breech? The choices we make each day truly matter. We may never see the immediate results, but that doesn’t matter. Rest assured that God knows those whose lives are examples of integrity, compassion, mercy and justice.  

Colossians offers some insights on how we can contribute to this undertaking. Our baptism is more than just a pass to Heaven; it is the key to a new quality of life. Our baptism is not just for us but for the entire world. 

Prayer is an important dimension to holding our world together. In Luke, Jesus is often depicted at prayer and giving extended prayer instruction for His followers. His abbreviated form of the Our Father has all the essential elements — living a life that sanctifies God’s name, desiring the world reflect God’s will, forgiving those who sin against us, trusting in God for sustenance and being strong when put to the test. But there is another key element — persistence and constancy. Jesus had no use for feeble and half-hearted prayers when we happen to be in the mood. In a series of humourous images and parables, He urged His followers to make pests of themselves in Heaven!  Everyone who seeks and asks with a sincere heart will have the door opened and will find what they are looking for. 

Often people say, “Why should I pray? God knows what I need!” That is not the point. Praying in this persistent and unrelenting way demonstrates our commitment and how serious we are in what we seek. It also establishes a connection and channel through which God can work on our behalf. 

Fervent prayer on behalf of the world’s needs is one of the most effective spiritual works we can offer, provided that it is not a way of dodging the need to engage in concrete action. Prayer is not just an occasional spiritual e-mail sent heavenward but a constant way of living in the Spirit.

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