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God's Word on Sunday: If we seek God, He will open His doors to us

  • July 17, 2022

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

How do we respond to the chaos, fear, violence and injustice of our times? One of the most potent tools at our disposal is intercessory prayer.

Many would object that prayer in the face of so much negative energy is useless, but the story of Sodom and Gomorrah shows us of the efficacy of interceding on behalf of others. Both of these cities had unsavory reputations, mostly for cruelty and injustice towards the poor and the robbery, murder and rape of strangers passing through.

When we look at other passages in Scripture such as Ezekiel 16:49-50 and portions of the Jewish exegetical tradition, sexual sins were just part of the picture and not necessarily the most important. Strangely, God had to send angels down to the city to check out the complaints coming before the divine throne. The notion of divine omniscience was not fully developed at this point in time.

Lot began to plead with God on behalf of Sodom. It would not be fair, he insisted, for the good people to be destroyed along with the wicked. Would God spare Sodom if there were 50 upright and just people? God agreed; but then began the serious bargaining. What about 40? Thirty? Twenty? Each time God agreed. Finally, the number rested on 10. For the sake of 10 just and righteous people God would spare the city. This demonstrates the importance and influence of living one’s life in harmony with God, regardless of what others might choose to do.

Tragically, Sodom could not even come up with 10 upright individuals. Consequently, the city was wiped out.

Ten upright people — it doesn’t take much to tip the balance, and righteousness has a far greater power than evil. The choices we make each day, the way we live and the way we treat others all have far reaching effects, even if we do not immediately see them. We can never say that we have no power or influence over our surroundings or events.

There are several images of baptism in the New Testament. Colossians describes one of the most powerful — it is a ritualized death and burial with Christ followed by resurrection from the dead. The one baptized is cleansed of sin and given a new life with Christ. Clearly these verses were penned in a time when adult baptism was the norm. It takes a little effort to make the image meaningful today, but the ritual death and resurrection is accessible through meditation and use of the sacred imagination.

Luke has been called the Gospel of prayer. Jesus prays at all the crucial moments in His life and gives His followers instruction on the prayer life. On the road to Jerusalem, He taught them the Our Father — a shorter version than in Matthew — but effective, nonetheless. It was meant to be applied and lived out and not merely recited. The prayer asks that the manner of one’s life may sanctify the name of God. This is followed by the fervent wish that God take control of the Earth and rule its peoples with justice, which means humans have to relinquish control.

God is the sustainer, giving us just what we need each day — we need to trust. We continue the work of healing and reconciliation of the world by forgiving others. We pray not to be put to the test beyond our means.

Jesus followed this with several humourous parables about the need for persistence in prayer — persistence to the point of being a pest. The intensity and persistence of our prayer plays a vital role in enabling the granting of the request but it presumes that our hearts and minds are with God. The disconcerting implication of the stories is that God will grant our prayers just to get rid of us. But this is Luke, and he likes these quirky, edgy, stories. We are assured that if we ask, search and knock, the door will be opened for us.

This concerns our spiritual journey — our quest for spiritual insight and truth and union with God. This is confirmed by the promise that God will surely grant the Spirit to those who ask. Prayer is not a duty or task; it is a living relationship and must be continually nurtured.

We are promised much; it remains for us to ask.