17th Sunday C 2013
The technique of argumentation that Abraham uses is characteristic of the Middle Eastern world. It is certainly also practiced in Kenya. One barters and bargains before coming to a decision about the price. Certainly one gives evidence that he is a fool or a westerner if he purchases any item according to the first suggested price from the vendor. I remember I was looking to purchase some microphones for a sound system in the Kionyo Church. I went to a storekeeper in Nairobi, and looked at a particular model that with my limited knowledge appeared to be good quality. I enquired about the price. 15,000 shillings. I said; “I am not going to purchase it now but seriously what is your best price, a price that can bring me back. You’re the one trying to sell. You give me a reasonable price if you want to see me again.” “I’m sorry that’s the lowest I can go.” I took down all the information exactly so as to try to find a shopkeeper who carried the exact microphones. I ended up bargaining with another fellow and I bought four replicas for the same amount of money. Not only was I happy but the shopkeeper felt pleased as well.
Abraham is a forerunner of this Kenyan shopkeeper. He keeps bargaining with God. “How about fifty innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city even if there are fifty innocent people?” God answers, “I will spare the whole place.” Abraham continues to bargain all the way down to ten people, and God states he would save the city even if there were only ten innocent people there.
The story demonstrates both the compassion and mercy of God, and the delightfully personal way in which Abraham feels he can talk with God.
The Our Father, with its several petitions, is presented as a pattern for Christian prayer. The readings revive our questions about prayers of petition: Should we ask God for things? What are we to ask for? Can we expect God to answer our prayers?
Prayer of petition is deeply rooted in the human spirit. Prayer is being ourselves with God, bringing our life before God. Part of life is a deep experience of personal limitation and the need for divine help. Our life is a perpetual dissatisfaction, incomplete until we rest in God in heaven.
Our prayer often begins with the needs most immediately apparent to us: success in a task, release from loneliness, help in a difficult situation.
Can we expect God to answer our prayers?
Christian prayer is always granted , says Jesus.
But is this our experience?
The reason is simple: because we do not know how to pray. To truly pray means that we must come out of the darkness of our own thoughts and passions and be absorbed by God. Our eyes can open up and look at events differently if we find ourselves in communion with God through prayer. We begin to know his will.
“Once upon a time, a seeker went from land to land to discover authentic religion. Finally the seeker found a group of extraordinary fame: they were known for the goodness of their lives and for the singleness of their hearts and for the sincerity of their service. “I see all of that,” the seeker said, “and I am impressed by it. But, before I become your disciple, I have a question to ask: Does your God work miracles?” And the disciple said, “Well, it all depends on what you mean by a miracle. Some people call it a miracle when God does the will of people. We call it a miracle when people do the will of God.”
Pope Francis pushed aside the rules requiring at least two confirmed miracles to make John XXIII a saint. Francis is saying the greater miracle is to do the will of God.
When we ask God for help, God fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, God responds with grace and mercy.
A parent will not give a scorpion to the child when she asks for a fish.
Nor will the parent give a scorpion when the child asks for a scorpion.
Often we may think we are asking for something that is good but perhaps there is something better that God is trying to offer us. We can pray with expectant faith because our heavenly Father loves us and treats us as his children. God delights to give us what is good.
What are we to ask for? We must realize there are only two things to pray for: the wisdom to know what to do, and the strength to do it.
Jesus' prayer is the model for ours. God is kind and forgiving towards us and God expects us to treat our neighbor the same. In his prayer in the garden, he asks for what he wants: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me." But he leaves it to God: "Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine."
Persistence in prayer means more than showing up periodically in desperation. Prayer is an on-going relationship which changes us, and as we change our prayer changes too. Prayer becomes less petition and more thanksgiving!
Henri Nouwen in his book “The Wounded Healer”, has said. “The Prayer of little faith is filled with wishes which beg for immediate fulfillment.. With this prayer of little faith, it is the concreteness of the wishes which eliminates the possibility for hope.. Your spiritual life is reduced to a beeline toward what you want.” Nouwen, would suggest that God has much more planned for us that what we desire.
As we continue to pray, we become more God-centered, and God's interests become ours.
Thank you for being my prayer community these past six years. We need one another to help us grow in our relationship to God. Those of you who come to prayer daily have been a special gift to me. I may not have had the opportunity to grow in close human friendship with many of you, yet we share an intimacy and depth of relationship that is essential to our lives. As Jesus said; “Who is my mother, my sister and brother? He who does the will of my Father.”
Pray for me as I will for you.
Some have asked what parish I will be serving in Ottawa. I am not going to a particular Parish. I have been asked to serve my Oblate Community across Canada. I will be installed on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, as the Provincial of Lacombe Oblate Province. My responsibility with support of an Oblate Council is to give direction to all aspects of Oblate Mission and Ministry, both in Canada as well as our mission in Kenya; and to assist our communities to be caring environments which respect individual Oblates, and support them in their physical and spiritual well-being.
Love the Oblates. Embrace Fr. Garry as your new pastor and continue to love Fr. Al who generously and faithfully has served the parishes and Kateri Centre through the last decade. Rose Boulten and others who have supported that ministry. My special gratitude to Kathy Stack for her tireless service of the parish as well as Sr, Marianne. All who have participate in ministries within Liturgy, Service and Outreach to build a broader community of love and justice.