A Reflection for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C).
Genesis 18:20-32 – Colossians 2:12-14 – Luke 11:1-13.
I wonder if you recognize the words of the opening verse of the poem “Little Things” by Julia A. Fletcher Carney?
Little drops of water / Little grains of sand / Make a mighty ocean / and the beauteous land.
What about this quotation? Do you recognize this one? It’s by the Roman poet Ovid, and it’s also about the cumulative effect of droplets: Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.
A drop of water is only tiny and has minimal effect on anything. But when a drip is followed by another drip and then by another, and when the drips keep on and on accumulating over time, the volume can increase enormously and become a significant force. When drips of water continue to fall on stone, no matter how hard the stone may be, their impact over time on stone is huge because the water actually weathers the stone and changes its structure molecule by molecule.
Just as stone is impacted and changed by persistent drips of water, so are our hearts by prayer. The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1ff) delivers Jesus’ message that we should keep on and on praying over time, never losing heart or giving up, no matter what our circumstances may be or what is happening in our lives. St Paul urges us to rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Rom 12:12). In my Reflection last Sunday on the theme of ‘hospitality’, I concluded with the notion that conversation with God through prayer is a means of showing hospitality to God who visits us. Today’s Reflection is about our need to persist in and to be constant in prayer.
The story of Abraham’s persistence in prayer to God for the sake of the few righteous men in Sodom is astonishing. It reads as a dialogue between God and Abraham in order to show us how persistence in prayer brings God ever closer to forgiving our sins, not only of the few but of the many. Abraham effectively negotiates with God the salvation of the sinful people of Sodom. If Abraham had stopped pleading for them early on in negotiations, he wouldn’t have obtained such overflowing mercy regarding their salvation. So, may I encourage you to be persistent in your prayers!
In the Gospel reading, Jesus teaches the disciples a short version of the ‘Our Father’. Why did He do that? After all, the Church uses the full version. Well, the short version here is to help the disciples to understand the implications of the familiar version. Jesus leaves out Deliver us from evil to indicate that debts to God are incurred only through sin. He also leaves out Thy will be done in order to reveal the necessity for us to do His will. What happens if we “do His will”? The answer is that “doing it” enables the Kingdom of God to come in its fullness on earth.
Jesus also delivers a parable about persistence in prayer. Abraham gave instructions for three loaves to be set before the Lord. God the Father wishes to set before His Son (the friend of mine on His travels, having ascended into heaven) the loaves of faith, hope and charity of the people He has redeemed by His self-offering on the Cross. If you don’t continue to knock on the door of the Lord through prayer, you may not be able to receive all His graces. He comes knocking on your door at midnight when the world around you is darkest, and you cannot see any way forward except to pray. Jesus doesn’t promise that God the Father will continue knocking on your door for ever, so be constant in your prayers!
Sometimes prayer can take the form of a friendly conversation between ourselves and God. Today’s readings encourage us to speak with God in prayer as we would talk to a friend. Think of how God communicated with Abraham as a friend. Think of how the person in need of help at midnight felt able to go to his friend. God meets us as friends because He loves each one of us. You know how comfortable you feel in your friends’ company and so you have a nice chat about things? That’s one of the ways you should be before God. God is always approachable, always ready for your chitchat in prayer. Keep the lines of communication open with Him. Be constant in your friendship with God through prayer.
Do you talk to God about the things that are burdens on your heart? Abraham opened up to God about the burden on his heart about saving people in Sodom – both the virtuous and the sinful. What is it that burdens your heart? The man who went to his friend at night opened up about his needs. What are your personal needs? Open up to Him about what is going on in your life and what your needs are. Turn to God in prayer, especially when you feel you are out of options. Show Him your appreciation through praise and thanksgiving. and be sure to seek reconciliation quickly with Him whenever you have offended Him. As God was ready to put many sins behind His back because of Abraham’s pleading, so He forgives our sins when we are sorry and pray for forgiveness. St Paul reminds us that Jesus’ death on the Cross cancelled (2R v.14) out our sins! Constant prayer helps us to tap into the grace that comes from the Cross of Christ.
Never forget, too, that expressing your love of God in prayer is always fruitful. He is always there for you because He does not sleep or slumber (Ps 121:4), and He loves you very dearly (cf. Jn 3:16). Amen. God bless you.