17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 18:20-32 Colossians 2:12-14 Luke 11:1-13
Today’s readings are very familiar and each is rich in multiple meanings and deep, compassionate reassurance.
The most familiar reading, of course, is the gospel which introduces the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, a blend of praise and petition to God as Father.
In the Genesis passage of the first reading, Abraham challenges his God to be merciful, even in Sodom, known far and wide for its wickedness. In a series of requests that seem increasingly daring and impertinent, Abraham urges God to cast the cloak of mercy over the entire city of Sodom for the sake of a few innocents. Abraham seems to be telling God ‘It will not look good if you destroy the innocent and the guilty indiscriminately.’ Abraham even shames God, saying “Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?” Yet at the same time Abraham couches his requests hesitantly and even apologetically. Did Abraham doubt God’s mercy? Did he doubt God’s tolerance? God answered each of Abraham’s requests in the same words, ‘If I find so many innocents, I will spare Sodom for their sake.’ We might suspect that God didn’t need to be convinced; mercy was God’s intent from the beginning.
We hear essentially the same story, and also the moral for the day, in the passage from Luke’s gospel. Jesus tells the parable of a friend at the gate late at night, persistent in his pleas for bread, while the householder within refuses. Jesus concludes with the wry observation, ‘will not the householder relent because of such persistence if not because of friendship?’ The moral of the parable, however, is not that persistence wins out. The moral is: ‘Even in your imperfection you know how to give good things to your children; how much more will your Heavenly Father give.’
How much more? “Everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” It doesn’t matter how earnestly we ask; God doesn’t need earnest pleas. It doesn’t matter how anxiously or fearfully or timidly we ask; God is not deterred by barriers of doubt. There are no limits to God’s willingness to be with us in all things, to throw the cloak of loving kindness over each and every one—the birds of the air, the snails on the land, the plankton in the oceans, and ourselves. God’s loving presence hovers over every bit of creation looking for opportunities and openings, responsive to our least desire for daily bread.
–Eleanor Craig, SL