The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - “C”

In today’s Gospel from St. Luke we see that  Jesus was in a certain place praying and when He had finished one of His disciples said “Lord, teach us to pray. Obviously they were watching Him pray and were impressed because they waited until He had finished before the one disciple asked the question.

He said to all of them “Say this when you pray:”

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen

That is the modern day version of the “Our Father”.  As we say it today.  The modern version captivates the prayer more or less as Jesus said it according to St.  Matthew - which really is just a longer version of the prayer we heard in today’s gospel from St. Luke. The “Our Father” is the first and greatest of all Christian prayers because not only does it come from God Himself but also it’s short and simple phrases pretty well embraces every relationship between us and our God.  It not only tells us what to pray for, but also tells us how to pray for it. Properly understood, this wonderful prayer of the ”Our Father” contains in it all that we should know to live our lives in Christ.

If we were to live up to everything that it contains, we would be perfectly in tune with the mind of Christ, because there can be no doubt that that is how He Himself prayed and lived. The first part of the “Our Father” deals with God. We acknowledge God's existence and call Him 'Father'’ because that is what Jesus called Him. God is neither male nor female.  However, God is a parent to us, and we are His children. Sometimes He acts like a father, and sometimes He acts like a mother. Then we praise His name. In praising His name we praise Him.

We pray for the coming of His kingdom - a kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love, and peace. We have a part to play in making His kingdom a reality. We pray that His will may be done on earth. 'On earth' means that His will be done in our lives too. God's will may not always be the easiest thing to do, but it is always the best thing.

The second part deals with us and with our needs. We begin by praying for our daily bread. 'Bread' stands for all of our material needs.  All the things that we need for that day because all that we really need in our lives is really just enough for today. We pray for forgiveness for our own sins, and for the grace to be able to forgive those who sin against us. We need to remember that our inability to forgive others makes it impossible for us to receive forgiveness from God. We pray also not to be led into temptation. God does not put temptation in our path but our ordinary daily life does. And then again we ourselves sometimes walk into tempta­tion all on our own.

And so we ask God to help us to cope with the temptations that simply come to us, and also to avoid those temptations we choose of our own free will. Finally, we pray that Our Father will deliver us from all evil, both moral and physical. We can't expect that we would never encounter evil. But what we are asking God for is the grace to be victorious over all evil that comes our way, most especially moral evil. We notice that the whole of the Our Father is spoken in plural terms. We say “Our” instead of “My”. This shows us that we are really one family under God and states our belief that there can be no salvation for us independent of others.

In the last part of the parable Jesus says “Ask and it will be given to you.”

 “Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks, always receives.”  “The one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. The one who searches, always finds.” Ah, we say. I have prayed and prayed and asked and I did not receive.  I have searched and searched and I have not found. I have knocked and knocked but the door stayed closed.  In fact I have begged and begged the Father and still I did not get what I wanted. So how can Jesus say “Ask and it will be given you”? Jesus answers this question with another question.

 “What Father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?  Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion instead of an egg? How often in our own lives we have refused our own children what they have asked for because as parents we knew that it was not the best thing for them.

How do they react when we do that? Jesus is saying that God always answers prayer.  However, sometimes we do not receive that which we have asked for even though it seems to us perfectly obvious that what we are asking for (it seems to us) to be exactly what we figure we need. But, only God knows the future and it is now that we need to increase our trust in Him. We should not react like a spoiled child in anger because we God does not always answer our prayers in the manner in which we would want Him to. God always answers prayers. We need to submit ourselves to His will when our prayers seem not to have been answered. We need to trust in Him. God knows best.

When it seems that God is not answering our prayers we need to conform our will to the Father’s will for us.  We need to ask for the grace to submit to God’s will for our lives. We need to ask for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself in our lives. Because Jesus said “If you who are evil,  know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
When we pray we need to mean what we say.
When we pray we need to mean “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever, Amen.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

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